The Golden Rules of Owning an Aston Martin

Just to be clear, these aren’t anything official. They’re a set of guidelines that I have and recommend to anyone that has an Aston Martin or is thinking of getting one.

Safety first, always

There's a reason I put disclaimers on every single DIY guide and warn people constantly to put safety first: it only takes one accident. If your car doesn't fall off jack stands or a car lift 99% of the time, great. But that 1 time out of a hundred that you work on it can be catastrophic - a car falling on you can easily kill you. If you're not under it, you're still looking at very costly damages plus having to get it back up off the ground. Safety is no joke and you must not risk it whatsoever.

Safety also applies to the parts you're using. Old tires, for example, can literally fall apart while you drive. Having a blow-out on the highway can be serious so, again, safety is paramount in everything you do.

You Have to drive the car

"Garage rot" is what I call the damage done to a vehicle and its components when the car sits for long periods of time. It's easy to prevent garage rot: all you have to do is drive the car once in a while. Some people hate putting miles on their cars. That's fine but you need to be smart about it. Let's use some round numbers to make things simple. Say you only drive your Aston 600 miles per year. It's far better to do a monthly 50-mile drive than it is to do 600 miles in a day or two and then let the car sit immobile for the rest of the year. The longer the time between drives, the worse it is for your car.

For those of you asking, "Does it really matter?" the answer is absolutely yes. A very common complaint I get from people is that the struts in their suspension are leaking, almost always followed with, "But I barely drive my car." I then have to correct that statement: "It's because you barely drive your car."

There are a lot of rubber components in a car that need to move to prevent drying out. Once they dry out, they can no longer maintain a seal or continue being flexible. The main areas of concern are generally the seals in the struts around the car - the suspension struts and the struts that hold open the hood, doors, and trunk - and the tires. The suspension struts contain fluid that will leak when the seals dry out and that will negatively affect your ride quality and handling. The other struts have air in them that can also leak. If you've never had your hood or trunk lid fall on your head, you may not think these are a safety issue. If you have had your hood or trunk lid fall on your head, you know how badly you can get hurt when the struts give out. The hood, door, and trunk struts do wear out over time so you should plan to replace them every 5-8 years. I think lack of use will also accelerate that and reduce their lifespans.

In addition to the various struts having issues, tires can get flat spots when a car sits for too long. The flat spots will causes a rough ride quality and reduce handling capabilities. Once a tire has a flat spot, it's best to replace it right away. If you let your car sit long enough to get flat spots on your tires, all of the tires should be replaced.

age is as important as miles

Again with the tires! The lifespan of a tire is measured in two ways: age and usage. Some people may think they last for x-number of miles, but that's not accurate. A tire driven gently will last for far more miles than a tire driven during hard track days. So don't think a tire will last a certain number of miles. Rather, expect the tire to last for a certain length of time based on usage. Aside from miles, the age-based lifespan for a tire is typically 5 years. If you still have tons of tread life left but your tires are over 5 years old, you should replace them with new ones.

Don't think this is a real concern? It is. Here's what the tires looked like on my red '07 V8 Vantage when I bought it.

Old tire.jpeg

Those huge cracks are the tires literally coming apart due to age.

The concept holds true with all the maintenance items for your Aston Martin. Each service life is based on "years or miles" in 1-year and 10,000-mile increments, engine oil is every year or 10,000 miles, engine air intake filters are every 2 years or 20,000 miles, gear oil (transmission fluid) is ever 4 years or 40,000 miles, and so on. As with the other Golden Rules there are things to be done regardless of whether or not you drive your car much.

Routine maintenance items include rubber, paper, or fluid that degrades over time. Take the engine oil filter, for example. The filtration medium inside the filter is paper. That paper gets subjected to oil constantly - it sits in cold oil when not in use and has hot oil forced through it while the engine is running, not to mention the heat cycling itself. The key thing to remember about maintenance is that it's preventative - the entire point of doing maintenance is to prevent damage from happening to items that wear out from time and usage. Skipping maintenance increases the chance of damage to your car and its components.

Resale also figures into this. A car with regular service will be much easier to sell and command a higher price than a car with missing or irregular service intervals.

Avoid reversing uphill at all costs

Most people know that the clutch is the Achilles heel of a modern Aston Martin. The manual transmission and the Sportshift (also called "ASM") transmissions are both traditional manual transmissions with a clutch (the Sportshift uses robotized shifting but is still a manual transmission). There was a batch of defective clutches a long, long time ago that did contribute to the general understanding of the clutch "problem" but the main issue that has persisted throughout the life of the last-generation Vantage is that a lot of people abuse the clutch. This abuse is exacerbated drastically in one specific situation: reversing uphill.

The root of the problem is that reverse gear is nearly as tall as 2nd gear. Imagine starting out in 2nd gear instead of 1st. Now imagine that uphill. Reverse is nearly as difficult and since we generally reverse for very short distances, it's extremely hard on the clutch. The bottom line is that you should avoid reversing uphill and only do it when you have no other options available.

Do not check your oil if you don't know how

This isn't meant to sound condescending but I'm saying it bluntly because it's important. The V8 Vantage has a dry sump oil system that holds oil in an oil reservoir rather than an oil pan. Failure to check the oil using the right procedure will result in overfilling the oil reservoir which can lead to engine damage.

There was a completely different problem with the early DB9 that's somewhat related: the dipstick wasn't the right length. Basically, the dipstick was too long so it would go down deeper than it should have and would say there's more oil in the engine than there actual was. This led to oil starvation and ruined some engines a long while back. The problem was fixed and recalls done to replace the dipsticks, but it's still a good idea to make sure you have the correct one if you haven't done so already.