7 Hacks for Extending the Life of Your Older Vehicle

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How To Extend Life of Older Vehicle

There’s a big difference between owning an older vehicle versus a newer model. There are entire systems that require a different rulebook. Luckily, you can keep your ol’ faithful on the road longer by keeping an eye on the little things.

If you drive an older vehicle, you’ve probably got a long list of precautions that you give people when they get in it for the first time. “Don’t slam the door.” or “You’ve got to jiggle the handle first.” Or “She always makes that sound. It’s perfectly normal.”

Although these automotive quirks add character to your vehicle, each one can be avoided if you follow a few simple guidelines. Older vehicles need a bit of extra thoughtfulness to keep them in good working order. It’s not rocket science. You can save a bundle of money just by following these 7 easy hacks for extending the life of your vehicle.

Related: How to Avoid Costly Automotive Repairs

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1. Park Your Vehicle Strategically

One of the most dangerous places for your vehicle is a parking lot. You’re not in the car to steer it clear of danger. It’s just a sitting duck. So, be sure to park your vehicle away from other vehicles if possible.

You’ll reduce the likelihood that someone will open their door and bang your car or accidentally back into your vehicle while parking. This doesn’t mean take up two spaces; you should just get some extra exercise by parking in the rear section of the parking lot.

Also, you should avoid parking your vehicle under direct sunlight. The constant heat and UV exposure can really damage your paint and interior. Your leather seating and dashboard can crack in the sun and most guys never get these things fixed. If you can’t find a shady parking space, then use a folding car shade.

There’s a really affordable one that you get on Amazon.

2. Don’t Over Steer

When you were a kid you probably got behind the wheel of a car or truck and just started yanking the steering wheel in either direction, making VROOM-VROOM mouth noises. Well, that is one of the worst things you can do to your vehicle, especially if it’s an older model.

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In most older vehicles, there’s a pump that pushes hydraulic fluid through a system of lines. This is how your wheels turn left when you steer left. This hydraulic steering system wears down, just like any other system on your vehicle.

So, when you yank that wheel around because the light won’t turn green, you’re putting excess wear and tear on your steering pump. You should also avoid turning your steering wheel while the vehicle is stationary for that same reason. Do yourself a favor and steer when you need to steer. A power steering pump replacement could cost around $350 dollars or more.

3. Maintain Good Driving Distance Between Your Vehicle and Others

One way to avoid a costly repair bill is to drive defensively. Some guys take this way too far and just hover over their brake pedal. You’re more likely to create anxiety than protect your vehicle that way. Instead of paying too much attention to your brake pedal, give more facetime to your rearview mirrors.

Older vehicles don’t have blind spot monitors and cross traffic alerts, so you need to keep your eyes moving. When you’re in traffic play close attention to the types of vehicles around you. Is that an older model pick-up truck behind you? Well, you’d better allow for a few car lengths of brake distance.

You can ease up a bit when you notice newer model vehicles in your rearview because most of them have some type of collision avoidance technology. You can also take a look at other people’s side mirrors to see if you’re in their blind spot. Some vehicles have a little indicator light that comes on. If your eyes are good, you can see it and tell if that driver is aware of your vehicle.

4. Save Your Battery

If you drive an older model car or truck, then your vehicle probably doesn’t have the advanced circuitry that automatically deactivates some minor electrical systems when you crank up your vehicle. When you turn that ignition key, your battery is engaged and that’s what starts your vehicle.

The problem is that it also starts your air conditioning, your lights, your heated seats, radio, and any other accessories that you might be running. It takes a substantial amount of power to do so. You can save your battery by making sure that all of the other electrical systems are deactivated when you don’t need them.

5. Don’t Tax Your Engine Too Early

Should you warm up your car in the driveway before driving it? That depends. If you have a super old vehicle, let’s say before 1990, then your vehicle might still have a carburetor. That means your vehicle will struggle with mixing gasoline and air in cold temperatures. You should warm it up until the gasoline and air mixture won’t harm your engine.

The only other reason to warm-up your vehicle is if the weather is extremely cold, I’m talking so cold that the oil is not even fully liquid anymore. Then, you need to warm it up so that you aren’t pushing semi-solid oil through your engine. Yikes!

Otherwise, its fine to drive your vehicle as soon as you get in. You can take some of the strain off your engine by not revving the engine in the first 20 minutes of driving. You should also avoid traveling at high speeds right away. This causes abrupt temperature changes in your engine components and can damage your vehicle.

Related: What to Do When Your Engine Gets Hot?

6. Get Good Gasoline…Every Time You Fill Up

Unless you’re plugging in, you’ve got to get fuel for your vehicle. For most people, especially owners of older model cars, that’s gonna be unleaded gasoline. Most vehicles can run just fine on 87 octane, but mid-grade and premium is best for high performance sports cars.

Now, don’t go putting premium gasoline in your compact crossover for the hell of it. You’ll just waste your money because it doesn’t boost performance or extend the life of your engine. Go by the recommendations in your owner’s manual.

What you can do to protect your older model vehicle is ensure that you’re getting good quality gasoline every time you fill up. Find a station that you trust and use it always. If you see a tanker truck refueling a gas station, then come back another day.

Here’s why. The tanker truck pumps new gasoline into the storage tank underground and that can stir up lots of sediment from the bottom and walls of the tanks. You don’t want to get this into your fuel system, so don’t fill up at the same time that the gas station is filling up.

Pro Tip: If you’re traveling a lot in the city on short commutes, then your engine might never get hot enough to clean itself properly. You could have carbon build-up in your fuel system. I recommend getting a fuel system cleaner instead of buying expensive premium gasoline. This is one of the best fuel injection cleaners and its available on Amazon.

7. Change Your Oil Frequently

If you consult the owner’s manual of your older model car or truck, it will tell you how many miles until your next oil change. That’s just a best estimate for vehicle’s running at optimal conditions. You also need to check underneath your vehicle for oil leaks and check your oil levels by checking the dipstick. You might need to change your oil more frequently than the owner’s manual suggests.

When you drive an older model car or truck, then your engine is more susceptible to getting metal fragments and dirt in the engine. An oil change will flush these particles out. Don’t forget to change your oil filter, as well. This will extend the life of your engine, especially if you drive it to-and-from work, five days a week in city traffic.

Normally, you would change your oil every 3 to 5 thousand miles. The older your vehicle gets, the more you need to check the condition of the oil and not just the mileage. When you pull out the dipstick to check your oil, you want to check the color and viscosity of the oil. Is it black and sludgy? Then, you’d better change that oil.

Related: Driving a Pick-Up Truck Make You More Attractive?

Summing it Up

Most men that drive older model vehicles are trying to save a buck. Ironically, you can spend way more money in repairs if you aren’t careful. Older model cars and trucks are built differently. Automotive technology is advancing so fast that owners of new model cars don’t have to worry about most of this stuff.

You shouldn’t get lulled into a false sense of security about subsystems and high-tech components if you drive an older vehicle. You’ll need to pay close attention to how your vehicle drives, looks and sounds. For the most part, just follow the care recommendations from the owner’s manual. However, there will be times when you need to think outside of the box to extend the life of your vehicle.

I hope this guide was helpful. For more automotive tips, be sure to check additional resources on our site and always remember to drive carefully.

About Freddy Blackmon 195 Articles
Freddy Blackmon is a freelance writer and journalist who has a passion for cars, technology, and fitness. Look for articles on these topics and more. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.