Mechanic Maintaining Vehicle Under Hood

A lot of people claim that today’s vehicles have “planned obsolescence”, and that they “aren’t made like they used to be”, however this isn’t actually the case. The vehicles that are being manufactured today often surpass 300000 kilometers just by keeping up with the recommended maintenance schedule. This does not mean you will never have to repair anything, but it does mean that these vehicles didn’t have anything catastrophic happen that resulted in the vehicle repair costing more than it would be worth. While there is always risk with buying a vehicle that you can never fully eliminate, there are some easy things to look for that will help keep your maintenance costs low after you have decided to purchase.

  • Single Exhaust – In the event you’ve driven your car long enough that your exhaust system needs to be replaced, it can often times be less than half the price to replace a single exhaust vs. a dual exhaust setup. Most of the newer vehicles have stainless steel systems which last a considerable amount of time, but when the time comes to replace it, it can be surprisingly expensive.
  • Timing Chain – A timing belt is something that must be replaced when the manufacturer recommends it (usually between 96000 and 160000 kilometers) or it will lead to a much more costly issue down the road when the belt inevitably fails, and takes your engine out with it. For this reason, many newer vehicles come with a “Timing Chain” instead of a “Timing Belt”, which is designed to last the length of the engine’s life. The timing chain is a strong steel chain, instead of a soft rubber belt that breaks down over time. If you purchase a vehicle with a timing belt, prepare to spend over $1000 to get it replaced when the time comes. It is an internal part in the engine, so the labour prices can be extremely high depending on your make and model. This doesn’t need to be a deal breaker if the vehicle you love comes with a Timing Belt, it just means you should check the manufacturers recommended maintenance for the belt, and change it at the appropriate time, just remember it will be pricey so plan ahead.
  • Solid Rear Axle – This is also recognized as the “beam axle”. If you’re just using the vehicle as a daily driver, you are not sacrificing much by choosing this setup over the more complicated independent rear suspension. With fewer (and frequently cheaper) parts, combined with its simple design, the solid rear axle also never needs to be aligned.
  • Regular Gas – Performance cars cost more to purchase initially, but they also cost more to maintain. Many performance engines require 91 or 93 octane fuel, which comes with a much higher price than standard 87 or 89 octane gas. The extra cost per litre can add up much quicker than anticipated depending on your driving habits. You also can’t use regular octane gas in a vehicle that requires higher octane. You will be sacrificing the performance you already paid the money to get, and potentially risking damaging your engine by using a lower quality fuel than it was designed to use.
  • Two-Wheel Drive – Some people need a vehicle that has four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Most do not though. Living in Saskatchewan, where it gets slippery and snowy for a majority of the year, many people feel as though an AWD/4WD vehicle is an essential part of living here. That is simply not the case. If you ask yourself how many times you needed to put your vehicle in 4WD throughout an entire winter, the number is actually quite low, maybe even zero, but we understand it offers peace of mind, and sometimes you can’t put a price on that. When considering one of these purchases, ask yourself about the return on the investment. Is this worth potentially $5000+ to have as a part of my vehicle? What options might I be sacrificing in order to get this one? 4WD/AWD vehicles cost considerably more than their two-wheel drive counterparts up front, and do not cost near as much in maintenance as it would if you needed a repair on the 4WD/AWD system. They have much more complex electrical and mechanical systems in order to work properly, so a much higher chance of something going wrong down the road, meaning higher out-of-pocket expenses if that time comes.
  • Non-Boosted Engines – Engines with turbo and superchargers. These are becoming much more common nowadays because it allows manufacturers to keep their engine size down, as well as the fuel usage on the vehicle, while being able to offer the performance of something more. Just be aware that this is one more part that could potentially cost a lot down the road if you need to repair or replace it.
  • Documentation – Keeping receipts is essential to vehicle ownership. You should make sure to keep a record of the repairs and service your vehicle has received to make sure any warranty your vehicle might have is not voided due to negligence. This will also help you if you end up trying to sell the vehicle. It’s much easier to build value in a vehicle you can prove was taken care of well, never missed an oil change, and had its regularly scheduled maintenance. To a prospective buyer, this information being available could change the value by thousands!

These are just some things to keep in mind when looking at purchasing a new vehicle. It is a stressful time, and we want to help eliminate as much of that as we can by offering you some of the tips and tricks we’ve learned after more than a decade in the industry.