Three Preventative Maintenance Tips for Older Cars

mechanic repairman inspecting car

The average car on Canadian roads is about 10 years old, which for most drivers means warranties have long ago disappeared in the rearview mirror and repair bills are starting to become more frequent. Fortunately, there’s a way to stay ahead of potentially costly parts, failures and breakdowns, and that’s by keeping up with preventative maintenance.

Here are three important maintenance tips that will help keep your wheels rolling all year long.

1. Oil Changes Aren’t Optional

Modern engines are designed to make use of much longer oil change intervals than the 5,000 km window recommended for the cars of 20 or 30 years ago, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore this important aspect of preventative maintenance completely. Inside your owner’s manual you’ll find the recommended distance your vehicle can travel (or maximum time) between one oil change to the next, along with the type of lubricant that is specifically recommended. Keeping up with oil and filter changes means avoiding sludge building inside your motor that can seriously limit the life of your car. It also helps keep your vehicle running efficiently so that you don’t end up paying a premium at the fuel pump, too.

2. Tires Don’t Last Forever

There’s nothing on your car or truck that wears out faster than your tires. It’s no secret why this is the case: they’re the only part of your vehicle that’s in constant contact with the road, rolling down asphalt, gravel, and even snow and ice day in and day out. It makes sense that the more you drive, the faster your tires will wear out, but there are three important things you can do to get the maximum amount of life out of them:

  • Keep your wheels aligned. A proper alignment will prevent your tires from wearing unevenly on the inside, outside, or even on only one side of your automobile. How often do you need an alignment? It really depends on how rough your roads are. In general, if the car starts pulling to one side or another, or if the front end feels loose, it’s worth having your alignment checked.
  • Rotate your tires.  Once again, your car’s manual will have a suggested interval for you to follow when it comes time to move your rear tires to the front of the car, and your front tires to the rear. This process helps even out the wear regardless of how your vehicle is aligned and how heavy a load you carry.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated. Too much air and you’ll wear out the inside of your tread first; not enough, and you’ll wear out the edges. Not only that, but following the factory recommendation (again, found in your manual) for tire air pressure will ensure the best comfort, performance, and fuel efficiency over the life of your car.

3. Keep an Eye on Your Battery and Belts

Most cars allow you to check the oil level using a simple dipstick, which is something you should do once a month or so even if your vehicle also comes with an ‘oil life’ indicator on the dashboard. While you’re under the hood, it’s also worth doing a quick and easy inspection of two other preventative maintenance items that wear out over time: your battery and your engine belts.

Although some batteries are found in the trunk, most are located in the engine bay near the firewall. Inspect the terminals where the positive and negative cables are connected to make sure there isn’t any corrosion or mineral build-up, both of which can be removed via a quick scrub from a wire brush. If the cables themselves show signs of corrosion underneath their plastic covers, it’s time for a change. With corrosion, eventually they won’t be able to conduct electricity well enough to get your car started in the morning.

Your vehicle’s engine belts are located at the front of the engine (which doesn’t always translate to the front of the car), where they link the alternator, various pumps for power steering, and water, and occasionally the fan. With the motor off, take a look to see if the belt shows any cracks or indications that it has dried out. If so, it’s time to visit your local mechanic to have it replaced before it snaps and leaves you stranded.

If car maintenance isn’t your forte, be sure to schedule an appointment with a certified mechanic for service and advice.

Each car is different, but with a little attention and love, you’ll be able to count on your older car for years to come.