It’s always a treat to see a classic car from the fifties heading down the road, and perhaps you’re wondering how these old beauties manage to stay up and running without all the gadgets drivers have come depend on with newer models. Even some economy vehicles from the 80s have managed to last long enough to hit the 200,000 mile mark. Is this a sign that older cars are better made?
Yes and no. Actually, many newer cars are built to last for a long time, though obviously this depends on the make and model of the vehicle. Older vehicles have the same history of dependable brands and clunkers that never reach the 3-year mark. The cars from decades ago that still run are usually some of the more reliable models, though without a little TLC even the sturdiest vehicle will end up in the junkyard.
Whenever you find one of these older models on the road, the following factors come into play, though an owner with enough time, money and vigilance will be able to keep nearly any car running longer than its average lifespan:
1. Regular Maintenance
This will be a no-brainer for car lovers who shudder in horror at the thought of anyone driving until their oil pressure light turns on, but many people tend to neglect this simple rule at the expense of their vehicle’s life. Not only do all cars require regular servicing, but they will also last longer when driven more carefully. This includes laying off the brakes when you can and learning to accelerate smoothly to reduce the wear on your transmission.
Older vehicles are a lot like our bodies, requiring a little more maintenance to stay healthy. This means more effort needs to be spent to keep them running. Having an original car owners manual will help determine your vehicle’s maintenance schedule, but staying aware is the key to discovering problems early before they turn into an expensive mess. It also helps to prepare ahead for maintenance issues by researching the various problems other owners have experienced.
2. Proper Storage
Storing your vehicle will help make it last a lot longer, especially if you live in areas with severe weather conditions. Snow, rain, and heat not only damage your car’s looks, but they also wear down the paint that protects it from rust. If you are able, store your vehicle in a garage for the best protection, though even an outdoor car cover is better than nothing.
Antique car owners are especially careful about storing their prized possessions, especially since many of their vehicles are only driven occasionally. Long- term storage involves several extra steps, such as making sure that your car has fresh fluids, removing the battery, and coating all rubber with protectant to prevent decay.
3. Easy to Find Parts
No matter how well you maintain your car, eventually it’s going to need some repairs. While the Internet has made finding parts for your vehicle much more convenient, less popular models may require more effort and expense, which is why many of the older cars you see on the road are often around because their parts are both cheap and incredibly easy to find.
Classic car owners on a budget usually stick to models with a healthy parts market, such as a 1920s Ford Model A or an early 50s Packard, though technological advances in 3D printing may enable future car lovers to find the rare parts they need. Jay Leno, who is known for his vast collection of rare cars, uses a 3D scanner to help his machinist construct the parts he cannot find. While these devices are still quite expensive at $15,000, they continue to drop in price.
4. Simple Repairs
Many people claim that older cars are better because they are easier to repair. While this is not entirely true, there are many models available that even a lay mechanic can understand. For instance, a ’68 AMC AMX has a pretty basic design that anyone with a factory-issued, original car owners manual and a good set of tools can fix, though there are newer vehicles out there that are just as simple. Doing some research to find the car that fits your skill level will help you avoid frustration.
Necessity is the Mother of invention, which is especially true when it comes to car maintenance and repair. Since the economy took a nosedive, many car owners are doing their best to keep their vehicle running for as long as possible, and those who never used to have an interest in fixing cars are now looking for ways to save money by purchasing repair manuals and learning to do things themselves.
Cuba is perhaps the greatest testament to the ingenuity that stems from necessity, since the 50-year trade embargo has forced them to go to great lengths to keep very old vehicles running. While Americans don’t have to go to such extremes to remain on the road, the fact that Cubans have managed to keep nearly 50,000 50s-era cars afloat from DIY repairs shows that desire can take you a long way when it comes to getting your vehicle to last for a lifetime.
Article is written by Brandi Tolleson a freelance writer in Whittier, CA who loves technology and understanding how things work.