Group of men looking at a broken down car

Five Signs That Tell You It’s Time To Look For New Wheels

Some of us like changing our cars every few years. But what if you prefer driving them until they drop?

By Shell on Jan. 20, 2021

Here’s what to look out for if you think it might be time to move on from your faithful steed.

1. Rust

In some classic-car circles, a rusty patina is cool. But if rust has taken hold within your vehicle’s core structure (perhaps the sills beneath the doors, the floor or suspension mounts), you’re potentially driving something that’s dangerous. It’ll also likely to cost many, many thousands for a body-repair shop to fix the damage.

2. Mechanical haemorrhage

A single leak can be something as simple and inexpensive to fix as a gasket or coolant hose. But if your driveway is stained with multiple spots of various fluids – and they’re on the large side – you might have significant issues with multiple systems, from your engine, transmission and cooling system to your brakes. That could mean some extensive (and potentially expensive) repair jobs.

3. Death rattles

A car on the way out can make some nasty noises and clunks. An engine with a serious knock or rattle is likely in need of a full rebuild, while an automatic transmission that knocks or slams into gear is also a candidate for expensive repair work. But listen carefully because some scary old-car sounds – like the suspension rattles that can result from worn bushes, for example – can be relatively cheap to remedy.

4. Smoke signals

In a petrol vehicle, black smoke is a sign of incomplete combustion and could be a relatively simple fix. If it’s an old diesel, that’s just what it does. However, if you have a diesel with a diesel particulate filter (DPF), black smoke could be a sign of costly DPF issues. Blue or white smoke, meanwhile, generally signals serious engine problems, whatever kind of engine you’ve got.

5. The sums don’t add up

When your car is in its golden years, its maintenance costs will generally be pretty stable and a fraction of its worth. But that relationship changes. As the years go by, it loses value but repairs tend to be more significant. At some point the cost can end up being more than what you could spend to finance and run a newer (and potentially safer) car, or even exceed the value of your car itself. Make the effort to quantify your annual maintenance bills and regularly cross-reference them with your car’s resale value. This will tell you if you’re throwing good money after bad.

Getting rid of your car the right way

Don’t just let your old car sit and rot. There are more responsible ways to let it rest in peace:

  • Sell it complete to a wrecker. These businesses recycle your car’s still-useful parts and sell them on so other examples of your car can keep running. They also have the ability to dispose of your car’s toxic substances and fluids in a safe, environmentally friendly way.
  • Call a car ‘scrapper’. If taking your car to a wrecker is too much work, a car scrapper will come and take it away for you. However, while this is convenient, you won’t get as good a price for it.
  • Wreck it yourself. If you’re mechanically competent and willing to work for it, ‘wrecking’ your car yourself – disassembling it, then selling on the valuable parts – can reap the best financial returns. But you’ll need the right tools and safety gear, and you’ll probably need to call in a professional wrecker or scrapper to deal with the tricky or toxic stuff anyway.


Viva Energy Australia Pty Ltd (“Viva Energy”) has compiled the above article for your general information and to use as a general reference. Whilst all reasonable care has been taken by Viva Energy in compiling this article, Viva Energy does not warrant or represent that the information in the article is free from errors or omissions or is suitable for your intended use.

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