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I'm buying a Nissan Maxima 98 Auto. It has about 50k miles on the odometer. I'll put an engine pic just for reference, it was very well mantained. However, it is still a 20 year old car. What should I start looking for at this age? VQ30DE

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    All the coolant hoses, radiator upper and lower, heater hoses, and any other hose that carries coolant. That is one cherry car! – Moab Jun 20 '18 at 2:18
  • Check if the drive belts have been changed - and if not, change them. – Solar Mike Jun 20 '18 at 4:11
  • Thank you. Will be my daily for as long as it lasts. Is that all there is to it? belts and hoses? Im pretty sure it is a chain driven motor though. – Christopher Castro Jun 20 '18 at 4:24
  • Yes it is a chain driven camshaft engine. – Moab Jun 20 '18 at 13:32
  • If/when you end up changing the oil, I would recommend using full synthetic, not conventional. It won't make a huge difference if you plan on changing the oil regularly, but it will certainly help. – Sam Jun 20 '18 at 18:13
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I'd plan to give the car a full service, and either inspect or, where necessary, replace all of the following:

  • Cambelt, if fitted, as suggested by @SolarMike (if it's a chain, inspect the chain and tensioner - check with owners clubs/forums to see if there are any known issues with the tensioner)
  • Coolant hoses, as @Moab says.
  • Alternator/Fan/AC/PAS belts.
  • PAS and brake hoses (and clutch, if it's a hydraulic clutch)
  • brake, clutch and PAS fluid
  • brake pads and discs
  • Engine oil and filters
  • Fuel filters
  • Tyres - remember that age affects them as well as wear, so check for any signs of cracking or perishing even if they have plenty of tread

You shouldn't need to touch the transmission at that mileage, I don't think ATF degrades with age (thouh I'm not an auto-box expert, so others may disagree)

I'd also look at owners forums to see if there is anything else that the marque experts warn you about - some cars have particular gotchas to watch out for...

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    Don't forget the spark plugs and wires. – Moab Jun 20 '18 at 13:35
  • That will make the dealer very happy. I have a 2011 Nissan Murano ( similar engine) with 70,000 ; It has needed - tires , battery, wiper blades, motor oil and filter change, air and cabin filter change. Otherwise all original , never serviced by the dealer. – blacksmith37 Jun 20 '18 at 13:41
  • @blacksmith37 There's no need for a dealership to do this. You can inspect a lot of this yourself, or take it to a trustworthy local garage. Nick's answer is to primarily inspect these things so if they don't need replacing because the hoses aren't cracking or otherwise failing, great! No servicing for those parts needed. 20 years is a long time for rubber tubing so an inspection of them and other parts like belts is necessary. – Ellesedil Jun 20 '18 at 14:06
  • @blacksmith37 I'd never take a 20 year old car to a dealer! All the inpection you can do yourself, and I'd do all the replacement myself too - but as Ellesedil says, any local back-street garage could do it all for a fraction of the dealer cost... – Nick C Jun 20 '18 at 14:20
  • I was being sarcastic; does not work well in print. – blacksmith37 Jun 20 '18 at 15:57
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Nothing should be replaced, if the car has truly been well maintained there should be no immediate concerns with tires, belts, hoses, brakes, fluids, cam chains etc (no more than any other car at least). I would pay attention to the body of the car, rust would be something I'd be eagle eyed for. Looking for signs of rust damage that's been covered up is important, a car can look pristine but it's actually a load of well applied filler.

No matter how well maintained a car is the radiator is eventually going to go, after 20 years this may have happened already. If you have a good service history have a good trawl through.

Many of the problems I've had with old cars that are mechanically sound are non drive-train: air conditioning and circulation, wiper mechanisms binding, window mechanisms getting slow, switches breaking, radios, seat covers, door mechanisms breaking, etc.

  • I have a slight issue with this answer only because buying a car that has been "well maintained" is too vague to know exactly what work has been done to it and sounds like a marketing line from the seller. Instead of trusting the seller, the car should still be inspected so that there is no uncertainty. – Ellesedil Jun 20 '18 at 14:14
  • I agree @Ellesedil, that's why I said if the car has been well maintained. With a used car there's always uncertainty. The point I'm making is that there's no immediate "a car is 20 years old therefore this and this must be done". – GdD Jun 20 '18 at 14:35
  • At first we doubted about the mileage, everyone told me it couldnt be that low, since its a 20 year old car, but then we popped the hood. Something kind of when Brian Oconner took a toyota supra wreck to Dominic's shop....yeah. Something along those lines. It was magical. As soon as I saw it i knew it would be my first car. Also the guy who takes care of the card told us the owner lives outside the country, and every one or two years he comes to the country for no more than 2 weeks, so thats the use he gives to this car... – Christopher Castro Jun 21 '18 at 2:20
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I'll shorten the long lists to three four items that are easy to remember (rubber+filter+liquid+spark):

  • Rubber: the things that are made from rubber and are easy to replace (hoses, belts, tires)
  • Filter: All filters (oil, fuel, cabin air, engine air)
  • Liquid: Everything that is liquid, except perhaps the transmission fluid
  • Spark: The spark plugs and wires, if this is a spark ignition engine; the wires belong to the rubber category in addition to this category

Ideally, you would also replace all other rubber parts. However, some seals are hard to replace, meaning you replace them only when they failed. Do expect such failures!

Also, this goes without saying: you'll want to replace all parts that are worn out or damaged (clutch, brake discs, brake pads) but only if you have a reason to suspect they are worn out or damaged.

  • I have driven many used cars many hundreds of thousands of miles and had one radiator hose leak - fixed it with duct tape , filled the radiator with water from a ditch and drove 100 miles home. Had one V belt break - no problem the other 2 belts kept important stuff turning . Serpentine belt is more of a problem so I sometime carry a spare. – blacksmith37 Jun 20 '18 at 15:55
  • Thank you for that. Really easy to remember. yes, brakes need some work! not a big deal. It uses front and rear disks. Oil has been changed a couple of weeks ago. Transmission is smooth as butter, no jumpy gear changes. I have no idea if it is a spark ignition. I've heard something about this car having coils for something. I guess it is for ignition...? – Christopher Castro Jun 21 '18 at 1:49
  • I expect it has a coil for each cylinder ,so no high voltage wires to replace. Platinum plugs last over 100,000 miles ; I have gone to 120,000 and when I changed them there was no difference in the performance. – blacksmith37 Jun 21 '18 at 13:51
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No one's mentioned the brake lines. Flexible brake lines are under great stress, both from pressure and flexion, and at 20 years are likely to need replacement.

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I have 2 vehicles from this time frame. Both developed leaks in the brake lines to the rear. Both lines are now fixed. It is worth checking. Safety first!

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