Preventive Maintenance

I have a 1996 Acura Integra with manual transmission. The car has 110K miles on it. The body does not have a spot of rust on it & mechanically it is in perfect condition. So why am I writing? I live in NJ for half the year & the other half I spend in Florida. When I travel to FL from NJ or to NJ from FL I usually do so by taking the Auto Train. Because the car is 17 yrs old &
has 110K miles on it I am always fearful of a breakdown while I am on my way to the Auto Train Station because the financial consequences of missing the train and also having to spend a night or more in a motel would be very high.

Consequently, I would like to undertake preventive maintenance. The only things that I can think of to replace at this point are the starter & the alternator. My mechanic says that I do not have to replace the ignition module. Can anyone comment on this please. Thanx

A break down on a trip is no more likely then one during daily use. Just continue regular good maintenance practices…and leave early, giving yourself time to complete the trip in case of problems. I think you worry unnecessarily.

To be honest, I wouldn’t worry too much about the alternator and starter or replacing them as preventive maintenance items. Spark plugs and filters are recommended if that has not been done in recent memory.

The one glaring thing that comes to mind is the timing belt kit which includes the water pump. The engine is interference fit; meaning that if the timing belt breaks the engine will quit running instantly and you will be left with expensive engine damage to go along with that broken belt.
When a timing belt breaks there are generally no warning signs. It will be fine one second and snapped the next.

110k miles is not a lot of miles by todays standards as long as ou follow the maintenance sch. in the oweners book

The only things that I can think of to replace at this point are the starter & the alternator.

I haven’t replaced an alternator or starter on any vehicle I own since my 1984 GMC pickup. Most of my subsequent vehicles since then had well over 250k miles…with a couple over 400k miles…with the original starter and alternator.

Just keep up with normal maintenance per your owners manual.

In general, it wouldn’t make financial sense to start replacing all of the parts that could fail and strand you. There are far too many of them. If it makes you feel better, it would be reasonable to replace the belts and hoses, as well as the battery if it’s at least four years old. Obviously you want all of the maintenance listed in your owner’s manual to be up-to-date.

Can you find some travel insurance that covers your situation? Normally that’s overpriced compared to the expected payout, but perhaps the peace of mind is worth it in your case.

I’ll point out that if you’re driving a 17-year-old car that you don’t trust, it may be time to start shopping for a newer car.

As OK mentioned, if you have not replaced the TIMING BELT now would be a good time to do it…Save your money on the starter and alternator as the probability of these failing on your trip to the train station are VERY slim…If your BATTERY is over 6 years old, you might think of replacing that…

I also believe this is a waste. I currently have a 14 yo truck with 240,000 miles on it, still with original starter and alt. It did leave me stranded once due to a bad battery that died while still under warranty. Right at the 2 year free replacement warranty limit.

I’d be much more worried about belts and hoses on your 17 yo Acura. My experience with Hondas and Acuras leads me to believe that they will act up well before they completely fail. The starter will tend to not work for a couple of key turns, then work fine. The alternator will trigger the battery light intermittently before complete failure. But, with the miles on your car, you may not see this for another 60,000 miles, or 10 years at the rate you’re driving it.

I didn’t know there was an auto train. Interesting. Ditto for not replacing the starter. I used to overhaul alternators at about 70K as preventive but only replaced one starter in over a million miles. When you start to have to replace all this stuff as preventive, think about a different car that would already have these new parts. Much cheaper in the long run.

If you haven’t been following the preventative maintenance schedule in your owners manual faithfully, it may be a good idea to trade this one in for a new car. Its a bit late to start now, but if a new car is not possible, then by all means start following the schedule.

You should be on your third timing belt by now, even though you don’t have that many miles on the vehicle. The belt is made from rubber and kevlar, and the rubber breaks down with time, Seven years is the recommended time interval. I went 8 years on the second belt in our 97 Accord and it was all cracked, did not look good. You can see in these pictures. It was also very loose.

Be sure that you get the transmission fluid changed every 30 k miles on this car. No flush, just a drain and refill, the new Honda ATF helps the transmission shift smoother in cold weather, be sure to only use the Honda ATF, no other.

Certain types of battery failures can damage the alternator so if your battery is over 5 years old, that might be a good investment. But many battery failures do not damage the alternator, only the types that are due to an internal short. Usually you will notice that the starter cranks slower than normal just before the battery goes out completely though. Many car parts stores can do a load test on your battery if you ask. a voltage check is not enough, it needs to be a load test. The load tester is a pretty big tester, it does not fit in the palm of your hand, and it hooks up to the battery with something that looks like jumper cables. A volt tester would fit in the palm of your hand.

Replacing the starter and alternator just as a PM is not a good idea because sometimes the replacements aren’t as good as what is in there already, especially if they are remans. New Honda parts will give you sticker shock.

BTW, our Accord has 187k miles on it. I’ve owned it since new and have always followed the maintenance schedule faithfully. I would not hesitate for a second to jump in it and drive it cross country. Well I would hesitate just long enough to check the air pressure in the tires, but that is all.

Let me add something here. if the radiator and heater hoses are all original. you might want to have them replaced, at least have them checked, especially the heater hose that runs under the distributor. If the distributor O-ring is leaking oil onto that hose and it has swollen up, you need to get both the hose replaced and the distributor O-ring replaced. The O-ring is an easy fix, do not buy a whole new distributor just for that.

Sometimes it is hard to get rid of a trusty old car, but I think it is time. If you can afford to winter in Florida and Summer in New Jersey, I would think that you can afford a new ride. How much is that auto train, too? Live life man, drive a new car back and forth, see the country, enjoy your money. My vote is for a new car. Rocketman

One more thing . . . . it’s a '96 Integra, not the Ferrari from Ferris Buehler. I’m sure it’s a nice car, but if you’re afraid to drive it due to worry over breakdown, what’s it really worth to you? Sell it to a tuner, buy a new car and enjoy the ride. Rocketman

Traditionally, most failures on the highway were: hoses; belts; and tires. I don’t know if that is still the case or not. But, they are the easiest to check.

Of course in an era when lots of people never check anything on their car, I’d say the engine running out of oil during a trip may have moved up the list.

Also, check all your external light bulbs. Having one go out can get you a traffic stop.

I have taken static here for it, but for that reason I change all bulbs every 75,000 miles.

However, you can check those bulbs every day. The other choice is to let the cops check them for you, which is what most folks do.

You can always have your starter and alternator overhauled at an auto electric shop. I own a light plane (37 years old- GASP!) , and engine “accesories” such as alternators are routinely overhauled when engines are brought into an overhaul shop. If you follow the maintenance schedule closely, then the age of the car should mean very little.