How to Make Your Car Last Forever
How to Make Your Car Last Forever. Click image to enlarge

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By Jim Kerr

As I browse through my small library, I see a diverse collection of automotive related books, both historical and current, that I have accumulated over the years. Some of my most prized material, although not of any great monetary value, include the original owner’s manual from my father’s 1955 Chevrolet Belair, an autographed first edition (1942) of Modern Motorcycle Mechanics by Bernie Nicholson, a copy of Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony Simply Explained published in 1912 (a wonderful book on the principles of electricity and radio transmission that still apply today) and a leather-bound edition of Ford Service Bulletins and technical information spanning 1939 to the mid-fifties that used to belong to my Grandfather who was also a mechanic.

My Library also contains many books on automotive history and technology, including several service manuals and factory assembly manuals. For routine maintenance and simple repair tasks I can rely on my own mechanical experience, but recently I have added a new book to the library that I have made mandatory reading for my sons if they want to use the family vehicles. I would highly recommend it for any new driver or those who just want to learn more about how to maintain their vehicle and it would make a fine Christmas gift too.
The book is How To Make Your Car Last Forever by Tom Torbjornsen from Motorbooks publishing (

It is a practical, informative and easy to read book on maintaining your vehicle. Torbjornsen is an automotive expert from the United States with over 35 years in the industry and almost two decades hosting automotive talk radio. Information in this book will extend the life of any vehicle and should save you a lot of money.

How to Make your Car Last Forever has 17 chapters of information that can be read in any order. For example, if you are thinking of new tires for your car, Chapter 5 describes tire basics such as reading the sidewall, plus sizing, and the different types of tires on the market. This information section is supplemented with high quality pictures showing many of tire features. Each Chapter also includes a question and answer section where Torbjornsen answers some of the more common questions drivers ask.

Tips are also included to save you money, such as “Tire Tip No. 2: Regular alignment checks and adjustments every year or 12,000 miles will maximize tire life.” One small drawback in the book is that being published in the U.S., the mileage isn’t in kilometres, but that is really inconsequential for Canadian readers, as it isn’t the numbers but rather the techniques, strategies and understanding of automotive systems that give this book its value. For example, throughout the book there are a series of projects for those who like to do it themselves. The projects range from simple such as “Project 5 – Check Tire Pressure” to the more complex such as “Project 16 – Replace Serpentine Belt.” Each project can be performed with few tools at minimal cost, while saving the owner considerable amounts of money.

Other projects include changing oil, replacing wiper blades and replacing a turn signal bulb. While the book is generic and won’t replace the manufacturer’s repair information specific to your vehicle, it does provide good information on many common maintenance tasks.

What I really like about this book are the descriptions of vehicle systems and operation. If you every wondered what happens inside your engine or transmission when it is running, the book explains it in simple to understand language. Selecting the best maintenance routine for your vehicle will be much clearer after reading Chapter One, and Chapter 13 on Vehicle Exterior and Interior Maintenance has information you could use all the time.

Chapter 17 is one of my favourites: “How to Kill a Car”. This part of the book describes things we shouldn’t do to a vehicle, such as driving with the ‘Engine Hot’ light on, or overloading the vehicle. It also describes bad driving habits such as feathering the clutch or pulling a fishtail.

New driver or experienced, if you ever wondered about what makes your vehicle tick and how to keep it ticking, this book is an excellent start. Following the advice in the book may not make your “Car Last Forever” but it will certainly extend its usefulness many years down the road.

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