So often nowadays it seems as if our purchases become obsolete as soon as we finish paying for them and sometimes even before. When you are driving an older car, any need to replace parts feels like beginning a major quest or mission. Parts do wear and belts do crack, but it seems a shame to ditch "old reliable" for want of a headlight.
J.D. Power and Associates released a list of the 10 most replaced automotive mechanisms within three years of ownership (assuming these are newer-model cars). These include: fuses, door handles and locks, remote keyless entry, spark plugs, headlight components, tire pressure monitoring systems, windshields, brake rotors, exterior light bulbs (not headlights) and car batteries.
Depending on the year and model of the car, some other frequent replacements could include automatic transmission or clutch; shocks and struts; mufflers; water pump; fuel pump and alternators; brake calipers, wheel cylinders and master cylinders; belts; and tires. Carburetors, now replaced by fuel injection systems, were common on cars well into the 1990s. Newer cars run with the help of an electronic ignition and computer (the brain), but the muscle cars from a generation ago relied on points and condensers to get those engines firing.
To keep your car running longer and expenses lower, make sure you keep a regular maintenance schedule. These are maintenance tasks and tips that will help stave off more costly repairs and problems: Change oil and filters regularly. If you have a mechanic replace parts, be sure to ask for the old parts back to ensure it was done. Let your mechanic know everything you see, hear, feel, smell and record when symptoms occur so an accurate diagnosis can be made. Keep your tires properly inflated, and make sure the tread is adequate. Let your mechanic diagnose the problem, but learn how to do simple repairs yourself. Don't ignore growing and obvious problems. And keep your car fueled.
Whether you are driving a family favorite that's been around for generations or restoring a classic, finding the right part is necessary to keep on rolling. But what happens when the part you need is no longer made? Where do you begin looking for the parts you need to keep your car on the road instead of it becoming an eyesore in the driveway?
First, make sure you know how to diagnose and repair your vehicle. You can find multiple sites online where you can download car repair manuals that often go back decades and even feature several discontinued brands. A few of these helpful sites include http://free-auto-repair-manuals.com, http://justgivemethedamnmanual.com and http://www.manualslib.com. These sites will allow you to search by brand, model or specific keywords. You have to register with them, but AutoZone also offers free vehicle repair guides. In the unusual event that you can't find the specific manual you need, then you can query at paid sites such as eBay or some bookstores.
Options for finding elusive parts may include contacting the manufacturer directly (if they still exist) or visiting junkyards, where you will often have to do the search and pull it yourself. If you are restoring a classic or show-quality vehicle, you will want to use OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts whenever possible -- be sure to ask at the dealership where you purchased the vehicle whether they still carry parts for it. If you are simply repairing the car to keep it on the road for use, you can often save money and find aftermarket replacement parts through your general auto parts stores (which may also carry OEM parts). Many of these chain stores do maintain inventory for popular and even outdated models, and they often communicate and cooperate to get the parts where they are needed.
Finally, you can do your own "junkyard search" at sites like http://car-part.com and in the online catalog at http://www.rockauto.com, or search through Google for the part you need. Many mechanic shops also have resources to get some of those not-so-common older pieces. Though usually not inexpensive, when all else fails, look for sales of the same model vehicle and use parts from each to make the necessary repairs to have one fully running vehicle.