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How to keep an older motor going

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Motoring journalist Maria McCarthy asked car experts for their top tips on how to keep an older motor going.

car key

Some people genuinely love old bangers - I'm one of them - while others adore the thrill of driving a new or nearly-new car off the forecourt.

But whether you're a fan of older cars or not, new data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows that more of us are driving them.

The SMMT's latest figures show that of the 31 million vehicles on our roads, one in three have been on the road for at least the past decade.

And the average age of a car in the UK stands at 7.44 years.

Run an old car inexpensively

James Ruppert is a motoring journalist and creator of Bangernomics, a website packed with tips on running an older car inexpensively.

He says he doesn't understand the importance that has been placed on always having a new motor.

"I have people saying to me that their car is four years old or has done 60,000 miles and they feel they should change it.

"But my stance is that if it's not giving you any problems, hold on to it. Older cars are so much more reliable than they used to be.

"And with new cars, you lose so much in depreciation that unless you do a really high mileage or it's vital that you project a certain image for your work, there's not really any point.'

Petrol cars last longer

petrol pump

Ruppert says that one of the key tips for running a reliable older car is to buy one that runs on petrol.

"They're much less complicated than diesel cars."

It's also important to go for a model with a good track record for reliability so do your research.

Ruppert himself is a fan of Japanese cars,  such as Toyota.

Caring for your older car is vital.

"Driving smoothly will help prolong your car's life. And I know it can seem boring, but doing weekly checks of the oil, fluid levels, tyres and so on really matters," says Ruppert.

"It means your car won't suffer from neglect. You'll also be able to spot any problems early and get them sorted out by your mechanic." 

But he also believes that it can make more sense to just put up with some problems, rather than splash out money trying to rectify them.

"If one of your electric windows doesn't open, don't feel you have to get it fixed," says Ruppert. 

"Just let it stay closed and get by using the other ones."

Make do and mend

mechanic

Ruppert also believes that some minor matters can be patched up yourself.

"Obviously you don't want to risk tackling anything important, such as brakes.

"But if you get a car park scrape then maybe touch up the paintwork yourself.

"It probably won't look as good as  if a mechanic had carried the work out, but it'll be cheaper! 

"We used to have a 'make do and mend' approach to cars that we've lost in recent years, but I think it can be very satisfying."

'I repaired my exhaust with a coat hanger'

Journalist William Ham Bevan, 39, from Swansea, is a fan of patching up his own car.

"I've got a '91 VW Polo, which is still a great runner. That said, it's not exactly mint condition.

"I've had to mend one of the indicators with sellotape and the wing mirror is held on with gaffer tape.

"The exhaust is also held on with a coat hanger, which led to the priceless advisory in an MoT 'Exhaust is repaired unconventionally, but is secure'."

Simple DIY car repairs

We teamed up with Haynes, the motor manual publisher, to show you simple DIY car repairs that anyone can do.

When it's time to say goodbye

Justin Roberton, a mechanic for 25 years and manager of four HiQ garages in Cornwall, says older cars should be serviced regularly, once every 6,000 miles or yearly.

But he acknowledges that if it's become unreliable and likely to conk out soon, there might be a point when you might choose not to spend money on it anymore.

"Your mechanic will advise you as to whether some work will keep it going or if the time has come to say goodbye."

The great car park in the sky

Personally, even before finances became so tight, I always loved the Bangernomics concept of buying a car for a few hundred pounds and running it inexpensively.

Then, when it goes to "The Great Car Park in the Sky", selling it for scrap and buying another one.

It can be fun and more importantly, doesn't tie you in to a cripplingly high car loan.

And with the current economic climate, it looks as though other motorists will be joining me.

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