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When should I expect expensive car repairs? Add to ...

The two cars in my garage are a 2009 Accord with 85,000 km on it and a 2007 Ford Ranger with 105,000. I’ve followed the owner’s manual regarding service and have kept all records. What can I expect in the way of expensive or extensive repairs in the coming months and years? I want to keep them both as long as possible and, in a an ideal world, trade or sell them before running into expensive issues. – Warren

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Unfortunately nobody can answer that question with any degree of accuracy regarding time or mileage. There are too may variables involved.

But, generally speaking, you are on the right track by following the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance schedule. They conduct extensive tests during development of the vehicle, durability tests equating to hundreds of thousands of kilometres. This allows them to guess-timate the life expectancy of major components and arrive at a service schedule.

For example, they might find the timing chain stretches or wears enough after 135,000 km and should be replaced or the alternator bearings wear out at 150,000 on average. This forms the basis of their recommendations. If the engine, transmission, etc., has been in use in other vehicles or in past years, they will be able to add to that test knowledge the experience gained through warranty and dealer feedback. So, the first thing is to follow those recommendations, even if the component in question has not failed by the time it should be replaced.

Items like hoses and belts are obvious and frequent sources of failure and here again the manufacturer can only advise if the product is original. If a belt or hose was replaced at some point with an aftermarket version it could last longer than the original or if it was a bargain-priced replacement it likely will not last as long as the original.

This also holds true for fluids, from coolant to brake fluid. Each vehicle manufacturer has recommendations and specifications. If that fluid has been changed or compromised you cannot expect it to meet those specs.

Granted, many aftermarket products from respected companies, are as good as or in some cases better than the original, but some are nowhere near as good and can seriously shorten life expectancy. This is especially true of oil, the very lifeblood of an engine.

Once again, the folks who developed and made the engine know more than the guy at the local gas station about what oil should be used and how often it should be replaced. Make sure the oil you use meets or exceeds those specifications. Just like people, cars need more maintenance as they get old and should not be subjected to the same rigorous work as they were capable of when young.

Send your automotive maintenance and repair questions to globedrive@globeandmail.com

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