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Should "Beaters" Be Taken Off the Road?

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  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,201
    I recently read that average vehicle age is increasing, due to the employment situation and consumer confidence. Of course, vehicle quality generally improved steadily since the '70s and '80s, so higher average age may not necessarily mean there are more beaters on the road than, say, five years ago. The "Cash-For-Clunkers" program removed quite a few of them. Your thoughts; are there more of fewer beaters in service than five years ago?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,796
    That would be pretty hard to measure I would think. Probably the best you could do to get an answer is track the average age of cars on the road. They do calculate things like that.

    I'm not so sure that the modern cars built in say 2000--2001 (given that the average age of cars on the road is something like, roughly, 9-10 years) would TOLERATE being neglected like an old 1970s American V8 would be.

    In the old days, when Shiftright was younger and the earth was still cooling, you could easily patch up a car and keep it running. But now, all the duct tape in the world is not going to fix a faulty MAF sensor, nor can you disassemble your little DOHC 4 cylinder motor in your driveway so easily and hand-lap a new valve into the cylinder head.

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  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,683
    Thanks to modern paint and body panels, most cars age a lot better than they used to, so I would say as time goes on there are less "beater" looking things on the road. But I would assume in the past few years there are more cars on the road with marginal brakes and tires etc, not to mention deferred maintenance otherwise.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,796
    certainly people will skimp on things like tires and body work---all but the crazies go without brakes, though.

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  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,683
    I bet there are a lot more older highline cars going without expensive scheduled servicing, too. I am sure there are more warped brake rotors lately.

    I once drove my fintail knowing fully well it had a leaking brake line, I told myself it had "3 or 4 stops left"...but this was on deserted residential streets for only about a mile on the way to the shop.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,162
    Rust isn't this issue it once was. A lot of cars would be fine mechanically, but rust had seriously compromised the structural integrity of the bodies.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,162
    My local mechanic was just telling me about a lot of low-income people trying to look rich cheaply with older Mercedes and BMWs. They couldn't afford to properly repair their cars nor were they really willing to. Instead of following the proper maintenance intervals, these people would drive the car until something broke, then ask him to do a "band-aid" repair just to get the car running again.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,683
    edited October 2010
    And most of those cars can limp along with a lot of faults that would be prohibitive to fix. Looking rich cheaply doesn't work...a 10-15 year old S class or 7 series with cheap heavy big Chinese made wheels and tacky chrome B-pillar trim doesn't look rich, it looks poserfied. An old rich looking car is pristine and stock.

    Regarding rust...bodies don't rust like they used to, but I bet some cars still get some structural rot, especially in the suspension.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,162
    edited October 2010
    I don't put any of that self-destructive aftermarket garbage on any of my cars. My 1989 Cadillac Brougham is pristine and stock as it was when it was new. I don't even use non-GM parts for wiper blades or oil filters. There's an older lady in my neighborhood with a pristine early W126. She kept it bone-stock and that car looks far sharper than any of those newer molested examples with the cheap blingy wheels. I've even seen one knucklehead put aftermarket Buick portholes on his 7-Series.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,954
    Regarding rust...bodies don't rust like they used to, but I bet some cars still get some structural rot, especially in the suspension.

    I've heard some mechanics say that suspensions are actually LESS durable and long-lived than they used to be! Supposedly, the older suspensions that had all the grease fittings you had to lubricate every so often actually were more reliable...IF you kept them greased up, that is!

    And I guess it would make sense that, with the proliferation of independent rear suspensions, they'd be more complicated than the simpler, older live axles of yesteryear.

    I dunno how much truth there is to that, though. Thinking back, I think the only suspension-related work my 2000 Intrepid needed was one new bearing hub around 130,000 miles, and then the other around 138,000. My 2000 Park Ave needed new swaybark links around 60,000 miles. I'll have to ask my stepdad if their '99 Altima ever needed any suspension work. That thing has about 320,000 miles on it now, and still looks pretty good. They offered to sell it to me really cheap, and I was tempted, but with that kind of mileage, it's a rolling time bomb, no matter how nice it may look.

    Going back a bit further though, I don't think my '85 Silverado, with around 134,000 miles on it, has ever had any suspension work, although it does need it. Grandma's '85 LeSabre needed new upper ball joints around 144,000 miles. I don't think my '86 Monte Carlo, which Mom bought new, ever needed any suspension work in the 192,000 miles that it lived.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,683
    You have the classy old luxury car, just like a pristine W126. Those cars speak of more money or class than their neglected or messed up 10 year newer relations.

    Wheels and stick on chrome trim are the worse offenders. I loathe the chrome rings posers put around the front and rear lights of some MB. Big 20"+ wheels are also inexcusable.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,683
    edited October 2010
    From what I have seen of some Toyotas and even a run of late 90s MB, modern cars can be be bitten by the rust bug too. A rusted out spring perch is a common failure on some late 90s E-class that live in harsh areas.

    My E55 needed some front suspension component at 45K miles - I forget what it was, probably related to cruddy local roads and lots of tight parking garage maneuvers. Warranty covered it.

    The fintail needed new kingpins at about 200K, and it got some bushings and junk then too, along with a steering bushing. Other than that, I don't bother with it...it has old bits, but its an unrestored car. Maintaining it as new just isn't economically feasible.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,687
    that made cars beaters 20 years ago still apply today: let the brake and tire maintenance go, let the bodywork go, etc. Yes, the mechanicals of today's cars need less maintenance than they did 2 decades ago, but brakes, tires, suspension, and emissions systems wear out just as quickly as ever.

    Meaning we are in worse shape with respect to beaters today than we were two years ago, because in that time about 8 million people who would have replaced their cars in years past decided not do so because of the economy. I would bet good money that the average age of the roadgoing fleet increased by a year or more just in the last two. So if 9 years is now the average age of a car, we have a significant number out there that are 12 years old or more. On their original suspension, with balding tires, and screeching brakes.......watch out! ;-)

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,162
    edited October 2010
    I've been told you can tell the general condition of a car just by looking at the wheels and tires. Wheels coated with brake dust and grime and bald tires are a good sign the remainder of the vehicle was neglected as well.

    Just after WWII, the average age of a car was 7 years old and the majority of the nation's rolling stock was about on its last legs. This fueled the huge sellers market following the war.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,687
    ....and 9+ years of neglect can get a car into pretty bad shape. I definitely don't want a beater like that anywhere near me on the freeway, ESPECIALLY behind me.

    I have a friend whose folks have a 12 year old Camry, ALWAYS has at least two bald tires, cracked windshield, and I drove it once - scary experience, the front suspension is totally shot, the thing just bounces everywhere. Yet it's still a daily driver, and they take that thing out on the freeway every day. Perfect example of the kind of car I DON'T want behind me on the freeway when all the traffic suddenly slows down......

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,431
    edited October 2010
    I remember putting matchsticks in the generator of my mid-70's SuperBeetle to keep the brushes pushed in. Back then you'd adjust the valves on those old Bugs every 3,000 miles.

    Nowadays I think it's easier to neglect cars and get away with it. You sure can't kludge a fix on a sensor, but they don't go bad all that often.

    Back in the day, you could get 3 years out of a new car before you really had to start repairing and replacing stuff besides the wear and tear items. I didn't do much at all on my '82 Tercel that I drove for 17 years; I got 10 years out of a Voyager (thanks to the extended warranty) and my current rides are both in their second decade of service.

    We thought about trading in the '99 Quest during Cash for Clunkers, but nothing really appealed all that much. It still runs good and we put 10,000 miles on it the last couple of months doing road trips, and just passed 150,000 miles. I wouldn't hesitate to hop in it tomorrow and drive cross-country.

    I think new cars tolerate neglect pretty darn good. Shoot, that reminds me - I'm overdue (as usual) for an oil change. Last one was back in March, a little over 12,000 miles ago. :)

    And like Fin says, the paint is so much better these days the old rides still clean up pretty well.

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  • anythngbutgmanythngbutgm Posts: 4,175
    My buddy came across this a week or so ago when we were discussing his old lemon Sierras.

    Like a Rust

    Yup, same thing was already happening on the bumpers of his 04 and 06 Sierras that he had before he got his Tundra. Harsh New Enlgand winters... :sick:
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,201
    edited October 2010
    Sorry, but your handle suggests that you're hardly an unbiased source of information. Do you have any impartial comparisons on rusting for GM and Toyota trucks to support your inference that GMs rust more than Toyotas?
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,954
    Well, here's a happy GM truck story. I let a buddy borrow my '85 Silverado, and today he said it was shifting funny. I drove it, and sure enough, it was holding the gears too long. It wouldn't shift into 2nd until around 35-40, and wouldn't go into 3rd until around 55.

    My first thought was crap, another unexpected expense I don't need. But then I remembered my '67 Catalina did the same thing, just with a harsher lurch, and 3rd not engaging until almost 70. That just turned out to be a vacuum leak. So, I was hoping it would be the same thing with my truck. However, I couldn't find the problem on the Catalina, and had needed to pay the mechanic to do it, and I was worried the same thing would happen with the truck. But I decided to take a chance and look under it, and see if I saw anything. And sure enough, there was this long black hose dangling down, almost as if to taunt me. I saw a metal tube that looked like where it would fit, shoved it in place, test drove it, and voila!

    So, the old rustbucket has had a stay of execution. Although honestly, even if it needed a transmission rebuild, I'd probably do it. The local shop said with a transmission that simple, they could do it for around $650.

    Oh, on the subject of rusty GM trucks, I have to say my uncle's '97 Silverado ain't holding up so hot. Now, my '85 looks worse, because the rust is visible on the body parts. But last fall, he got his truck stuck in my back field when he drove back there to dump some leftover deer parts (don't ask, long story. :P ), and I had to pull him out with my '85. I remember when I hooked the chain underneath his truck, being shocked at how rusty it was. Everything seemed covered in scale, and it seemed to be getting pretty thick, to the point I could foresee bolts being hard to get out, welds that probably weren't long for this worlds, etc.

    In contrast, my '85 still looks pretty good underneath. And the odd thing is, my '85 has spent a lot of time parked on the grass and such, which can't be good for them. His '97 has spent most of its life on asphalt, or gravel at least.

    This is in Maryland though, where our winters aren't all that brutal (although '09-10 wasn't exactly a picnic). I'm sure in New England, both the '85 and '97 would be ancient history.
  • greg128greg128 Posts: 340
    Rust isn't this issue it once was

    tell that to the thousands of Toyota Tundra and Tacoma owners whose
    frames are rusting away to the point of being unsafe to drive
  • oldfarmer50oldfarmer50 Posts: 6,414
    edited October 2010
    "...inference that GMs rust more than Toyotas?..."

    The worst rust bucket I ever owned was my 1986 Toyota PU. Rotted out in 3-4 years. At 12 years old you could put your foot through the bed by stepping on it.

    Speaking of GM, I just bought a 93 Caddy Deville with almost NO rust. To go almost 18 years in upstate NY where they pave the streets with salt in winter the car must have sat in the garage a lot.

    In my experience cars of the 60s and 70s rusted out after 7-8 years. Cars of the 90s lasted 12-15. Brand new cars might go 15+

    So much depends on where in the country they are driven. Down south I see 30-40 year old cars that look showroom new. I guess in the south you replace the paint and in the north you replace the sheet metal.

    2009 PT Cruiser, 2008 Eclipse, 1995 Mark VIII, 1988 GMC Van

  • oldfarmer50oldfarmer50 Posts: 6,414
    "...in New England, both the '85 and '97 would be ancient history..."

    My '85 Ford F-150 went to the graveyard last year because it was so rusty that the weight of more than one passenger would cause the cab to flex and the doors wouldn't close. At that point I was only driving it 5 miles a week to the farmer's market but it seemed to be a good time to bury it. :lemon:

    2009 PT Cruiser, 2008 Eclipse, 1995 Mark VIII, 1988 GMC Van

  • greg128greg128 Posts: 340
    Those pictures are awful.

    I just took a look on cars.com for used Chevy pick-ups and I didn't see one
    with a rust spot. These included some for around $2000-$3000 with high miles
    and 10 or more years old. I never see any old trucks around here (NY) with
    that much rust.

    I have a 2006 Silverado with not even a hint of rust, including the frame.

    I suspect those trucks are used often at boat ramps where they submerge
    the rear end in salt water.
  • stickguystickguy Posts: 14,438
    I have family in the region of NY, so am there a lot. If you ever need a couple thousand totally rotted out 80s-90s vintage GMs and japanese models, head up there.

    all the salt, lots of people parking outside (and probably too poor or cheap to wash them!) = rust.

    and it is shocking to see how severe, as in missing outer panels, some of these cars are. Hard to believe some of them are safe, since that is just the parts you can see. 1 big bump and easy to imagine rotted out suspensions mounting points just collapsing.

    2013 Acura RDX (wife's), 2007 Volvo S40 (daughter stole that one), and 2000 Acura TL (formerly son's, now mine again)

  • oldfarmer50oldfarmer50 Posts: 6,414
    "...Hard to believe some of them are safe..."

    In the north, rust is the biggest killer of cars. All the cars I have sent to the junk yard died from rust rather than mechanical failure (except for the ones my kids drove off cliffs or ran with out any oil). People in NY expect to be able to do 70 in a snowstorm so the state uses WAY too much salt.

    2009 PT Cruiser, 2008 Eclipse, 1995 Mark VIII, 1988 GMC Van

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,796
    I saw (soon after it happened, not eye-witness) a very rusty Audi break in half after an accident on Hwy 82 in Colorado. I remember it was an east coast car because it had Michigan plates. The front half and rear half ended up 25 yards apart. Yes, someone was killed.

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  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,431
    East Coast? You mean one of the Great Lakes coasts perhaps? Ironwood MI is farther west than New Orleans. :shades:

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,796
    East of ME...okay okay, point taken....a MIDWEST car (even worse).

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  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,431
    edited October 2010
    I'm reminded of the famous New Yorker Magazine cover, but you're on the wrong coast. :)

    In other news, you can now share your beater on your coast and still get insurance coverage. That should encourage more of them to stay on the road.

    Meet the beater: A low-stress way to carshare (SF Gate)

    California Bill Would Help Neighbors Share an SUV (matternetwork.com)

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  • michaellnomichaellno Posts: 4,300
    I saw (soon after it happened, not eye-witness) a very rusty Audi break in half after an accident on Hwy 82 in Colorado.

    Was this east or west of Aspen?
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