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posted: 2/24/2013 4:13 AM

Rarely driven cars still require regular oil changes

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Q. I have a 2006 Equinox with about 35,000 miles. I only drive about 4,000 to 5,000 miles a year and am wondering about oil changes. Should I still be changing the oil every three or four months -- even if I've only driven 1,200 to 1,500 miles? Or can I go longer like five or six months until I get closer to 3,000 miles? I'm retired and only drive about five to 10 miles around town when I do use the car.

A. You have a unique situation. If you were my client I would recommend you get the oil changed twice a year. You will be early on mileage but I think it is important that a technician put eyeballs under the hood and under the car a couple times a year for you.

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In addition, the type of driving you do is probably the hardest on a car and its fluids. Since it never really gets good and hot, the engine can't burn off moisture and other contaminants.

Rust

Since we are keeping our cars longer (we are at 11 years on average now), good maintenance is becoming really important. It is also very important that you have a good relationship with a competent Automotive Service Excellence-certified mechanic to keep an eye on things for you.

One of the things these older cars are prone to is rust, at least in our neck of the woods anyway. I am not talking about body rust. The car bodies and paint are holding up a lot better than they used to. What I am talking about here is under-car rust.

We are seeing brake line and fuel line failures as a result of this rust. The steel lines run underneath the car and are exposed directly to the elements. As they start to rust, they can become porous and when they become weak enough, they can let go. This could be bad if you needed to stop quickly.

Generally you will still have some braking power, but it will be greatly reduced and possibly very minimal. This is why I constantly preach that you should have somebody you trust looking over your car on a regular basis.

Some cars are also prone to the coil springs rusting and breaking. This could cause the car to lean and a jagged piece could damage a tire. At a minimum, this will throw off the wheel alignment.

Both of these issues are very repairable and if one is ever brought to your attention, don't ignore the warning. It is a great opportunity for you to have the repairs done on your time and not as the result of an emergency.

• Douglas Automotive is at 312 S. Hager Ave., Barrington, (847) 381-0454, and 123 Virginia Road, Crystal Lake, (815) 356-0440. For information, visit douglasautomotive.com. Send questions to underthehood@dailyherald.com.

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