We love cars from the '90s. For us, they're the link between the raw, analog cars from the past and modern, digitized autos we have today. They're of the right age now to be called modern classics, but still, feel modern enough for the daily drive.
These days, these cars are celebrated. Just check out the biannual Legends of the '90s meets and you'll know what I'm on about. For car enthusiasts like us, it's just so satisfying to see a clean, unmolested example of a 1990 Corolla, or tastefully modded 1998 Civic.
It's easy to wax lyrical about them, but nostalgia is a double-edged sword. As it is, the youngest cars from the '90s are already 20 years old and there are a lot of things you have to watch out for. Yes, they're still somewhat analog, but that doesn't mean they're trouble-free. Here are just some of the most common problems you might encounter, or are going or will go through, with a car from two decades ago.
Yes, most of the cars from that era are rust proofed, but that doesn't mean that the vehicle's metal will never oxidize. Sure, it's much improved from cars from the '70s and '80s, but the youngest cars from the '90s are hitting 20 years old. In that time, the car's been exposed to elements and whatnot, and the rust protection on it eventually degrades.
Most common rust points? That would be the wheel arches where dirt, grime, and mud get stuck in the crevices. In fact, most of it will be in the underchassis, as not all owners give their cars underbody washes frequently. For those with '90s Civics or Cities, you may have encountered the same problem on the roof, but other cars can have the same problem as well. There's also the trunk when water gets in and pools in there.
To prevent it, just wash the car as often as you can and pay more attention underneath. The car may look shiny on the surface but there could be rot in other areas. And it doesn't matter what car you have. Be it a Toyota or a Mercedes-Benz.
Decades of facing harsh environments and climate changes will eventually take its toll on the car's paintwork, more so if the car is a daily runner. Sure, you can still see '90s cars running around with their coat gleaming, but that's down to meticulous care and attention. For the most part, these survivors from the past have their colors fading already, looking more matte than metallic.
To delay the aging process, at the very least, give the car a wax and detail once in a while. It won't stop the color from losing its original shade and shine, but it will keep your car's luster for a couple more years.
Again, this is an age-related problem, regardless of the car's brand. So why do cars from the past decades overheat now? It could be as simple as the rubber pipes becoming more brittle as the years go by, causing leaks. After all, years of hot and cold cycles will take its toll on the hoses. It could also be caused by the electrical system, and it no longer activates the fans. The worst-case scenario would be damage to the radiator (punctured, cracked, rusty, or blocked), water pump (pump failure), or both. If that's the case, it's time to buy new parts.
Another common problem of cars this age would be their air-conditioning. Compressors would wear down, refrigerant dries up, and belts could snap. Sometimes, leaks could also appear somewhere along the numerous pipes and hoses of an air-conditioning system. So even if you do top up on refrigerant, it will slowly leak out again over the coming months or years. Those are just some of the things that could happen to an air-conditioning system that's 20 years old, or even older.
While electrical systems have become a lot more complex in newer cars with numerous features, older cars do experience electrical problems as well. One of the most common causes of electrical gremlins in '90s vehicles is from old wiring. Over the years, the wires that run around the car can become brittle and sometimes be exposed to its copper core. Once that exposed wire touches another, it can cause grounds in the electrical system.
Aside from the brittle wiring, you might have to deal with additional non-manufacturer standard wiring as well. We're talking about aftermarket systems such as alarms, horns, and other accessories especially on cars which did have such features as standards. Odds are these systems weren't installed by a proper electrician, but rather some guy along Banawe.
Electrical systems should always be checked to ensure that all systems work properly. Otherwise, it can turn your precious '90s car into a big fire hazard.
Suspension and underchassis
The suspension and underchassis are possibly the most abused part of a vehicle. Both of them have to constantly endure all the bumps and elevation changes a car goes through as well as the pothole-filled roads of the country. Now, imagine suspension and underchassis components that have endured the same abuse for almost 20 years. Like all things, they also wear down, and they wear down faster than most parts, thanks to local road conditions.
If the underchassis is shot, you will most likely start hearing a lot of squeaks or 'kalampag' while driving. Aside from getting a headache from the irritating sounds, having worn underchassis parts will also lead to poor driving performance. The last thing you'd want to happen is for a tie-rod to break while driving at speed, leading to an accident.
All the rubber bits in your vehicle tends to lose their integrity after a good number of years, making it a lot more brittle. We've touched on this earlier with regard to rubber hoses in the air-conditioning system, which can leak and cause refrigerant to escape. This time, however, we're talking about rubber trim you'll find on the door, windows, and trunk.
After 20 years of use and abuse, these will already be worlds apart from their condition as a brand new vehicle. If you find the inside of your vehicle leaking water, it's probably from the worn-out rubber strips which keep the inside of your car weather sealed. While it may be hard to source these parts brand new, it would be best to have the rubber parts inside your car replaced to give occupants a more comfortable ride. That's unless you want them to experience getting rained in on.