Americans cars are getting older. Last fall the average car was about 5.2 years old. Today it is over 6 years old. We are holding onto our cars longer. The purchase of a new car is being delayed as the economy works its way out of this recession. Yet keeping a car longer means we could be facing more mechanical problems. To help with that and knowing we'll eventually sell that baby, here are Ten Tips on Keeping an Older Car.
(You can also WATCH FRUGAL LOUISE discuss these tips on a recent visit to NE Cable News.)
1) MANUALLY PROFICIENT
Yeah, it's not as exciting as reading a Dan Brown novel or even the back of a cereal box, and you won't be quizzed on it, but information like maintenance schedules, little tricks and what things do is vital. And because it is not a page turner, here's a suggestion, while you're waiting for you spouse/child/habitually late friend, grab the manual and read a few pages.
2) MR. LUGNUT
Having a good mechanic who knows cars is vital. Here are a few quick tips on how to find one.
Get recommendations from friends and people who own similar cars
Be sure they are certified by National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).
Ask AAA for locally approved mechanics.
Don't wait until you need a big repair, get oil changes etc. first. Get a feel for the place.
3) WELL MAINTAINED
Keep the baby up to snuff. Keeping on top of small problems usually keeps bigger and more expensive ones at bay. Tune-ups, oil changes, and regularly scheduled maintenance are part of this, but so is body inspections, tire rotations etc.
4) BE A BOY SCOUT
Be prepared. Have a good emergency kit in the truck including a blanket (useful for working on the ground, keeping warm in bad weather and accidents). Think about using your cell phone's camera to document accidents (disposable camera in glove compartment will also work), remembering where you park and things to show your mechanic.
5) PRECIOUS BODILY FLUIDS
If you lose a fluid, the chance your car could become toast is very real. Loss of coolant and subsequent overheating could easily mean a blown head gasket. Knowing what to check is a basic for any car operator, but if your are unsure, but suspect a problem, place a big piece of cardboard under the car. If there is fluid stains on it, take that to the mechanic. Here are a few guidelines:
Red, think transmission.
Green think coolant.
Blue,(orange) think windshield washer fluid
Molasses-like, dark brown, think oil.
6) BRAKE DANCING
If you're older, you were taught to pump brakes rather than slam. These days ABS pumps the brakes automatically and far faster than you ever cold. Bottomline- don't pump. TIP: be sure you mechanic inspects your brakes on a regular basis. and at the first sign of trouble, metal sound, loss of effectiveness, see a mechanic asap.
7) LOVE THE BODY
Wash the car, especially underneath and get all of the accumulated winter salt and grim off. Then carefully inspect the body. If there are a scratches, get some touch up paint and touch it up. It is very easy to do. If you see signs of rust, look closely. Then sand and use touch up. If large,
8) SAVE RECEIPTS
Keep all maintenance & repair receipts is a secure location. This is helpful if you run into a problem and even better when you sell the car. YOu can get a better price if you can prove there have been regular, good maintenance done on the vehicle.
9) MADE IN THE SHADE
Always try to park your car in a garage or in the shade. UV damage to the exterior and interior will be minimized, it'll keep the car cooler in the summer, and out of the elements in the winter. A few caveats: bird poop should be cleaned quickly. It is acidic. Pine trees drip sap which is difficult to remove. Soldering flux will remove it, but be very careful.
10) AFTER MARKET PARTS
Understand owning an older car means it will need repairs. It's the nature of the beast. Over the last few years, spare parts don't necessarily come from the manufacturer, they come from places like China. These are called After Market Parts. Sometimes they can save you a lot of money, sometimes they can cost. Quality may be suspect and not up to specifications. Work with your mechanic to find a good after market supplies or who knows good junkyards. The savings could be substantial.
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