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How to keep a used car on the road

Carlton Boyce / 21 February 2017

Keep your used car on the road AND run it cheaply with these six tips.

A man changes the oil in the engine to keep the car running

An increasing number of motorists are choosing to change their cars every couple of  years, something that leaves me baffled; because the biggest depreciation hit occurs in the first year of ownership, changing your car this frequently is just about the most profligate way to own a car I can think of.

Save money and the environment too

While Bangernomics – buying a cheap car and then running it until it is economically unviable to go any further – is the cheapest and most environmentally responsible way to own a car, all of us can do our bit for our wallets and the environment by eking out a few more years from our existing vehicle.

Given the reliability of almost every modern car, there is no need to change for change sake. However, starting with the right car is possibly the most important factor of all; if you don’t love what you’re driving then you’re probably not going to want to hang on to it - and resisting the urge to sell it to finance your latest fancy might be the biggest challenge of all.

7 ways to enhance car performance

If you do want to eke out a few more miles from your existing model, here are a few tips culled from owners around the world for whom a seven-figure odometer reading is just the beginning.

How to keep your used car on the road

1. When you need a new battery or radiator, it is always worth paying a little extra for one with a lifetime guarantee; doing so means you’ll never have to pay for another as long as you own that car.

2. Most modern engines rely on a timing belt to keep the pistons and valves in sync, so it’s important to change it according to the manufacturer’s service schedule. If it snaps, your engine will resemble a piece of modern art in a split second, which might appeal to your inner Picasso but won’t help your wallet one iota.

3. The development of synthetic oils is possibly the single greatest engineering advance in helping to keep your car running sweetly into six figures and beyond. However, while the manufacturer might insist that changing the engine oil every 20,000 miles is fine, I’d recommend changing it every 5,000 miles or so. Even expensive synthetic oil is much, much cheaper than rebuilding your engine. (And don’t forget to change the gearbox oil, brake fluid and radiator coolant at regular intervals too.)

4. Don’t ignore small problems; keeping on top of the minutiae helps prevents big problems developing and even a £500 repair bill is still a fraction of the annual depreciation on a new car. And never ignore strange noises, vibrations or smells.

5. Washing and waxing your car regularly will help you spot problems early enough to be able to deal with them while it’s still a DIY job to touch it up with a paint stick. Don’t neglect the underside of your car either, especially in the winter when there’s salt on the roads. Ten minutes with a hosepipe or a pressure washer spent washing off road grime and salt can save thousands in repairs down the line.

6. Finally, to maximise your car’s life you’ll need to drive it smoothly, which isn’t the same as driving it slowly. It simply means braking and accelerating gently, especially when the car’s engine and gearbox are still cold. Motorway miles, on the other hand, are the very best miles you can drive, so don’t be afraid to use your beloved old jalopy for long journeys.

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Next article: Five simple tips to keep your car healthy >>>

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.