If you’re thinking to yourself, “it’s probably time to scrap my car“, we’re more than happy to pay you a great price for it, but we’re also happy to provide you with a few tips to keep it out of our hands for a bit longer. With this in mind, we’ve compiled our top 10 tips and hints for getting the most out of your vehicle and also helping prevent your car from failing its MoT test without having to spend a fortune on it.
Prolonging your car’s life is relatively easy if you follow the 10 basic tips below:
Let’s start from the ground-up as it’s quite literally where the rubber meets the road; your tyres. It’s surprising how many people never (or rarely) check the air pressure in their tyres. Since these are the only parts of the car that actually make physical contact with the road, they really do deserve more attention than most people give them. Correct tyre pressures can vary enormously depending on the size, make and model of your vehicle. For example, did you know that the correct tyre pressure of a milk float tyre can be in excess of 100psi (pounds per square inch)?. Compare this to an average road car, which is typically around the 30psi mark, and you can see how wildly they vary.
The easiest way to check the correct operating pressure of your tyres is to simply inspect the sidewall of the tyre in question as this is where you’ll find the right answer. If you keep your tyres at the optimum pressure, they’ll last longer. Softer tyres mean there is a greater surface area in contact with the tarmac underneath and, although this can sometimes provide better grip, it also leads to a higher wear-rate of the tyre. Similarly, if the tyre is severely under-inflated, it puts extra stress on the side-wall, which can cause it to destroy the sidewall. Conversely, over-inflated tyres can lead to excessive stress and also a dangerous bubble forming in the wall which could burst at any moment. Lastly, having your tyres at the correct pressure will provide better fuel economy than if they are too soft
Keeping your car clean may seem like one of those things you needn’t worry about if you own an older model. It’s not just about appearance; keeping your car washed, regardless of its age, will prolong the life of the bodywork by keeping rust at bay. Most car shampoos have ingredients in them that will help protect the vehicle from things like acid rain and general caustic dirt/grime and winter road salt. After washing your car, you’ll notice how the rain forms in “bobbles” on the surface rather than a flat layer as it did prior to washing. You can also enhance the protection by giving your car a quick wax (real or synthetic) afterwards. The bottom line is that a well-protected car means less rust, which equals less filler, less welding and less long-term maintenance.
Undersealing your car is a powerful way to delay the onset of rust to the chassis and other crucial parts that are constantly getting damp or wet underneath. Undersealing can be costly if you take it to a garage so may not be a viable option if your car isn’t worth much. However, this is a job that can be done relatively cheaply if you’re prepared to do it yourself. Indeed, there are plenty of stories of individuals doing just that by simply coating the underside of the car in used engine oil, which they picked up for free at the local garage!
Keep off the grass
Where possible, don’t park your car on dirt or grass; keep it on concrete or tarmac. You’ll often see front gardens with cars parked on the grass where there is no concrete or tarmac laid on a driveway. Parking on grass for extended periods will speed up rusting to the underside due to the moisture that rises from wet earth or dew-covered grass every morning.
Keep the car garaged
Obviously, this only applies if you have a garage so isn’t relevant for those of us who don’t. If you have a garage and it’s full of junk, make space for your car so that you can keep it locked up when not in use. Aside from reducing the risk of car theft, keeping your car in dry conditions will dramatically increase the lifespan of the bodywork and the underside.
Regular oil and oil/air filter changes
Although a 5-litre container of oil won’t break the bank, it can end up saving you a tidy packet in the long run. A well-lubricated engine with a new oil filter can significantly increase the lifespan of the engine. Over time, an oil filter will accrue tiny particles and will eventually become clogged/saturated with them, meaning that these micro-particles stay moving around with the oil in the engine. The particles are abrasive and will wear the inner workings of your engine much quicker than fresh oil will. Similarly, an air filter filters out particles in the air as they enter the engine to combust the fuel. A clogged or dirty filter only takes minutes to change, is cheap to buy and can also improve performance and fuel consumption.
Get repairs done when needed
It’s tempting to leave those minor niggles until they become a bigger problem. Sometimes, we’ll leave those barely audible knocks and whines until the offending part breaks altogether, meaning a trip to the local garage is imminent. Regardless of the significant improvement to safety, getting things fixed or replaced early can save you money in the long run. For example, if you notice the cambelt is worn or frayed, not getting it replaced can mean your engine will be destroyed if it breaks when you’re cruising at 70mph down the motorway.
Regular visual inspections
A visual inspection can be completed in a matter of minutes and, aside from being free, can save you money if you spot a leak or any other type of problem early. Fluid leaks can be extremely dangerous (e.g. a brake fluid leakage) as well as costly if the fluid spills onto other parts of the car. Inspect and repair/replace fluids where necessary, top-up when needed and check for splits in rubber hoses. This applies to radiator hoses too as a small leak can drain the water quickly at high pressure and lead to the engine overheating.
Always use antifreeze
Carrying on from point 8, it’s tempting to just fill up a kettle and use this to top up radiator fluid when needed. Although not a problem in summer, this can have devastating results in colder weather as the water will freeze inside the engine, thus expanding and cracking the engine block.
Now, we’re not implying you’re a boy (or girl) racer who bombs around the streets doing doughnuts every five minutes, nor are we implying that you drive at a snail’s pace; somewhere in between is perfect. Driving efficiently and steadily lessens stress as well as wear and tear on your vehicle and your car’s components will generally last longer as a result. For example, slowing down for speed humps will prolong the life the suspension and driving between 50mph and 60mph on motorways will help prolong the life of the engine (as well as improve fuel economy).
So there you have it – we hope you’ve picked up a few useful ideas from our top 10 tips to prolong the life of your car and just to reiterate, being mindful of all of the above will also help you stay safer on the roads too!