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Older vehicles living longer

Fixing and maintaining older vehicles is trumping buying brand new ones for some
By: Andrew DiLuccia, Journal Motoring Editor
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With job layoffs mounting, people struggling to stay in their homes and just a general worry over what’s going to happen next, buying a brand new vehicle is simply not an option for many. In turn, local garages and dealerships are seeing an increase in vehicle owners servicing their older, high-mileage vehicles and just coming in when absolutely necessary to fix glaring problems. “Yes, we’ve seen quite an increase,” said David Brown, owner and ASE certified master technician of Auburn 76 Auto Center on Grass Valley Highway. “It’s true, people are keeping their cars longer and are not buying new ones.” As credit is still tight in some cases for potential new-vehicle buyers, and others simply not wanting the responsibility of having one more financial obligation, car maintenance has become key. “With credit and budgets tight, it’s more important now than ever to keep your car running smoothly,” AAA Northern California spokesperson Jenny Mack said in a release. “These maintenance tips will cost an average of $380 to $850, but they could save you between $5,150 and $9,300 in repairs.” The AAA auto club recommends four key components to consumers keeping their cars in good running order. They include changing your oil on a regular basis (cost range $30-$50), which can protect a vehicle’s engine from serious damage that can cost $3,500 or more to repair. Brake inspections (cost range $50-$250) can save you anywhere from $500 to $1,000 in repair bills, and servicing your coolant system (cost range $100-$150) can save anywhere from $350 to $2,400. The fourth AAA advisory is routine belt and hose inspections and maintenance (cost range $200-$400), these can save $800 to $2,400 in repairs. Along with those tips local technicians recommend keeping a regular maintenance schedule to help your vehicle live an extended life. “If they maintain their vehicle, it’s going to last longer,” said Brown, who’s seeing more cars with 100,000 miles or more being brought in for maintenance. “It’s nothing (for a vehicle) to go 200,000, 250,000 or 300,000 if you maintain it.” By following manufacturer recommended service intervals, such as 30,000, 60,000 and 90,000 miles, you can help avoid bigger problems down the road, Brown said. “Ninety-five percent of the time emergency repairs can be stopped by doing regular maintenance,” Brown said. Scheduled maintenance can run from $500 to $1,500 for major mileage milestones, depending on make and model, and some service centers offer lower prices. As technicians extol the need for regular maintenance, some garages haven’t seen people keep up on their vehicles. And in this current economic climate, many are still just coming when they absolutely have to. “It’s been a decrease really. Because of the economy, there are a lot of people struggling right now,” said John Martin, owner of Strictly Toy-ondas in Auburn, about customers coming in for vehicle service. “I just don’t think they can afford it. We’re doing a lot of repair work — get it back together, make it run.” Martin did go on to say that he is seeing more people come in for regular maintenance on their vehicles as the year has gone on. For Auburn resident Wendy Shingle, who brought in her 1999 Honda Accord for a smog check at Strictly Toy-ondas on Friday, vehicle maintenance helps her live within her means. “I don’t want a new (car) loan, I don’t want any other financial obligations,” Shingle said. “I’m commuting to Nevada City, so I’m keeping it in tip-top shape.” Even though regular maintenance can keep a vehicle going longer, some simply can’t afford the maintenance fees. But some service centers, such as Magnussen’s Dodge Chrysler Jeep in Auburn, are offering deeply discounted services, which has brought in more customers. “I’m seeing people come in and spending a little bit more, trying to keep their older cars going — definitely,” said Vic Corona, operations manager for parts and service at Magnussen’s. Services such as Magnussen’s $14.95 oil changes, $19.95 smog plus certificate and 15,000-mile maintenance for $89.95 are all promotions that have been driving in customers in a time when money is tight for many. No matter where drivers go, bottom line, maintaining the vehicle regularly will help it live a longer life. “You’re doing this to protect the car in the golden years,” Brown said. “Things are going to wear down over time.” The Journal’s Andrew DiLuccia can be reached at andrewd@goldcountrymedia.com, or post a comment at Auburnjournal.com.