When my car gets into higher mileage digits and repairs start showing up, I start wondering if I should sell my running car or wait until it dies. With tougher economic times, many Americans are opting to drive their cars past 100,000, 150,000, and sometimes even 200,000 miles. For those who are in a less-than-optimal financial situation, the experts advise repairing rather than replacing an old car. It costs less that way. Here are five repairs that will keep your car running longer.
If your car’s wheel alignment is off, it can shorten the life of your car’s tires by thousands of miles. It can also affect the steering and suspension. Your car is not going to give you a warning light when the alignment is off–you will need to take initiative to get it checked. There are a few signs, though, that something might be off. If you’re constantly putting air in your tires, or you feel your car pulling to one side while you’re driving, or your tires are squealing, it’s time to call the tire shop.
You need these things to be working when you need your car to stop–say, when an elderly granny is making her way across the crosswalk or when the vehicle in front of you suddenly brakes or when you see a deer peeking out at you from the bushes ahead. (I don’t want an animal to affect my chance to sell my running car.) You can tell your brakes are going bad if you start hearing them (squeaking, grinding, etc.) or if you’re having trouble stopping the car. There are three parts to your brakes–brake pads, calipers, and rotors–with the rotors being the most expensive to repair. If you catch the problem soon enough, you may be able to avoid needing to replace the rotors. Keep your brake pads in good condition.
This belt keeps your engine running in sync. If it fails, you could be dealing with a major engine repair. To avoid that, mechanics recommend that you replace the timing belt as part of the maintenance schedule recommended by your manufacturer. (That should be in your car manual.) It will squeak if it’s going bad, but don’t depend on that. If you get the timing belt replaced, you should consider replacing the whole set connected to it–the pulleys, the tensioner, and possibly the water pump.
If you’re not mechanically oriented–like me–it pays to get your car checked every so often by a trusted mechanic. Just have him get his face under the hood of your car to see what might be threatening to break. Sometimes that can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in repairs. Frankly, any time you hear a squeal or a weird sound, it’s worth getting it checked. When I’ve finally got my dollars saved up for a new(er) car, I want to sell my running car–not my defunct, blown-engine jalopy.