Car Talk: Age, not just wear and tear, should factor into replacing parts

Dear Car Talk:

I came across a 1999 Corvette with less than 5,000 miles. It’s been sitting in a garage and owned by a divorcee. It is immaculate. If I were to buy this beauty, what would you suggest be my priority?

The tires are Goodyear run flats. With 24 years on the car, should they be replaced? Hoses and belts are also a concern. They show no signs of deterioration, but I assume they’re the same age.

Any suggestions from you would be greatly appreciated. — Bruce

I think your first priority should be to repaint it, so the guy who lost it in his divorce doesn’t come after you, Bruce. After that, I’d say all of the above.

Depending on who you ask, tires should be replaced every six to 10 years due to degradation of the rubber, even if there’s still tread left. The actual life of a tire can depend on climate and storage conditions.

So, if these Corvette tires were kept in a cool, dark garage — instead of, say, outdoors in Tucson — you might be OK at the latter end of that time frame. But you’re already one bar-mitzvah past the maximum limit, so don’t mess around. Replace these tires.

The same is probably true of the belts and hoses. Although the garage storage helps, they’re also probably degraded and unreliable.

I’d also have a mechanic check all the other rubberized parts of the car, like suspension bushings and dust covers for the tie rod ends and ball joints. That stuff may be fine, but it should be looked at.

Same with the brakes. I’m guessing the brake lines are fine, unless the car was stored near the ocean. But the calipers, for instance, could be seized from sitting so long, and you want to know that before you head out on a mountain road. Then you want to change all the fluids: oil and filter, brake fluid, transmission fluid, coolant.

And then, drive it. If there’s anything else that’s wrong — like a family of Corvette-based mice with open shirts and gold chains living in the air cleaner, you’ll figure it out. And if a guy comes up to you around town and says, hey, where’d you get that Corvette? Tell him it was a graduation present from dental school.

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