Piston Slap: Do You Want to Keep a Vehicle Forever?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap do you want to keep a vehicle forever
Elliot writes:

I have a 2002 GMC Yukon with 165k and a 2003 Grand Marquis with 150k. The plan is to keep them running forever. Any thoughts regarding products or services to accomplish this goal?

Your loyal reader,


Sajeev answers:

This is a simple query since we aren’t talking about fully-depreciated Eurozone iron that could bleed you dry as time goes by. Provided you don’t live in rust-prone areas, there’s little needed besides replacing worn parts and fluid changes as per owner’s manual.

So perhaps the question isn’t “how to keep a vehicle running forever” but “do you want to keep a vehicle forever?” If so, buy replacement parts that are both high quality and give you pride in ownership.

The first happens when you:

  1. RTFM and do all the necessary fluid changes.
  2. Use synthetic engine oil, although switching at this mileage implies leaks are just around the corner.
  3. Stick with factory-quality replacement parts or remanufactured items from trusted brands: harder to determine these days as many times the same parts live in different branded boxes, but that’s where research is paramount.
  4. If neither in #3 exist, get your parts rebuilt locally (alternators, steering racks, etc) or specialty rebuilders (speedometer cluster, ABS brake module, etc) with a good reputation on Google My Business, auto enthusiast message boards, etc.

The second notion is more complicated. Consider tires: I take pride in running summer tires, as I can run them all year and the performance benefits make an old car move like a new one (or better). The same applies to replacing a busted stereo with the latest aftermarket replacement sporting cameras/bluetooth/Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. Then remember luxuries you don’t need, but you should keep: power window/lock motors for rear doors, faded paint, worn armrests, peeling/cracked interior panels, etc. The cosmetic parts are easily procured online or at local junkyards, especially when you find a part number!

Modern-ish cars are far more durable than most consider, so remember the items that slowly fail, with reduced performance before failure:

  • Shocks and (sometimes) even springs.
  • Headlight bulbs.
  • Speakers

What say you, Best and Brightest? What am I missing?

[Image: Ford Motor Co.]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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5 of 110 comments
  • Dividebytube Dividebytube on Nov 19, 2018

    My wife's MINI Cooper S is about to turn 16 years old with only 93k miles on the clock. It's the creaks and groans, not to mention the lack of Bluetooth, that annoy me. And some rust has began to form on the passenger door. And the paint fade. And the oil pan and oil sensor leaks. And the seats are worn, as long with many other interior parts. The car is actually pretty reliable - hoping to get another year out of it as a city runabout - but it really is due for a replacement. But my wife, bless her soul, refuses to give it up. She wasn't impressed by the second generation of the new MINI, and I don't think the third will be up to her standards either. The electric steering in my departed '09 Clubman or the 2012 Countryman just doesn't have the feedback like the weird hybrid of the '03. She does enjoy my - new to me - 2014 Mustang V6 even though the steering is a little numb. It's the engine note and the retro design I think. So my car may be her next car so I can get a Mustang GT or Challenger R/T for 50th birthday. But we shall see what happens to the MINI first.

    • Vulpine Vulpine on Nov 19, 2018

      You should be able to replace that radio with a bluetooth, Apple Car Play/Android Auto one from almost any of the aftermarket vendors. That takes care of your apparently-primary complaint. Me, I'd be more worried about the rust.

  • Pwrwrench Pwrwrench on Nov 23, 2018

    Others have mentioned, but it is important to change rubber parts; suspension bushings (a-arm, sway bar, steering rack, strut mounts, etc), and of course belts, hoses, o-rings and seals. The suspension bushings can look fine, but the rubber will get hard over time. New bushings will often make an old car much more enjoyable to drive. Less noise, better steering and better ride over bumps. Then there's motor and trans mounts. They may also look okay, but over time will transmit excess noise and vibration. Many of these are a composite mount filled with silicone fluid which can break down or leak out. These tend to be more expensive than rubber only mounts so it gets into that area of "do I want to spend that much $". These days you have to be very careful of copy parts, such as mounts, that don't work or last very long. Also there are the window and door seals that will crack and harden over time. Some are easy and inexpensive to replace. Others will be big $ or hard to find. When those fail water can leak in as well as wind noise.

    • See 1 previous
    • Pwrwrench Pwrwrench on Nov 28, 2018

      @JohnTaurus Vehicles seem to have individuality in this area. I recall Asian and BMW cars had trouble with rubber exhaust hangers breaking. The first version of the VW front drive cars in the USA had a very short life for the right side engine mount. It would sag and the car would shake a lot at idle. Many drivers wanted to send their cars to the scrap yard thinking major trouble was at hand in the driveline. Replace the mount and car was "like new". Of course the designers had to put it behind the timing belt, but when the mount failed the belt was due for replacement as well. Those same cars had failing exhaust hangers until one became available with a loop of bicycle chain molded inside the rubber. While those did not damp noise and vibration as well as the all rubber mounts, it was better than having the exhaust crack open, drag on the ground or fall off completely.

  • Kwik_Shift Once 15 Minute Cities start to be rolled out, you won't be far enough away from home to worry about range anxiety.
  • Bobbysirhan I'd like to look at all of the numbers. The eager sheep don't seem too upset about the $1,800 delta over home charging, suggesting that the total cost is truly obscene. Even spending Biden bucks, I don't need $1,800 of them to buy enough gasoline to cover 15,000 miles a year. Aren't expensive EVs supposed to make up for their initial expense, planet raping resource requirements, and the child slaves in the cobalt mines by saving money on energy? Stupid is as stupid does.
  • Slavuta Civic EX - very competent car. I hate the fact of CVT and small turbo+DI. But it is a good car. Good rear seat. Fix the steering and keep goingBut WRX is just a different planet.
  • SPPPP This rings oh so very hollow. To me, it sounds like the powers that be at Ford don't know which end is up, and therefore had to invent a new corporate position to serve as "bad guy" for layoffs and eventual scapegoat if (when) the quality problems continue.
  • Art Vandelay Tasos eats $#!t and puffs peters