Posted In: automotive
If you are fortunate enough to acquire an old car, you will want to know how to keep it running as long as you can and as cheaply as you can. Since the older cars do not require computer diagnostics and do not have smog devices, catalytic converters or other newer technologies, they are easier for a novice to fix when something goes wrong. Even without experience, you can do much of the maintenance yourself if you don’t mind getting a little greasy. You can buy a manual, or check one out at the library.
When it's New to You
When you first take possession of your old car, change the oil and filter every 200 miles or less at least two times to help get rid of sludge. Flush the automatic transmission fluid and change the filter, and change the coolant in the radiator yearly.
Keeping it Safe: Brakes
Make sure that your car does not jeopardize your safety or the safety of those who share the road with you. Check the brakes by removing the wheel and looking at the pads on both sides of the disc. Check for sufficient thickness of the pads for disc brakes, and look for signs of leaking brake fluid.
Bleed the brakes according to the instructions in your manual. Bleed all the old brake fluid out and replace it with new unless the fluid that you remove is dark black with traces of rubber in it. In that case, you will need a professional mechanic or someone with experience to give your car a brake job.
Tires that are worn past the point of being safe will need to be replaced, so for the sake of safety, don’t wait until the old tires are bald to buy new ones.
Steering and Suspension
If the tires are unevenly worn, or if the car doesn’t seem to steer or ride correctly, you may have a steering or suspension problem and need to have it checked by a professional. He will advise you about the repairs you need and if it is safe to drive the car in the meantime.
If the windshield wiper blades do not clear the window effectively, replace them. If the headlight lenses have gotten yellow, or if they are pitted, replace them for better vision and greater safety when driving at night.
If the car is old, chances are that the hoses are old and may start leaking at inconvenient times, so it is best to replace all of them when you buy the car. If you do not replace the fuel line and smell gasoline, you may have a leak in the line that could start a fire.
If the fan or accessory belt looks worn, replace it before you hear the telltale squealing that means it’s getting ready to break.
If your car has an engine-timing belt, you should have it changed every 60,000 miles, but get a qualified mechanic to do the job. If it breaks, the car will stop running, and it could cause serious damage to certain makes of cars.
Clean battery terminal corrosion with water and baking soda mixed together, and apply a chemical that prevents corrosion to the posts. Check the cables, and look for loose connections.
If the car has front-wheel-drive and you hear a clicking noise when making tight turns, check the rubber boots around the CV joint. If they are torn or missing, you will need to replace the CV joint.
If you take care of your old car, do some preventive maintenance, and fix minor problems before they become major headaches, you may have inexpensive transportation for a long time.
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