The average age of cars submited to our breakers yard is around 14, whilst the age of the cars travelling the roads is a little closer to eight years old
Need your car to hang on a bit longer? There are hints and tips on how to get the most out of your car and make it last that bit longer.
1. Look after the battery
If your car is sat idle for long periods of time it is more likely for your battery to lose effictivness and go flat.
If this is applicable, consider using a trickle charger that will keep the battery topped up. Alternatively, use a battery conditioner if your battery appears to hold less charge than you would expect.
Jump starting your car adds strain to the battery and can damage the engine management system and other electronics.
To look after your battery without a trickle charger, you should try to drive your car at least once a week if possible – particularly in winter.
2. Change filters at regular intervals
The filters on your car can become clogged through the year (or years) and it is very important to change them regularly.
A regular car service should include changing the filters, but it is a relatively simple job to do yourself if you are looking to save cash or change filters between services.
Just washing the air filter can usually prolong its life. Your handbook will contain a section of advice for filter cleaning and changing. If you do decide to replace the filters yourself, use genuine parts designed for your car! Cheap, poor quality filters could damage your engine in the longer term.
3. Drive smoothly… most of the time
Driving your car with the engines health in mind is something that should be practised most of the time. Smooth driving is always recommended if for nothing else than to make your car last longer – as well as the fuel consumption.
Simple things like using the steering wheel, gearbox and pedals smoothly are key, along with looking well ahead to reduce the need for sudden braking.
However… if you don’t rev your engine fully, carbon deposits can build up and foul the valves, intake manifold and other parts, reducing efficiency and potentially causing a misfire.
Best practise would be to rev your engine to the redline at least every 200 – 300 miles, but only when the oil is warm and you’re on a quiet road.
Diesel cars may also have problems with clogged diesel particulate filters (DPFs), which are designed to trap harmful exhaust emissions.
A longer motorway run once a month will help clear them.
4. Use the air con
Air conditioning systems inevitably leak gas over time, especially if they are not used often enough.
Not using the air con may save fuel, but ending up with a re-gassing bill for the air conditioning may prove it to be a false economy!
5. Change spark plugs and leads
Another servicing feature that you can do yourself if you are so inclined is changing spark plugs and leads. Just make sure you read your handbook first.
When you are looking at your spark plugs, check that is has:
- a light brown electrode and insulator
- no signs of melting
- no signs of wear or deposits.
A spark plug in a poor condition either indicates wear over time and needs replacing, or can hint at the condition of your engine.
A spark plug that is relatively new that has developed a gap inbetween the electrode and insulator, then this could be an indicator that the engine is not performing as well as it could be. In this case, get in touch with your local garage.
If any leads are displaying signs of heavy wear – cracks and splits, then they should be replaced as soon as possible.
6. Keep fluids topped up
Fluids are your car’s lifeblood and failing to replenish them may have dire consequences.
Check the engine oil every fortnight if possible. Open the bonnet with the car on a level surface, remove the dipstick, clean it with a rag and then dip it back into the oil. When it comes back out, the mark should be between the min and max level.
Dark, dirty oil should be replaced. However, diesel engine oil accumulates soot as part of the normal combustion process, so dark-coloured oil isn’t a cause for alarm with a diesel car.
Whilst checking your engine oil, it would be a good time to also check the coolant fluid.
Don’t be tempted to use washing-up liquid as it contains salt and other additives that will damage paintwork.
7. Check your tyres
Arguably your cars most important safety features, checking your tyres at least once a week could prevent accidents and save lifes!
If your tyres are under inflated, your fuel consumtion will rise, so keep your tyres fully inflated to the recommended psi.
Tyre pressure recommendations vary from front and back (depending on engine positioning and weight distribution). There are some experts who recommend changing the front to the rear and visa versa to even out tyre wear and make your tyres last that bit longer.
When checking your tyres, make sure to measure the level of tread on your tyres. The legal minimum in the UK is 1.6mm, but ideally you would change them when the level is between 2mm – 3mm. The less tread you have, the lower the effectivness of the tyres.
8. Stick to the service schedule
Regular servicing is vital to keep your car in tip-top condition and prolong its life.
Service intervals are based on time or miles driven – once a year or every 10,000 miles, for example.
Check the handbook to find out when your car is due a service and what work is required.
Many modern cars have warning lights on the dashboard to alert you when maintenance is needed, too.
Broadly speaking, you should budget for a ‘minor’ service once a year and a ‘major’ service every two or three years.
A minor service includes changing the oil and oil filter, and replacing other fluids if necessary.
Depending on the car and mileage, a major service may also cover replacement of the air filter, spark plugs and cambelt.
The number of tasks included in even a minor service is numerous, but all should include checks for oil and fluid leaks, tyre pressures and condition, excessive exhaust emissions, brake wear, and the correct operation of the steering, gearbox, clutch, suspension, lights, wipers and horn.
9. Cover your car
Do you have a garage? What do you use it for? For many the answer won’t be for storing your car!
Garages are often used as a storage extension for the home or garden shed and the car is left on a driveway or road.
Perhaps you need an excuse for a clear out of the garage and this could be it! Keeping your car in your garage helps to keep it safe, clean, reduces the risk of theft or vandalism and can cut down your insurance premium.
10. Reduce the amount your carry
Car manufacturers are always on the lookout for new ways to reduce the weight of their vehicles. A car that weighs less increases the miles per gallon and is easier to meet emmission targets.
Thinking like this surely it makes sense to edit the contents of the boot, backseats, passenger seat, glovebox and car door holders to keep the weight to a minimum whenever possible.
As well as lowering your miles per gallon amounts, carrying additional weight in the car adds more strain to the car and increases wear and tear on brakes, suspension and tyres.
Don’t forget to remove roof bars and luggage racks when not in use as these will significantly increase fuel consumption by adding to the drag on the car.
11. Rust-proof your car
Rust is the number one killer of cars built in the 1990s or before. Modern cars are rust resistant, but without proper care, it can only do so much.
Once rust sets in, many simply won’t be economical to repair.
If you notice rust spots on your car, don’t wait for them to develop further. The very least you should do is to cover up the exposed bodywork with touch-up paint before getting a professional to respray it.
Adding stone-deflecting film to the front of your car can prevent damage to the paintwork in the first place.
Budget depending, you could have the chassis fully rust-proofed. This includes filling in the cavaties with a waxy substance that is designed to prevent water ingress. Stopping rust from starting in the first place will be a cheaper option than fixing rust later.
12. Avoid potholes and rough tracks
Potholes wreak havoc on your suspension, tyres and exhaust.
Hard edges found on poorly-maintained roads can lead to sidewall bulges, tread separation and in some cases they can deflate tyres too. When driving over crater-like holes, suspension can become misaligned and shocks damaged.
Deeper holes may even scrape catalytic converters leading to holes and a loss of power.
If possible, take roads with smoother surfaces to avoid wear and tear.
If you do drive over a pothole that causes damage, there may be some recompense that you could claim for. Take a look at the RAC guide here.
13. Use brakes rather than shifting gears to slow down
Using the engine by shifting gears to slow down can cause damage to your drivetrain – especially the clutch and transmission.
Braking by using your gears, especially at higher speeds, shortens the lifespan of the engine. The damage can be amplified if you shift down multiple gears.
Using the brake pedal should be your first port of call to help prevent damage to your gearbox.
14. Keep your car clean
Getting a professional to clean your car can really extend its life! Keeping a clean car isn’t just about vanity. Grit gets into moving parts of a car and chassis which can lead to accelerated wear and corrosion.
Even bird droppings play havoc with the paint work. Winter road salt is also very corrosive so make sure you know what to do if you are stuck behind a gritter.
Automated car washes have stiff brushes that may leave fine scratches – plus they miss bits, too. Whereas a hand wash, or DIY job is usually much more thorough.
Polishing the car at least once a year will provide a layer of protection that will help prevent rust from spreading.
15. Hand and foot positions
How many of us drive with your foot resting on the clutch and your hand on the gearstick? Resting your foot on the clutch releases the bearing in contact with the clutch cover which in turn leads to leads to unnecessary friction. Over time, the clutch can wear out prematurely.
Resting your hand on the gear stick also applies pressure to the selector fork and other internal parts. The added friction increases wear and tear on the gear box.
If you can get into the habit of moving your hand onto the steering wheel and resting your feet elsewhere in the footwell instead.
16. Don’t run low on fuel
When you run low on petrol your fuel pump will draw on air, debris and sediment found in the bottom of the fuel tank in an attempt to power your car.
The unwanted materials can clog the system and eventually corrode your pump and filters, potentially blocking fuel and preventing your car from starting.
Owners of diesel cars should be particularly cautious of low fuel levels as the powerful injectors in their engines draw large quantities of air into the system, which can prevent the engine turning over.
17. Check your warning lights immediately
When a warning light appears, it can be easy to ignore, especially if the performance of the car doesn’t seem to change. Increasing the volume on the radio is also not a good tactic to fix problems with your car!
However, leaving problems unchecked could mean a premature end for your car.
Your engine, braking and power steering lights indicate some of the most urgent faults that could lead to expensive repair bills or worse, an unsafe driving situation.
While brake and steering problems will reduce your control of the car, the engine light could turn on for a number of reasons. A loose filler cap or the far more concerning, contaminated catalytic converter are all flagged by the same light, and it’s best to get anything you’re unsure about checked right away by the experts.
Be vigilant around any unusual noises coming from your car and get any warning lights or strange sounds checked out as soon as possible.
18. Make simple and regular checks
One of the most effective ways of adding to your car’s lifespan is also one of the easiest: routine checks.
A list of essential DIY inspections will flag problems before they develop into a more expensive repair bill and could help you to stop complications arising in the first place.
We recommend checking these as regularly as possible, perhaps every two weeks:
- rubber (tyres and wiper blades)
- screen wash
- engine air filter
- spark plug (petrol engines only)
- air conditioning
If your car is beyond help and you need to scrap a car, please get in touch with our scrap team and get a quote for us to come and pick your car up wherever you are in the North West.