Repair or replace: When should you ditch your old car?

Thursday April 11 2019

Driving an older car is a smart financial

Driving an older car is a smart financial choice. However, it does not make financial sense if your vehicle is leaving you stranded several times a month and is a source of great stress. net photo 

By Roland D. Nasasira

Winnie Naturinda had special attachment to her saloon car, a Toyota Mark II 1992 model. It was not only her first car but it was the one she had used on her wedding day on December 30, 2000, before she sold it off in December 2015.
“Much as I had a personal attachment to the car, I had to come to terms with the fact that I had to let it go. I was tired of visiting the garage at least every month to service some parts, which was digging deep into my pocket. The last costly service I made before selling it off was to change the gearbox,” Naturinda recalls, adding that she had owned the car for approximately 15 years.

Abdu Karim Kironde says he can never let go of his Nissan Datsun SSS 1972 model because of the numerous memories he attaches to it.
“It is one of the cars that I drove in the East African Rally in 1973 and also won for three consecutive years in 1974, 1975 and 1976. It is the same type of car that president Idi Amin’s soldiers drove,” Kironde explains.
While motorists with old cars have sold them off, Kironde says he is not about to cash in on his Datsun because it is still in the best road condition.

“From the turn of the key, the engine starts immediately. I sometimes hire it out to artistes for shooting videos,” Kironde says, adding that annually, the car participates in the vintage and classic auto shows in Kampala.
It is common to meet motorists such as Naturinda and Kironde who do not want to let go of a car they have had for a number of years. In most cases, such motorists have special or fond memories to their cars.

Higher costs
Isaac Mujjawa, a mechanic in Makindye, Kampala, notes that the cost of servicing your old car may at times be higher than the cost of buying a new or second hand car from the bond. For example, if you drive a Mazda Tribute or a Land Rover Freelander and its engine blows, getting a similar engine will cost you at least Shs4m or more depending on where you get another engine.

“If you have to import the engine, you will have to incur shipping costs from the country of origin until it is fitted in your car. When you factor in labour costs at the garage, the total cost could add up to about Shs10m. So, saving money and getting another car becomes a much better option because a new engine may not be as compatible as the old one,” Mujjawa advises.

Shaky interior
One of the areas in your car that you cannot hide as a result of your car’s age is the interior, mainly the dashboard. If the switch board on the driver’s door or other accessories such as the radio and other parts do not become shaky and make noise as you drive, the dashboard will develop cracks.
In some cases, you will have to manually push up the car window when it has rained or when you are driving on a dusty road. While the car carpets will get torn, the sponge in the seats begins to pop up. If you use seat covers, they also wear out faster than you expected.

Compromised safety
The most important safety features on your car are the brakes. In old cars, Mujjawa opines that the brake system ages however much it is serviced.
He advises that if you use a lot of energy to step on the brake pedal for the car to stop, it is a sign that the braking system is no longer reliable and you need to get rid of your old car because on an unlucky day, the brake will fail and you ram into other vehicles on the road.
“When you drive a car for many years, parts such as the alternator and struts equally become old. The suspension system that is made up of shock absorbers, tyres and springs and other parts becomes problematic. These will pose a threat to your life and that of other road users, including pedestrians,” Mujjawa cautions.

Increasing service costs
David Matovu, a mechanic at Vine Auto Garage in Kisaasi, observes that when your car is old, some of its parts wear out shortly after servicing.
Such parts may appear as though they are not costly to maintain but the more you drive the car, the more you will spend to keep the car on the road.
These include the spark plugs, engine belts, the suspension system or the transmission systems.
“One of the important parts in your car is the engine that houses the timing belt. If the engine is old, one of the parts that will equally be affected is the timing belt. In old cars, old timing belts usually affect engine pistons and valves and others parts and in most cases, servicing them costs not less than Shs1m or more,” Matovu explains.
If you find yourself in a position where you have to service the above and many more parts even if it is four times a year, it is a sign that you need to start saving for another car.