With so many antique cars on the road — the official designation for cars 25 years or older in most states — preventative maintenance is as important as ever. For people who don’t have the luxury of a bumper-to-bumper warranty, it’s important to keep on top of the basics so that they don’t add up to something bigger and costlier.
The truth of the matter is, there’s really no such thing as a car that runs forever without a little help. So for even the most reliable old cars on the road today, we came up with 10 things you can do to keep your car running like a top for as long as possible.
1. It’s all about good timing
Most modern cars have a timing belt or chain, which makes all the moving parts of your engine run smoothly. But when these go wrong, it can kill your engine in a matter of seconds. While chains are more robust and need to be changed far less frequently, belts need to be replaced every 60,000 to 100,000 miles, depending on your car. If you’re going to a mechanic, this isn’t going to be a cheap job, but once you get it over with, you won’t have to worry about another one for years.
2. Play it cool
Your engine is making thousands of explosions a day to keep you moving down the road. Understandably, things get pretty hot in there, which is why your car has a cooling system. And while it doesn’t need to be swapped out as often, antifreeze is just as important as oil. Make sure you’re topped off with coolant, and if there are any leaks coming from your radiator or hoses, get them taken care of immediately. A car with no coolant is not long for this world.
3. Find bulletproof suspension upgrades
This isn’t universal, but it’s a common enough issue that it’s worth mentioning here. Say you’ve got an older sporty car and are ready to make the jump and modify it to get that nice, low, mean look. There are plenty of easy ways to do this — cheap aftermarket kits on eBay, actually cutting your car’s springs down and reinstalling them, among others — but there are really only a few ways to do it right, and they’re rarely the cheapest options. Your car was designed to drive and handle the way it does by a team of engineers working for years on a multibillion-dollar program, so don’t be surprised if your car drives a lot differently after questionable suspension mods. Stick with performance parts from the manufacturer or upgrades from trusted aftermarket companies that have a relationship with the automaker. After all, if you’re into modifications, you want your car to look as good as it drives.