Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How to prolong your car’s lifespan

Source: The Star
WANT to continue driving but can't seem to afford a new car any time soon? Here's one alternative - save money by keeping your old jalopy running until it falls apart!
Alright, perhaps not literally, but a car, even when past its prime, can still serve you for a few more years if it's well taken care of - and at the same time, save you money from buying a brand new vehicle.
Here are some tips to keep your clunker going for many more years.
Routine maintenance
A well-maintained vehicle will still give you good service even after the odometer indicates that your car has “boldly gone where no car has gone before.”
“There's still a lot of life yet in your car even after you've hit 100,000km on your odometer,” says Simon Lam of Used Autos Sdn Bhd, a Kuala Lumpur-based used-car dealer. “Regular, routine maintenance ensures that your car is always running at optimum level,” he says, adding that one should not try to prolong a vehicle's maintenance schedule just to save a bit of money. If you feel that something needs fixing, get it done immediately before it escalates and becomes a bigger problem - which would mean big money to fix!”
Doing your own routine maintenance can save you money but it’s not for everyone.
Keeping your old car going also means saving money on not having to make payments on a new vehicle, says Kuala Lumpur-based mechanical engineer Peter Lau.
Car loan repayment bills are a big financial obligation and delaying the purchase of either a new or used vehicle can help save you thousands of ringgit if you practice good auto maintenance habits and keep your old car running for many years.
“Getting your engine oil, gearbox fluid and spark plugs changed as per the maintenance schedule will help prolong and even avoid expensive rebuilds or replacements. Change your belts on a regular basis and flush the radiator out. It's the tiny things that make the most difference,” he says.
Drive it less
One way to reduce the wear and tear on your aging vehicle is to drive it less often, says Jeremy Tan (not his real name), a 30-year old lawyer from Johor Bahru.
Tan, who owns a 1965 Volkswagen (VW) beetle, says he used to drive it everyday when he was in college and in the early years of his working career.
He has since purchased a new car (a Proton Saga) but still maintains his trusty VW and drives it mostly on weekends.
“I will never sell it because it has served me for so many years. When I used to drive it daily, I would take it for repairs or maintenance jobs every three months. Nowadays, I can go a full year without taking it to the workshop.”
Can he stomach the maintenance bills for two cars?
“Road tax and insurance for my VW comes to about RM400 a year. It's a lot cheaper than paying for a new car. (The road tax and insurance) for my girlfriend's three-year old Perodua Kancil is nearly double that amount!”
Tan also says many older, foreign cars appear to be longer lasting than cars of today.
“I've been driving the car for over 20 years and have overhauled the engine once. So far, I've had no gearbox or suspension problems yet. Many new cars after a few years will start having all sorts of problems.
“So having an old car on the side does not burn a hole in my pocket.”
Learn to DIY
This option is for those who are a bit more adventurous and don't mind getting their hands dirty.
Tan says that having owned his VW for many years, he's taken the initiative to learn more about his car, and has even learnt a thing or two about maintaining it himself.
“In the beginning, I knew nothing about my car or how it worked. Words like distributor and carburettor were all foreign to me. For every little thing, I'd take my car to the workshop to get it fixed because I didn't quite know what really needed repairing, I'd get a bill for something that didn't need changing!”
Tan says by learning more about your vehicle and doing small maintenance and repair jobs on your car can actually save one lots of money and long trips to the workshop. “There is a wealth of information about how to fix your old cars. This can be sourced from the Internet, books or even DVDs.”
Tan says today he is able to do simple jobs on his own, such as changing the vehicle's engine and gearbox oil, adjust the brakes, timing and adjust the valves, among others.
“I've even got my car to start again when it broke down on the road. It saved me the hassle of waiting for a tow truck and money getting it fixed at a workshop.
“It's not for everyone, but getting to know more about how your car works and learning to fix certain things yourself not only saves you money, but it also changes your relationship with your vehicle.”

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