Motorists Need To Take Care Of Older Cars

HAMILTON – More than half of motorists are driving cars five years or older, a recent AAA Mid-Atlantic web poll has found.

This data reinforces the importance of regular and routine vehicle maintenance, particularly with hot summer weather around the corner. Heat and humidity are harsh on vehicles. For motorists with aging cars who are trying to stretch household budgets, keeping vehicles in good working order should be top of mind.

In the poll, which was posted on AAA’s Cars & Driving blog for two weeks in May, only 5 percent responded that they drive a car less than one year old while 54 percent responded that they’re driving a car five years or older.
These poll results are consistent with recent news reports, which peg the average age of America’s car and truck fleet at a record-high number, 9.4 years (R.L. Polk).

“What we’re seeing is that motorists are, for various reasons mostly centered on the economy, holding on to their vehicles longer,” AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman David Weinstein said. “It’s a sign of the times.”

Older vehicles tend to break down more often than newer vehicles, particularly in summer heat.

“Not only is it important to maintain your vehicle to keep it running as fuel efficiently as possible,” Weinstein said, “but also to ensure that you are not hit with a huge repair bill at a time when financial uncertainty still remains an issue many of us face.”

First and foremost, motorists should follow their vehicle manufacturer’s maintenance schedule.

AAA provides these additional tips for maintaining your older vehicle:

  • Check your battery. Batteries more than two years old should be tested by a qualified technician to make sure they have the starting power to handle the stress of extreme temperatures.
  • A properly maintained automatic transmission (fluid cleanliness and level) is crucial in the summer heat.
  • Change your motor oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Motor oil helps keep the engine cool. Check levels and condition.  If driving under extreme conditions—such as over mountains or towing a heavy trailer—switch to motor oil with higher viscosity.  Check the owner’s manual for specific oil recommendations.
  • Check the performance of the air conditioning system.  If needed, have it serviced by a qualified technician.  Do not allow the use of non-approved substitute refrigerants.
  • Inspect antifreeze/coolant level and condition, making certain the proper 50/50 mixture of water and coolant is present.
  • Other under-the-hood components such as belts and hoses also are stressed by extreme heat and should be regularly inspected.  Be sure the vehicle engine is turned off before inspecting these items.

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