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How to Prevent a Breakdown in Your Old Banger

Owning an old neglected car is a constant catch 22 – sure, you saved money by getting a hand-me-down of a hand-me-down or buying a machine that was destined for the scrap yard, but now you have to deal with problems of unreliability and seemingly endless repairs. One of the most frustrating parts of driving a banger is frequent breakdowns or times when the car won’t even start. Luckily, you can avoid having to perform major and expensive repairs (until your rust bucket kicks the bucket, anyway) by buying a few cheap spare parts and supplies to give the car some much-needed TLC.

Getting your car started

It makes no sense at all to save money by using a car that has a 50% chance of not starting and leaving you without a way to get to work. There might be no way around buying a new battery for your old car if the situation is too far-gone, but in many cases you can revive an old corroded car battery like this:

  • Clean the terminals with a solution of baking soda and water
  • Remove corrosion with a special product (very cheap)
  • Check the cables and replace if necessary (a pair costs around £20)

When your battery’s terminals and cables are in decent shape, you at least have the option of getting a jump if the car won’t start on its own. But with severely corroded terminals, that’s out of the question.

Preventing car breakdowns

There are many variables in an old car that can contribute to a breakdown, but many can be treated proactively without spending a fortune. For example:

  • Change your transmission fluid and oil approximately every 40,000 miles
  • Change your radiator coolant every year
  • Periodically inspect and replace hoses, especially the hose that transfers coolant from the engine to the radiator, and the fuel line
  • If your car has a timing belt, it should be changed approximately every 60,000 miles to prevent engine damage

Being consistent with basic car maintenance can make the difference between a car that gives up the ghost at 100k miles and one that goes beyond 200k.

Pay attention and trust your instinct

Drivers of ageing vehicles often write off strange noises as no big deal – it’s an old car, what do you expect? But you should really take note of any new or unusual sounds, smells, etc. coming from your car. Squealing noises can often be fixed by replacing a cheap belt, while the smell of petrol could mean a leak in your fuel line (in this case you need to stop the car immediately because the vast majority of car fires start this way).

If something feels odd, trust your instinct and take a look at it. In most cases, small but regular check-ups will be much cheaper than a single catastrophic incident in the long run.