When you want to buy a new car, what is the most important thing you should look for? One survey found that reliability was the number one factor for three-quarters of American participants, and safety was the second factor.
Reliability will definitely come first because drivers want peace of mind first, and they also want to be sure that the car they’re investing so much money in can serve them for many years and not leave them stranded in the middle of the road.
However, buyers may not know exactly what goes into making a reliable car, as it must contain mainly solid components. There are many ways to manufacture engines, transmissions, and brakes, but some methods have proven to be more effective and sustainable than others.
We’ll go over some of the features to think about when looking for a new car.
1. Engines: timing belt or timing chain
Every internal combustion engine requires something known as a timing system that maintains perfect synchronization between the pistons and valve springs. You probably don’t think much about it, but the timing system is one of the most important components in your car, and any quick error will cause pistons and valves to hit each other inside the engine block and cause costly damage.
Most engines use either a timing chain or a belt that wraps around gears connected to the crank and camshafts. Belts and chains are responsible for synchronizing everything, but they have slightly different properties.
Timing belts are made of steel-reinforced rubber and by their nature wear out, they should usually be replaced every 96,561 to 160,934 km depending on the vehicle model.
It’s an expensive process, as a mechanic must remove a lot of components to access the timing system and a belt replacement can cost up to $1,000.
Timing chains, on the other hand, are made of all metal and usually last the life of the engine. That’s why a chain drive can save thousands of dollars over several years of use. But the question is, why did manufacturers start using belts, and not chains?
The main reason is engine noise, rubber belts run quieter compared to louder chains, which helps eliminate noise in the cabin. Nowadays, car manufacturers have found ways to make chains less noisy, so timing chains are gaining popularity thanks to their reliability advantage.
Whether you use belts or chains, don’t forget to change the oil regularly and run checks on the car to make sure the system continues to run smoothly. Old oil can allow contaminants to settle in the timing case and lead to premature wear.
2. Transmission: manual, automatic, or CVT variable
The transmission is one of the most mechanically complex components in any vehicle and must withstand a lot of stress over the entire distance traveled. The manual transmission is one of the oldest gearbox designs and is a proven technology.
A manual transmission can often last the vehicle’s life thanks to regular maintenance. But we may need to replace his clutch pad eventually which costs a few hundred dollars.
The gearbox also uses parts to synchronize (called synchromesh or synchros) to keep the transmission engaged smoothly. We may need to replace these parts after several years or the transmission may become heavy and slip out of gear, and these parts are worth up to $1,000.
Most cars currently use a torque converter automatic transmission, and it has a long service life. Automatic gearboxes are made with heavy steel components and often last hundreds of thousands of kilometers. To ensure this, it is important to keep up with regular checks and automatic transmission fluid changes, in order to keep the machinery free of contaminants.
On the other hand, these cars are expensive to manufacture and rebuild, which can lead to thousands of dollars in repair bills if the transmission eventually fails.
Currently, we have continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) in a lot of new cars. It is a type of automatic transmission that costs less. This type is more efficient, as it doesn’t force you to change gears at all.
The vehicle in this type also uses a rubber belt that connects the engine side and the shaft side of the transmission, like the timing belt mentioned earlier. This belt may also be the weakest link in the system, as it can wear out more quickly than in older transmission designs.
Variable transmissions also require fluid changes more often. Although cheaper to manufacture, rebuilding a CVT can cost thousands of dollars. So, in terms of reliability, the CVT and automatic transmission are almost the same, but the CVT requires more maintenance.
Electric and hybrid cars are becoming increasingly popular in the new car market, mostly thanks to their superior fuel efficiency. It also has many reliability advantages when compared to conventional engines.
Most hybrid and electric cars today come equipped with something called a regenerative braking system. This system turns the electric motors in reverse while decelerating or going downhill. The friction generated by the engine slows the car, returning energy to the battery. As a result, more savings in electrical energy are consumed.
Vehicles equipped with regenerative braking systems also have standard mechanical backup brakes. However, they should only be used at the last moments of a stop, or during severe emergency braking. As a result, brake pads and discs may last longer (about 45,000 km vs. 24,140 km in standard cars). Keeping in mind that a brake replacement can cost up to $1,000 with parts and labor. This is a significant saving in electric cars.
Electric cars also require very little fluid replacement during use, because they don’t require motor oil or coolant. The electric steering and braking systems operate without lubrication.
It is likely that the only fluid that needs to be changed is transmission oil, and this will save a lot of time and money.
We emphasize here that the reliability advantage is only relevant to electric vehicles. Since hybrid vehicles also use internal combustion engines, the traditional requirements remain.
Gas engines have an additional advantage over electric cars, as they do not need expensive lithium-ion batteries. These power cells degrade over hundreds of charge cycles and need to be replaced. Batteries are often guaranteed for up to eight years and 160,934 kilometers
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However, out-of-warranty battery replacement will result in increased costs. Battery replacement and labor costs can be more than $5,000 for small battery electric and hybrid cars, with a maximum of $10,000 for long-range electric cars.
before you buy your new car
When you’re at a dealership or sending emails to a seller, don’t be afraid to ask questions about the engine components of the car you intend to buy. A knowledgeable salesperson should be able to tell you if the car has a timing chain, a CVT or a regenerative braking system. Also, look up the specs for the model online. If a common problem arises with a particular component, you will likely follow other people’s opinions about it, especially if the car is several years old, as you may find some opinions about its weak points. Sites like Kelley Blue Book, Consumer Reports, and JD Power provide experts to help you with your car shopping.
Finally, this news…
According to 2021 Consumer Reports, the all-electric Nissan Leaf is one of the cheapest cars with over 10 years of service.
Other high marks were the Focus and Vista from Ford, the Soul from Kia, the Fit from Honda, and the Camry, Corolla and Prius from Toyota. On the other hand, BMW, Mercedes, Subaru and Acura models may be more expensive to maintain during the same period.