It would be great if we could make a car last forever like Irvin Gordon did. The American driver and Guinness World Records holder, runs a Volvo P1800S coupe that has clocked up more than three million miles and counting over the last 50 years. That might be pushing it a bit for most of us. But there are plenty of things we can do to keep cars healthy for as long as possible.
Whether your car is brand new or more than 10 years old, there are simple steps to keep it running smoothly: from being gentle with an engine as it warms up, to treating it to a regular wash. These are my tricks of the trade when it comes to making a car go the distance.
Make a car last forever: regular maintenance
If I could give one tip that will help you to get as much life out of your car as possible, it would be to stick religiously to the manufacturer’s stated service schedule. You’ll find this in the car’s handbook. Running an engine with fresh oil and clean filters will not only reduce wear and tear on key components, it’ll also enable you to maximise economy and cut day-to-day running costs.
Take it easy
You wouldn’t expect a sprinter to run 100m without warming up first. So why should your engine do the mechanical equivalent? To help prevent premature wear to the moving parts within the engine, let it ease into running before you rev it up and make it sprint. If your car’s got a temperature gauge, wait until it’s sitting where it should after you’ve been driving for a few minutes before asking the engine to do more than 2500rpm.
Check your fluids
One thing guaranteed to shorten an engine’s life is not having enough oil to lubricate it properly, or water to keep it cool. It’s easy to check both, as well as the brake fluid. Then if you need to, you can replenish them before it gets critical and you’re shown an orange or red light on the dashboard.
Check your tyres
When you’re checking your engine’s fluids, inspect the tyres too. Keeping them at the correct pressure will ensure you get the maximum wear from them. Run them under pressure, as it’s frequently claimed around two thirds of tyres are, and they won’t last as long as they should. Thanks to the added friction on the road surface, other parts of the car will be having to work harder to drag it along and your mpg will suffer too. Low tyre pressures are a real lose-lose-lose.
Get faults fixed
Don’t ignore warning lights on the dashboard. If one shows red, stop and get it attended to immediately. The same goes for unusual sounds and leaks. If your car is making a weird noise, it’s telling you something is wrong so get it checked out. And leaks never cure themselves. If your car is losing fluid get someone to have a look at it. It may just be a loose connection somewhere. Better to find out before it fails completely and you’re left stranded without power steering or severely reduced braking power.
Take it easy
The kinder you are to your car, the more it’ll reward you. Don’t speed up to traffic lights and then have to jam on the brakes at the last minute. Don’t rush gear changes, grinding them as you do, and don’t spin the wheels when you take off. The result will be a car that lasts longer and is cheaper to run.
Keep it clean
A regular wash, and at least a couple of coats of polish and wax each year will keep your car in good condition. Treat plastics with protective cleaning materials, polish glass and chrome, and make sure that the underside of the car is kept clean, especially during autumn and winter when mulch can build up in nooks and crannies, trapping moisture and encouraging rust.
Nick Reid is a fellow of the Institute of the Motor Industry and head of transformation at Green Flag