Note: If you live in snow country, this doesn’t apply to your winter beater. Same goes for beloved project cars.
We’ve all seen them. Beaters. Those broken-down, jacked-up cars dying of neglect. Of course, not all old cars are beaters. I’ve seen plenty of beaters less than five years old. I’ve driven pristine cars that are old enough to buy booze.
Project cars that are in process can look a little rough around the edges during restoration.
Are you driving a beater? Here are some sure signs:
Deliberate neglect: I’m not talking about hitting a financial dry spell and putting off needed maintenance and repairs in order to stay fed and housed…we’ve all been there. Hall pass.
I’m talking about misplaced priorities: shelling out for after-market appearance toys but balking at paying for an oil change or scheduled service. Those plastic chrome rims are going to look sweet as your car is hauled away by Triple A for the fifth time.
I used to work with a guy who put off some needed emissions work on his car so he could buy expensive after-market mods instead. The car was belching a rainbow of oddly-colored exhaust, but hey, it had those cheesy mods. I’d never seen a late-model Toyota beater in the wild before that.
Trashing the interior: I shouldn’t complain, but I will. The upholstery of my borrowed car had a film of some grimy substance of questionable origins. Sand and tanning lotion residue were everywhere. Food wrappers. Two semi-full soda bottles that should have been flung a week ago. A gym shirt that I swear was moving under its own power.
Things had been that way in that car for a long time.
Part of me wanted to hurl and the other part of me wanted to take the poor car to a car wash and then detail the interior myself. If I wasn’t staring down the barrel of a one-hour turnaround I would have done just that.
Deliberately putting off needed body or paint work: If you’re broke, once again you get a hall pass. If you’re putting off that body work or paint job because you’d rather spend the money on rims or other after-market treats, you’re driving a beater.
Paint and body components help maintain the car’s appearance and structural integrity and to protect it from the elements.
The air where I live is a tasty combo of smog and sea air that will eat paint and rust out exposed parts so quickly that most auto techs in the area can tell where we live just by the state of our car’s paint and wiring.
A beater won’t stand a chance here. If the year-round sun doesn’t claim it first, the salt air and smog will.
Neglecting safety features: Deactivated airbags, broken seat belts, non-existent or non-working child seat fasteners. Your car’s not only a beater, it’s dangerous. Fix it or replace it now. Seriously.
With extra cash and some elbow grease you can restore your car from a sad beater to a well-maintained and well-oiled machine.
First order of business: ditch those plastic wannabe chrome rims.
There. All better.