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More ways to make your car last forever

Posted by: Erik Bjornstad

make your car last foreverThe band Queen asked the rhetorical question ‘who wants to live forever’?  Your wallet would probably say that your car does. As noted in a previous blog, the number of people who are keeping cars for ten or more years is higher now than ever before in history.  People can no longer afford to replace cars every few years, or roll car note debt into a new vehicle with financing every x number of years.

Previously, we talked about some ways to keep your car running as long as possible – cutting down on short trips, making sure your mechanic knows what you want, washing off the salt in winter.  But those were just the beginning. So we’re following up with some more excellent ideas to consider that will keep your car or truck running better for longer, and maybe even make your car last forever.

Some new (and used) cars are better than others

Okay, we admit that this piece of advice only applies if you take it into consideration at the very beginning, when you’re selecting a new car.  But it can also help when you’re selecting what used car to buy (in fact, it's probably more important for used vehicles).  Pay attention to the type of car you buy, but do it in the context of making sure that the auto maker has a good reputation for supplying parts for its older models.

Here’s the deal – every car is going to need to be fixed eventually and is going to need replacement parts.  You can have the best mechanic in the world lined up, but if they can’t get parts for the car, you’re out of luck. Lots of cars end their lives prematurely because it’s too hard to find parts to fix them.   You don’t want that to happen to you.

How do you know which cars are easy to “fix” in this respect? Talk to your mechanic (your local independent mechanic, that is. Not the dealership.)  They’ll know the lay of the land for your particular area and know which car makes are easy to fix and which are not.

Drive with care

You don’t have to drive like a little old lady all the time. But the way you do drive has a direct impact on whether your car is going to die on you before it really should.  Driving gently doesn’t mean sticking to 35 mph in a 55 zone. It has more to do with other things like accelerating and braking. Accelerating at a reasonable pace. Stopping at a gentle pace without panic stopping.  Letting your engine warm up for a minute when it’s cold outside, which warms up the oil and allows it to lubricate fully and properly everything that needs it.

There are easy things to do that will pay off for you through a longer life for your vehicle.

Heated Garages Are Nice (But Not For Your Car)

Like the advice about washing off salt, this one is more for our friends up north. Living in toasty Florida, we don’t have experience in frigid winters where the wind chill hits thirty below. And a heated garage can be really nice for people who do have to deal with winter weather like this.

Keeping your car in a garage solves many of the hassles of winter driving. You don’t have spend extra time chipping off layers of ice from the wind shield. Your interior lasts longer because of less sun exposure.

But a heated garage is actually bad for your car because they speed up the rusting process. Rust is a chemical process of oxidation. Heat speeds up chemical reactions.  Keeping your car in a heated garage allows the water and salt on your car to do their damage faster.

Finally…..change your oil. And other things, too.

You thought we weren’t going to mention this, didn’t you? No, seriously, sticking to your manufacturers’ recommendations for oil changes is the single best and most important step you can take to ensuring your car lasts as long as possible. It’s so important, we’ll mention it even though we promised not to.

Your car has other stuff that needs to be changed, too. Other fluids that are essential to keeping vital systems in the car working properly.  Brake fluid. Transmission fluid. Power steering fluid. Differential oil. 

They all have recommended intervals where they should be changed, and if you’re taking your car in for its recommended service, they will be changed then. Thus, the importance of sticking to that.  But those are just the minimum requirements.  Automotive advisors will tell you to get them all changed every 60,000 miles, whether the manual says to or not.

Too expensive to do that? Consider this.  If your differential gets destroyed because you ignored the fluid, you’re looking at several thousand dollars to fix. If your transmission blows because you left debris in the fluid without changing it, it’s another two or three thousand dollars.

Compare this to spending $250-$350 every four years to change the transmission fluid and the oil in one or both differentials (some cars have two).

Conclusion

Remember, cars are not investments (contrary to what the car salesman says). They go down in value and they cost money to maintain. But you’re going to spend money some place. It’s just a choice of whether you’re going to fork out a few hundred dollars every so often, or a few thousand (or tens of thousand) later.

If you found this post helpful, you may be interested in these other posts:

Download the Guide to Maintaining your Older Vehicle

This post was published on September 25, 2014 and was updated on September 25, 2014.

Topics: Cars and Light Trucks