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READERS WHO HAVE shopped for a second-
hand vehicle have probably heard about the
supposed benefits of a ‘country car’. The idea
is that, even though a country car might have
higher mileage, its engine will have less wear
and tear because it has rarely been in stop/
start traffic and its body will be less prone to
rust because it has never been near the sea.
Go back 30 or 40 years and you’ll find some evidence to
support these claims. Short trips, where the engine never
reached optimum operating temperature, typified the routine
of many city cars, whereas a country car was often up and
running at 100km/h for long periods, reducing cold-start wear.
Another factor was the imprecise way fuel was metered. Fuel
injectors, which are a more precise means of delivering petrol
into the engine, replaced carburettors in the late 1980s. By
comparison, the carburettor was rudimentary and excess fuel
often found its way into the engine, diluting engine oil and
hastening engine wear.
Other advances in engine technology, metallurgy, fuel
quality and engine oil have also negated many of these factors.
Today’s engines get to operating temperature much faster and
many have electric water pumps and cooling fans that only
operate when the desired temperature is reached.
Today’s engines are also designed more precisely, and oils
are far better at protecting components for longer periods.
The internals of an engine that are subjected to wear (pistons,
piston rings, bearings and valves) are manufactured from
superior materials and, increasingly, cylinder bores are
sprayed with special coatings to reduce friction and wear.
Rust was also the bane of the used car and another reason a
country car was such an attractive option. Far from the sea’s
corrosive mist and often residing in hotter and drier climates,
country cars were seen as less susceptible to rust. But modern
construction techniques, coated metals and better windscreen
sealants have improved a vehicle’s resistance to rust and many
brands offer a 10-year body perforation (rust) warranty.
Today’s used cars are more likely to fall apart from general
wear and tear – especially the interior trims and plastics –
before the engine fails or the body rusts away. However, it’s
still important to check for split weather seals, cracks in light
lenses and dampness under the carpet in the luggage area.
No matter where you purchase your vehicle, always
remember to check its service history and don’t just take the
seller’s word for it. Check the windscreen for a lubrication
sticker and the owner’s handbook for stamped servicing
records. Even the best-engineered vehicle won’t last if it hasn’t
been serviced regularly and correctly.
Better by a country mile?
ADVICE FOR YOUR LIFE ON THE ROAD
Tim Pomroy asks if there really are benefits to buying a used country car over a city one
CAN YOU PASS THE TEST?
How good is your road knowledge?
Answer these three sample questions
to find out (solutions below):
1. In good conditions, when driving
behind any vehicle at any speed,
a) Drive as close as possible to the
vehicle in front.
b) Stay at least three seconds behind the
vehicle in front of you.
c) Stay at least one
second behind the
vehicle in front of you.
2. At night you should:
a) Drive closer to the vehicle in
front so they can see you better.
b) Leave a longer gap behind the
vehicle in front.
c) Use your hazard lights when
overtaking another vehicle.
3. Are you permitted to make
a U-turn at traffic lights?
a) Yes, at all times.
b) No, unless there’s a ‘U -turn permitted’
sign at the intersection.
c) Yes, if there’s no danger of colliding with
ANSWERS: 1. B; 2. B; 3. B
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