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?
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...
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'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.
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.
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!