Americans are driving the oldest population of motor vehicles ever – a record average of 11.8 years, according to research firm IHS Markit. That means drivers need to make sure they are keeping older cars and trucks in reliable condition.
That’s especially important for vehicles that have surpassed 100,000 miles but will be used for summer road trips.
Richard Reina, the product training director at auto parts supplier CARiD.com, has the following tips to keep older vehicles road ready.
CHECK YOUR BRAKES
A sinking or spongy brake pedal could be a sign of a failing brake master cylinder. Listen for screeching when you brake and remain aware of decreased braking performance. Get brakes checked periodically and change out brake fluid per the owner’s manual maintenance schedule.
MONITOR OIL CONSUMPTION AND LEAKS
Older vehicles tend to consume more oil. Rapidly falling oil levels typically signal oil leaks. Owners should fix those promptly. Otherwise, routinely the check oil level between changes, especially before embarking on long drives.
MAINTAIN SHOCKS AND STRUTS
Problem signs are uneven tire wear and vehicles that bounce up and down excessively. Those indicate a vehicle may need new shocks and struts. Worn out parts can cause poor or dangerous handling of your vehicle.
ADJUST ALIGNMENT REGULARLY
A vehicle’s front end naturally goes out of alignment over time and as suspension components wear. While the effect is gradual and hardly noticeable, poor alignment makes your engine work harder. The tires get pushed slightly sideways instead of just rolling forward. Old vehicles should have alignment checked annually.
CHECK TIRE PRESSURE
Tires low on air don’t roll as easily. They use more engine power and fuel to make them rotate. Tire pressure is one of the easiest checks to perform. Inflate to your vehicle’s suggested pressure for each tire. Find that on the label inside the driver’s door jamb.
KEEP VEHICLES CLEAN
This is especially important after the winter when roads are saturated with rust causing chemicals to melt away any ice and snow. Given the vulnerability of older cars, the undercarriage should receive a good wash at least once a quarter. This gets rid of chemicals or debris that can cause corrosion and ultimately result in a hole or crack.