A poorly maintained car can cost three times as much as a car that receives regularly scheduled service.
- The manufacturer says my car doesn't need a tune up for 100,000 miles. Is this true?
- Manufacturers are now defining the term "tune up" to mean the process of replacing a car's spark plugs. Originally designed for cars that had very hard to replace spark plugs, Platinum and Iridium plugs, that last two to three times longer than the old type, are now standard on most cars. Consumers infer from this that there is some sort of savings in this deferred "tune up." Unfortunately there is not. The problem is these new spark plugs cost two or three times the price of the old plugs. It sounds good to the Marketing people though.
- What is long life coolant?
- Long life coolant is a new type of coolant, that under ideal circumstances, doesn’t need replacing until 120,000 miles (old coolant used to be replaced at 30,000 miles). If the cooling system gets air in it (a leak), before this mileage, it crystallizes and blocks the cooling system. Some shops still replace it at 30,000 miles but realistically it usually needs changing at 60,000 miles.
- What is the difference between a wheel balance and a wheel alignment?
- Wheel balance is needed when the steering wheel shakes at about 65 MPH. Wheel alignment is needed if the tires are wearing on one edge or are feathered, from left to right, across the surface of the tire. If a car pulls to the left or right it can also be wheel alignment but is more often due to low tire pressure (on the side it pulls to), or uneven wear between left and right tires (a rotation will cure this).
- When should your shocks be replaced?
- True or false: Shocks and struts don't need replacing until the car bounces around like a Kangaroo,
wallows like a Hippo on corners and causes scallop wear damage to the tires.
False: Both the "TUV" and "Cologne" road safety institutes say that even if shocks are only 50% worn, emergency braking can take almost 20 feet longer, than on a car with good shocks. Think of a circumstance where 20 feet would be really good.
Vehicle stability also suffers, taking more driver attention to control on turning and swerving, having an increased risk of skidding in the rain and a harsher or softer ride causing more movement and wear on the suspension.
Loss of suspension performance is such a gradual process you may not notice, until you drive and feel the difference with new ones.
The Map (Motorists Assurance Program) endorses replacing shocks at 50,000 miles, but we think for a good quality Japanese car, 75,000 miles is about right.
- How long do brakes last?
- Brakes depend to an enormous amount on the driver’s driving habits. Teenagers can wear front brakes out in 10,000 to 20,000 miles. Some very gentle drivers can get front brakes to last 60,000 miles but most people get 30,000 to 40,000 miles from a set of front brakes. Rear brakes can last almost twice as long as front brakes. Some late model cars make the rear brakes thinner than the front so all four now wear out at about the same time.
- When should hoses be replaced?
- We recommend between 120,000 and 150,000 miles. If hoses have visible swelling, or leak or feel “crunchy” they should be replaced earlier. On Japanese cars hoses often still look normal at 120,000 miles but later will suddenly fail, with no warning. They get small, invisible stress points on the inside that suddenly turn into a split and a leak (rather like a windshield that has a small chip that suddenly turns into a crack months later). It is very annoying to have to break down ten times to replace ten hoses (not to mention the damaged if overheated). Replace all the hoses together before failure.
- What is the life expectancy and sequence of failures for a typical car?
Japanese cars that follow a regular schedule of factory maintenance usually last 250,000 miles or more. During this time they have certain items that fail during certain periods, just like us humans. If these failures are expected you will not believe the car is “falling apart” and you can budget for their arrival.
- Childhood (0 to 30,000 miles)
During this period the car will need few repairs, just regular factory maintenance (the equivalent of good nutrition for us humans).
(30,000 to 60,000 miles)
Continue with factory maintenance but now, as with humans, a few things may start going wrong, but your car is still relatively healthy. The front brakes may need replacing at 30,000 to 40,000 miles, the tires at around 40,000, and the battery between 30,000 and 50,000.
- Early adulthood (60,000 to 100,000 miles)
Some problems will now start to evolve with components that contain rubber. Fan belts, timing belts, CV boots, some water pump seals, some engine seals, the rubber seals in shocks and in hydraulic clutch and brake cylinders may all fail. The rear brakes will now need replacement as may the clutch.
- Mid-life crisis (100,000 to 150,000 miles)
This is the period where the list will get really long, especially if you failed to keep up with maintenance in the first 100,000 miles. Even if the car was well maintained this period may need $2,000 or more of work. Electrical components such as starters, alternators, and fuel pumps may fail. All the rubber water hoses, brake hoses, radiators, a second set of brakes, clutches that didn’t fail earlier and some timing chains. Various oil leaks may start to evolve. Engines will start to burn some oil (need to add a quart between oil changes), but no work is necessary to cure this.
- Second mid-life crisis (150,000 to 200,000 miles)
Some automatic transmissions and head gaskets may now fail and some of the mid-life components that didn’t fail earlier. As with humans some items last longer in some cars than others but a human is more likely to have two crises than a car.
- Senior citizen (200,000 to 250,000 miles)
It's much more difficult to find a “pattern” of failures here. Some cars have relatively few problems. Some engines burn a lot more oil. Some stick shift transmissions fail.
- Old age (above 250,000 miles):
Some cars may now need an engine but really well maintained, quality Japanese cars may well get over 300,000 miles and still keep on tickin'. Of course a poorly maintained car can have all sorts of expensive problems earlier in life, as poor nutrition and lack of exercise can damage us. Cars can need cooling systems, valve jobs, engine jobs, transmissions, and all sorts of electrical and fuel components well before 100,000 miles.
- Childhood (0 to 30,000 miles)