Long-term car maintenance issues to look out for
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Planning to keep your car till it turns 10? Here are several maintenance issues that could crop up as your vehicle ages.

Category: Car Maintenance Advice


COE premiums have soared to such heights that many drivers are now priced out of the new car market. The pre-owned market, though less expensive, may not be a cost-effective alternative either. As COE prices continue to climb, they pull up the price of used cars as well.

Many car owners are thinking about just keeping their car till the COE expires. It is hoped that by then, the supply of certificates would have increased, thereby leading to lower premiums. If you are planning to hold your car till it's almost 10 years old, here are several maintenance issues to watch out for.


Alternator matters

It is the alternator, not the 12-volt battery, that mainly provides electricity to components
The alternator is the generator that provides power to your car's electrical components and is also responsible for charging the 12-volt battery.

Like other parts, the alternator also wears out over time. When this happens, you'll notice symptoms such as your headlights flickering and weak audio output.

If the alternator can't charge the battery, you'll end up having to change batteries relatively soon as well.

Most drivers will opt to have the alternator overhauled rather than replaced with a new unit. The former option costs hundreds of dollars, whereas the latter one can easily go over $1,000.


Starting up

A worn starter motor makes horrible sounds that would be impossible to ignore
The starter motor is another part that could eventually wear out as the car approaches the end of its COE.

One of the surest signs of a starter motor nearing 'retirement' is that every time you start your car, it makes all sorts of weird and loud noises. In fact, it will just sound wrong.

Other signs of this include the engine failing to turn over, or the motor continuing to crank even after the engine is running. There could be a bad smell, too.


Suspension issues

Worn dampers and bushings will result in a poor ride that could give passengers motion sickness
A car's suspension components also wear out over time. If you drive hard while disregarding speed bumps and potholes, the suspension will have to be replaced sooner rather than later.

Apart from the dampers and springs, there are also the bushings, joints and mounts to consider. Replacing everything in one go could cost quite a bit of money.

Signs of worn suspension components include a lack of play or bounce that leads to the dampers bottoming-out. Strange noises, whose source cannot be pinpointed, could be another symptom.


Air-con compressor

If the air-con compressor calls it a day, your car will become hot - and not in a good way
The air-con compressor is another major component that might need to be replaced as the car gets old.

Without the compressor, the system can still provide and circulate air. But it won't be cold air. In fact, it might even be warm air.

Other issues to watch for include hoses that need replacing and leaks in the system. Don't believe any workshop that tells you that the gas or refrigerant needs to be 'topped up'.

The air-conditioning system is a closed one, and the need to top-up gas only means a leak or leaks are present.


Seals and gaskets

A worn head gasket will cause the coolant and engine oil to mix together - yikes!
Cars become prone to oil leaks and higher oil consumption due to age and wear and tear.

Oil leaks are typically caused by worn seals, but the leak could also originate from the oil pan. A worn head gasket can also be the cause of the issue.

A replacement head gasket is relatively inexpensive, but the labour cost to carry this out is pricey.

With regard to oil consumption, engines normally consume some oil over a long period of time. But if your oil level keeps dropping, your motor is probably burning oil.

The need for frequent top-ups is a sure sign that there is an oil leak
The most obvious sign is blue smoke emanating from the exhaust.

The usual suspect for oil seeping into the combustion chamber is worn piston rings. However, worn valve seals and valve guides can also be the cause.

If this is the case, the best solution is an engine overhaul.


Timing belt/chain

Cars need their timing belt or timing chain replaced at the 100,000km mark. Failure to do so can lead to very expensive damage.

If the timing belt snaps, the pistons will violently bang against the valves, resulting in catastrophic engine damage
Assuming you clock 20,000km annually since your car was brand-new, you would have changed your timing belt in the fifth year. As your car approaches its tenth year, however, it will need another timing belt change.

Even if your car has a timing chain instead of a belt, it must also be replaced. Don't believe anyone who says the chain is stronger and can 'last forever'. Unless of course, he or she is willing to buy you a new car.


Want to learn more about maintaining your car? Check out these stories

What happens behind the scenes when you service your car?

Keep these parts maintained to avoid breakdowns

Stop doing these things to your car

Spark plugs: Why you should replace them

Renewing your COE? Here are five things to note

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