Buying a new car especially here in Kenya is quite expensive. That’s why anyone once they buy their first car, they want it to comfortably serve them for years. For those owning old cars, here’s a to-do list for keeping the buggy going, based on the advice of pros with hands-on expertise. The list might seem daunting, but you don’t have to perform all the tasks at once.
You can hear and feel if things are right. A good run up the highway every week or two burns off harmful moisture that has condensed in the oil and the exhaust system. Short drives won’t do the trick. Hitting the road also keeps your tires from getting flat spots and your battery from dying of neglect. Let a trusted friend drive, too, while you ride along. Someone else will hear and feel things you’ve grown used to and take for granted. Another advantage of being the passenger is that you sometimes can hear noises or detect problems that you don’t notice when you’re behind the wheel.
If your car starts to look like a clunker, you’ll treat it like one. Washing your baby with a microfiber mitt and drying it with a microfiber towel are easiest on the paint; what’s more, you’ll feel and see body panels that need repair. If you run it through a commercial wash, pick one that uses humans, not brushes, to do the job.
Just before you head off for those weekly or bi-weekly drives, check the oil level in the engine using the under-hood oil dipstick. Do it when the car’s been sitting a couple of hours or more and is level. Nothing will destroy an engine faster than neglecting oil-level checks or fresh-oil changes. Automatic transmission fluid also needs regular checking, though less often, via a separate dipstick. The owner’s manual will tell you how, and how often, to check yours; it differs among vehicles.
How often? Consult the owner’s manual. You can never go wrong going by what the manufacturer says. If you want to switch to regular engine oil from pricey synthetic, that’s fine, as long as the automaker doesn’t require synthetic. Just remember, you’ll have to change it more often than you would synthetic. But switching to synthetic in a car that’s had a diet of regular oil for years could result in oil leaks and oil consumption.
Keep it cool.
On most cars, you can check if your antifreeze is low by looking at the overflow tank (a small semitransparent receptacle under the hood, usually near the radiator). But you can’t tell anything else; the color of the coolant isn’t an indicator of its condition. Antifreeze we have today will go quite a while, but it still becomes acidic over time if you don’t drain it and flush it.
Don’t ignore timing.
The timing belt is something most people don’t think about until it breaks. That will halt, and possibly ruin the engine. The owner’s manual will specify intervals for servicing the belt or chain (every 60,000 to 90,000 miles, for example).
Tend the tires.
Check tire pressure regularly. The correct pressure is listed on a decal inside the driver’s door. The pressure listed on the tire is a maximum, not a recommendation. Rotate the tires regularly for even wear and longer life. If replacements are needed, get tires that were made recently, since at about five years, the rubber can begin to degrade. The date is found in the long number stamped on the sidewall. If the last four digits are, say, 1215, the tire was made in December 2015.
Now, not later. Make sure that something doesn’t deteriorate and you have a major expense.
Older cars will whack you with big repair bills now and then. Set aside money in the interim, so you’re not tempted to dump the rig and buy a new one. The average price of a new vehicle is more than 1.5M — enough to pay for many repairs to your old set of wheels.