How to Love and Stay Safe in an Older Car

Every time I'm out on the street I see newer, fancier cars, loaded with more bells and whistles than I thought was ever possible. Cars that shine with fancy lights, smart interiors, and polished finishes. There are some that even talk to you with a dashboard looks like something from a sci-fi movie. However, there are a lot of people who can't afford the latest and greatest or just plain don't want it. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to keep your older car running smoothly for years.

Perform Regular Maintenance

Age is inevitable, even with us. I can tolerate a little wear and tear; in fact, it gives the car character. It's the guts I am concerned about. Keep the guts healthy and I see no reason you can't keep driving your baby.

Follow your maintenance schedule in the owners manual to a “T” to begin with. Change your oil regularly, as prescribed depending on the type of oil in your vehicle. Make sure your transmission and brake fluids are topped off and changed as needed. Replace parts when required, such as the timing belt which should be switched out every 60,000 miles without fail (I think that is tremendously important, and many people overlook the importance of the timing belt). People need to pay attention to when service is due, and follow the book; some things are based on mileage, some on time. Many people object to preventative maintenance for some reason, but I would say that this is the key to driving any car for an extended period of time. It is like our bodies, if we fill them with junk and don’t look after them, we reap what we sow. Same thing with cars.

Have a Friend Help Check for Changes

I would suggest asking a friend to drive the car once in a while. Sometimes we get used to our own cars and are not so sensitive to changes in rhythm. Ask them to go for a normal ride along and make note of anything that seems off.

Conduct Repairs Quickly

I would also suggest starting a car repair fund. I put $150 a month away in an account just for my car, so I have the money for immediate repairs when something goes wrong. Continuing to run a car with faulty parts or malfunctions will put stress on the rest of the parts, leading to a domino effect and a more expensive repair bill in the long run. One example is rust. Don’t tolerate it. Once it gets started, it is like a bad disease and it can compromise many more parts before it's fixed.

Most people can do basic car repairs themselves, with the proper techniques, to help keep their costs down. As a result, you can spend a little more on quality replacement parts. I never opt for the cheapest parts. That is asking for trouble.

I also belong to a couple of good online car forums where we can talk about issues and get some ideas when we have questions. It never hurts to have that extra support to toss stuff around when you're doing DIY work. However, my best advice is just to be kind to your car all the time and it will give back to you.

See a Mechanic

Not all maintenance should be done without a professional touch. It's important that your car get in to see a mechanic every so often for regular tune-ups and checks on more critical parts like your steering and suspension components.

A new car might feature the best cutting edge technology, but they're expensive and often unattainable in these uncertain economic times. As a result, many drivers are seeking to keep their older cars running for as long as possible. So long as you're careful with your used car and vigilant with repair and maintenance, you can have a reliable vehicle for years to come.