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Keep That Clunker Running!

Pro Tips to Make Your Vehicle Last

Why do some people choose to hang onto their cars for as long a possible? Maybe part of it is the old Yankee frugalness. Or maybe they just have better things to do with their money, and they aren't too concerned about what people think about them driving a ten-year old car.

If you're one of those people, here are a couple tips on keeping yourself out of a new car showroom.

Bringing New Life To An Old Engine

Each year, millions of consumers face the same difficult decision: Should I repair my used vehicle or invest in a new one? It's no secret that vehicle manufacturers have made tremendous progress in developing longer-lasting engines, transmissions and other key vehicle system technologies. Eventually, however, every engine will begin to show its age. And when it does, many consumers automatically assume it's time for a trip to the new-car loan department at the local bank.

There's another, far less expensive, option: "Re-powering" your engine. That's the process through which your local vehicle repair business can bring new life to an old engine. In fact, the remanufacturing technologies now available through the automotive service industry can restore many engines to "like new" condition" at a fraction of the cost of a new car, van, SUV or light truck. And that's not your only option--a brand new engine from the manufactuer may be available for your car or truck, too.

In "re-powering" your vehicle, the local repair technician and engine builder will restore the critical internal operating tolerances that produce that new-car performance. In addition, they'll replace any worn internal engine components, including the pistons and rings, camshaft, valvetrain parts, bearings, oil pump and gaskets. In many cases, the replacement components will be identical to the ones installed in the vehicle manufacturer's plant; in some cases, the replacement parts (or the new engine) will be better than the technologies available when the vehicle was built.

So when all those years of hard work start to affect the performance of your engine, think about all of your options. It probably doesn't make sense for a vehicle with other major components due for replacement or for one that is rusting away to nothing. But re-powering your engine and gaining tens of thousands of miles of additional, trouble-free service could be the best choice in many circumstances.

Transmission Acting Up?

As with the engine, eventually your transmission will wear out and cease to operate properly, or at all. Here again, a rebuild or replacement may be a cost effective option. But before you go that route, we'd recommend that you try one of the excellent transmission additives that do a remarkable job are temporarily restoring transmission performance.

Products such as Lucas Transmission Fix and Gunk Trans Medic can work magic, restoring the performance of a semmingly hopeless transmission for many more miles. They are definitely worth a try, even if only to buy you some time to make a final decision on your course of action.

Is Your Vehicle Pulling For A Steering And Suspension Check Up?

It's tough driving out there on today's highways and byways, and not just because of congested traffic and construction delays. The road surfaces themselves are in pretty rough shape, and chances are you've experienced the pothole plunge and the washboard wiggle more times than you care to recall. Despite billions spent each year on our roads, they just seem to get worse!

As annoying as those conditions are for you, they can really take their toll on your vehicle. Rough roads contribute to alignment problems, which often cause the steering to pull to one side or the other. Poor alignment can also greatly reduce tire life and create other problems as well. A simple alignment job isn't always the answer. Your car could also be the victim of broken or worn tie rods, ball joints, coil springs or idler arms. These are among the chassis parts that help keep the tires firmly on the road and responsive to the steering wheel.

These suspension and steering components also take a beating from the shake, rattle and roll of the road, and need periodic adjustment or replacement. Many experts recommends having a technician inspect and lubricate chassis parts each time your vehicle is in for an oil change; about every 4,000 to 5,000 miles. Otherwise, an alignment might be a waste of time and money if other chassis parts also need attention. For instance, weak or worn coil springs can quickly undo an alignment job. Many suspensions have big coil springs that are a central point of the front and/or rear end. A sagging coil spring forces all steering and suspension (in the front) parts out of their proper positions. Coil springs manufactured to original equipment specifications are specifically designed to return each vehicle chassis to its proper height and keep it there.

The ball joint is another critical chassis part that actually works in both the steering and suspension system simultaneously. The ball joint swings and pivots in its socket during steering while supporting the weight of the car. Ball joints operate under extreme conditions, it's important that they be well-lubricated.

If your vehicle seems to pull to one side, if you've hit some pretty fearsome potholes, or if it's just been awhile since you've had an alignment - schedule a complete steering, suspension and alignment inspection.

Final Decision

Before you decide to pursue any of these fixes, assess the overall condition of your vehicle. If it's on the verge of becoming a money pit, it's probably best to jump ship and buy something new. But if your vehicle has been well maintained, is sound, and still looks presentable, you have options to keep it going a while longer.