How to keep your car longer

October 30, 2008 9:59:23 PM PDT
John Hayes spends a few hundred dollars a year maintaining his 1991 Oldsmobile. He says driving the 17-year-old car sure beats monthly car payments and full coverage insurance.

Hayes says, "Because I don't bother with collision and that stuff because it don't pay."

More Americans are following his lead.

A 2007 R.L. Polk study showed the median age of cars in the U.S. is nine years, compared to four to five years in the 1970s.

Forty-one percent of cars are 11 years or older.
(How old is your car? Click here.)

Triple-A spokesperson Robert Sinclair Jr. says the tough economy, credit issues and a closing leasing market are sending drivers to mechanics instead of dealerships.

"They're putting new transmissions in, new engines in, because that money might be a lot -- two, three thousand dollars, but they're discovering it's a lot cheaper than buying a new car," he explained.

Is it a good idea?

"If you look back 20 years ago most cars had a 5 digit odometer," Robert Hanley said. "Over the past 10 years most cars have a six digit odometer that means that car was meant to go over 100-thousand miles."

Hanley is from Elmont Car Care. He estimates drivers spend between 600 and 900 dollars a year on maintenance.

For some, that's a monthly car payment.

Hanley is the proud owner of a 13-year-old truck with 180-thousand miles.

Here's how he did it:

1. Regularly check your oil. You're engine is the heart of your car like your heart in your body.

2. Check the air filter regularly. It's the lungs of your car.

3. Check your belts and hoses. They're made of rubber they don't last a lifetime.

4. Check your fluids regularly.

The mechanics at Elmont Car Care say fix the problem while it's small because once it's big it can cost you big bucks.

Drivers like John Hayes say it's simple math. His repair bills would have to reach about 5-thousand dollars a year for four years in a row to even approach the cost of a new car. So he'll stick with his car as long as it's reliable.

Here are seven tips to keep you're car running well past 100-thousand miles.

1. Know the maintenance schedule. Not sure? Check out this resource from Triple A:

2. Keep a repair fund.

3. Fix everything as soon as it breaks.

4. Check out websites about your car.

5. Get roadside assistance.

6. If something doesn't feel right, ask questions.

7. Buy a good car to begin with.

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