Old car with low miles = dry rot or not?
November 28, 2005 6:49 PM   Subscribe

I just inherited a 1998 Mountaineer that has only 20,000 miles. It's never been tuned up and still has the original tires. I'm pretty sure the spark plugs are fouled because it's never been driven at highway speeds. Everything appears to be in great shape. What kind of problems can I expect from this car?

I plan to give it a full tune up - new plugs, a new battery, new tires soon - but I'm wondering if components, such as hoses, might be prone to failure. Is dry rot an issue? I don't see any. My thanks in advance for your advice.
posted by Slap Incognito to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
At least:

- replace the plugs
- check for rubber rot on belts and hoses
- replace the oil
- replace the coolant (including a check for rust)
- watch the battery to make sure it holds a charge

Dry rot IS an issue on belts and hoses, definitely. You may be lucky and have no issues, but definitely check it over thoroughly.

FWIW, I had a similar situation with my 1996 Mazda B3000, and spent about $400 to get it up to top shape.
posted by Kickstart70 at 6:59 PM on November 28, 2005


You call that old? :) Several years ago I picked up an '87 Mazda (coincidentally, grandfather to Kickstart70's Mazda) B2600 from a friend for cheap. I had my mechanic put about $800 worth of parts into in including a new carburetor, hoses, belts, plugs, etc. It ran good but I got rid of it before the clutch went out completely. I shouldn't have. Replaced it with a '95 Yukon that needed about $500 in parts (a light tuneup and a new AC/Heater controller) and was a gas hog. Got rid of that because of the mpg and I needed the cashflow to build my garage.

All in all new hoses (coolant and vacuum, if applicable), fluids, air cleaner, belt(s), plugs and such is relatively cheap insurance. If it was really old, I'd include new cap, rotor, points and condenser for the distributor. With 20k your Mountaineer shouldn't need a clutch or brake pads assuming it hasn't been abused.
posted by friarjohn at 7:47 PM on November 28, 2005


1998 is an old car now? Should be fine.
posted by cellphone at 7:49 PM on November 28, 2005


I don't think you'll have many problems just because it sat around a lot. I had a 1964 Caddy that had done a lot of time sitting in a barn. It had MILES of rubber hoses in it, and most of them were just fine 35 years later.

Have a mechanic eyeball the car for you. I bet it's fine. Click and Clack (cartalk.com) sell a fantastic checklist that you can hand to a mechanic when you're buying a used car. The checklist costs a few bucks, and having the mechanic run through it will cost you about $100. But you 'll know for sure what shape the car is in when it's over, and what needs to be replaced.
posted by popechunk at 7:57 PM on November 28, 2005


You can't go wrong by taking the truck to a mechanic and asking for a used car inspection. These are typically done prior to purchase of a used vehicle and the mechanic is supposed to identify potential problem areas and provide repair estimates. It should run you $100-150. A *good* mechanic will also be able to tell you what needs fixing and what can wait. Good mechanics are hard to find, though.

With cars that aren't driven much, I think the problems are the aforementioned battery and condensation in the gas tank. I've never heard of belts rotting, but that doesn't indicate that it doesn't happen, just that I'm less knowlegable than I'd like.

I don't know how to check for condensation in the tank, but I'd want to do so as well as unscrewing the oil cap and looking for frothy oil that indicates moisture in the engine. If one was really concerned, you could pull the valve covers and look for crap there, but that's likely too much work.

I'd also crawl underneath and make sure the CV Boots are in good shape. If the rubber falls off, it's either a $20 fix if you catch it in time or much more expensive if you don't. It's extremely easy to visually inspect the boots, however.

Oh yeah, get the drive shafts and suspension bits lubed up. This takes a grease gun and the willingness to crawl around under the truck and squirt grease in all the nipples or zerks that you can find. Jiffy Lube-type places are supposed to do this but I'm, uh, skeptical of their competence in general.
posted by stet at 8:01 PM on November 28, 2005


Here's that brochure I mentioned.

posted by popechunk at 8:06 PM on November 28, 2005


My thanks to all of you for the advice. I'm in a much better frame of mind about the car. It's a keeper for sure.
posted by Slap Incognito at 2:37 PM on November 29, 2005


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