Top tips to help your car last forever

Okay, maybe not forever. But 25 or 30 years? It's doable, driving expert Ian Law says

By Ian Law Wheels.ca

Jan 10, 2014 5 min. read

Article was updated 10 years ago

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Buying a new vehicle is arguably the second-most-expensive investment you'll make during your lifetime. So what if you could get 25 or 30 years out of it?

Believe it or not, it's doable.

Many enthusiasts ask me how I was able to get so many years and such high mileage out of my ’82 Volvo GLT. (Especially since I had raced it in more than 16 years of Solo competitions on the track.)

There are definitely some key components, and they require some work and some dedication, but the payoff is huge. So here, if you're interested in giving it a go, are the tricks of the longevity trade:

The first thing you need to do is decide that your vehicle is worth keeping and you are willing to do what it takes to make it last. If you lease your vehicle or if you have that new-vehicle-every-five-years itch, then these tips will simply mean you'll be trading in a vehicle that’s in better than average condition and someone else will reap the benefit of your efforts.

But once you've committed to a long term relationship with your new vehicle, you have to always think of longevity from two key perspectives: maintenance and driving techniques. Both have a considerable effect on how long your vehicle will last.

MAINTENANCE: On the maintenance end of the equation, there are another two aspects to consider. One is the body of the vehicle and fighting the dreaded corrosion and the other is the mechanicals — motor, transmission and suspension.

Rustproof it: To prevent corrosion from consuming your precious metal, use a reputable rust prevention treatment. I choose the chemical treatments — such as Rust Check or Krown — instead of the tar-based rustproofing, because the thick, tar-like substance can actually trap moisture in the body seams and can dry out and crack over time.

Once a year I get my Volvo Rust Checked. It's worth the expense and inconvenience because in the long run, it offers the best protection. And it's not a petroleum product so it won’t attack the rubber components of the vehicle.

The added benefit is all the nut, bolts and screws will never seize due to rust, making any maintenance or replacement jobs a piece of cake. No fighting with rusted bolts!

Wash and wax it: Keeping your vehicle’s body washed and waxed will also help fight off corrosion and paint fade. I wash my car at least once every two weeks and I try to give it a coat of good quality wax once a month. I also apply a protector like ArmorAll to the rubber and vinyl after a wash.

To best protect your vehicle’s paint finish, hand washing is best. Drive-through car washes can be abrasive and actually scratch your vehicle's paint over time. Check with your local bylaws to see if handwashing your vehicle in your driveway is legal. Some municipalities have banned washing vehicles in driveways to help curb pollution. You may have to visit your local car wash.

Washing and waxing is even more important throughout the winter months, because it's crucial to get the salt and dirt off your vehicle. Always rinse the car first to remove any grit that can scratch your paint and then wash with a good soap. Taking your beloved vehicle to a power wash may be your only option in the colder months. Drying the car is as important as washing it. The vehicle should be driven after washing so the airflow can dry any crevices that will hold water.


Keep it lubed: On the mechanical side, I always use top-quality synthetic lubricants in the engine, transmission and differential. I started this trend when my Volvo was new and the oil I opted for was Mobil 1. These fully synthetic oils such as Mobil 1, Amsoil, Royal Purple, Pennzoil Platinum etc. offer better thermal stability, cold temperature flow, consistent viscosity and zero sludge forming compared to conventional oils. This meant I was always getting excellent lubrication of all the critical moving parts while improving my fuel economy.

Even though this was a more expensive choice than conventional oil initially, in the long run it saved me money with less wear and tear. Oil change intervals can be extended when you use synthetics due to their superior properties. This will help overcome the extra cost of the oil itself. Always check with your vehicle's warranty schedule when determining your oil change intervals.

Use good parts: For regular maintenance I would always use top brand or Volvo replacement parts such as alternators, cam belts or water pumps so I didn’t have to replace these parts very often.

DRIVING TECHNIQUES: From the driving point of view, there are many techniques a driver can apply to help with the longevity of their vehicle.

Keep it smooth: Driving smoothly and smartly is easily one of the best techniques you can use for vehicle longevity as well as your own safety.

I tried to be as smooth with my gear shifts as possible and made sure to match the revs on the down shift with a “blip” of the throttle. This reduces wear and tear on your clutch as well as the drivetrain. Even in competitions, I worked at being as smooth as possible; learning how to “heel and toe” my down shifts helped.

Look ahead: Good vision technique also helps you reduce wear, save gas as well as improving driving safety. Looking farther up the road helped me plan out my stops to minimze wear. I would always look well ahead to the next set of traffic lights and try to time my arrival when they would be green.

Even during my commutes up the DVP and 404 in rush hour I would stay in the right lane, observe traffic flow and keep to a steady speed. As traffic would rush off ahead of me and then slam on their brakes, I would time my drive so I was catching the stopped traffic just as they would race off again to the next stop.

In this manner, I saved fuel, reduced my stops and saved wear on my clutch and brakes. I could easily get over 100,000 kms on a set of brakes (I had a special set of pads or competitions) and it was well over 500,000 kms before I replaced my clutch even with many years of competition driving.

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