Tips for Extending the Life of 10+ Year Vehicles

Posted on: November 24, 2016

Close up of car headlight

No one thinks they’ll be driving the same car forever. In fact, few drivers hold on to the same vehicle for more than six years. However, if your car passes the ten-year benchmark, you don’t need to make drastic changes or purchase new parts to keep it running smoothly.

Fortunate individuals whose cars last 15 or even 20 years simply pay close attention to the quality of care their cars receive. Care and maintenance instructions are slightly different for every car, but adhering to certain procedures will greatly extend the life of your vehicle.

Keep a Maintenance Schedule

First and foremost, you should follow the maintenance guidelines set by the dealers or manufacturers of your vehicle. Scheduled maintenance is as important for your car’s health as regular visits to the dentist are for your teeth. Receiving routine maintenance is crucial for older or aging vehicles.

Not only does it keep your car functioning in optimal condition, but mechanics will be able to catch problems early, should they arise. As your car gets on in years, take it in for service more often, especially before extreme weather changes like those in the summer and winter.

Use the Right Fluids and Change Them Regularly

Whether you’re purchasing an older vehicle or caring for an aging one, your car will require different products depending on what’s under its hood. For example, synthetic oils, which are more durable than conventional oils, can be beneficial to some vehicles made in the early 2000s. However, they are usually incompatible with many other older models, like those predating the 1990s. Using the wrong products for your car could be detrimental to its longevity.

Car Engine

Some drivers try to cheat maintenance guidelines by using less expensive alternatives such as water instead of the recommended water-coolant mixtures in their radiators. During summer, the pressure in your engine’s cooling system can push untreated water to its boiling point, which, in turn, can cause the radiator to overheat and blow.

In the winter, the water will freeze, expand, and develop into engine blockages. It’s important to follow manufacturer recommendations for things such as engine oil, coolant, and fuel. Don’t cut corners when it comes to your car’s care. It will hurt your car much more than it helps your wallet.

Don’t Drive with a Cold Engine

If a car has been idle for more than five hours, the engine is considered to be “cold.” This means that there is little to no oil on the moving parts of the engine. Driving at high speeds in this condition is damaging to your car. It encourages metal-on-metal friction before the oil has sufficiently lubricated the engine’s cylinders and pistons. The resulting heat can cause premature wearing or even welding of metal surfaces.

Mechanics recommend idling your car for at least 30 seconds (but no more than five minutes) after startup so that the oil can adequately lubricate the engine. If you haven’t driven your car in more than 24 hours, it may be wise to let it sit for at least 60 seconds after startup.

Know How Your Car Behaves in Colder Weather

Mishandling your vehicle in the winter is a definite way to minimize its lifespan. Be attentive to your car’s needs during cooler months, as cars are less fuel efficient and have poorer performance when operating at colder temperatures.

If your car does not have a carbureted engine, you don’t need to leave it running before driving it in the winter. Cars made after the mid-1990s have fuel injection engines, meaning they’re outfitted with an electronic system that monitors the engine’s fuel-air intake. Carbureted engines don’t have sensors and can’t compensate for the cold the way fuel injection engines can. Therefore, they need to idle for at least five minutes after start-up in the winter.

Rusty Car

Make sure your fuel injectors are monitored and cleaned regularly because older car models are especially susceptible to clogging in the winter. Clean fuel injectors will make it easier to start your car and reduce the rate of engine wear.

If you have a diesel engine, be mindful of the type of fuel you use during the winter season. Summer diesel isn’t appropriate for winter use because it’s less durable, prone to waxing, and will clog your fuel filters faster than winter-grade diesel.
Never Skip an Oil Change

Last, never forgo an oil change. In the auto industry, it’s understood that oil is the lifeblood of your vehicle, and it does much more than just lubricate the engine. Car oil generally has anti-wear additives and detergents that prevent corrosion and clean inside the car engine.

However, the longer you use it, the less effective it becomes. The high temperature of your vehicle will break down the oil and its additives over time. Therefore, most manufacturers recommend changing your oil around 3,000 or 5,000 miles for conventional oil and synthetic oil, respectively. Pushing old oil far past those mileage limits will heighten the rate of engine wear and leave contaminated oil circulating in your engine.

In some extreme cases, engine components could overheat, weld together, and cause the system to shut down. Therefore, if you want to prolong the life of your vehicle, be proactive, stick to the manufacturer’s guidelines, and change your oil regularly.