MOTORISTS are hanging on to their cars longer -- and the wear and tear is showing.
The Automobile Association, which is called out to around 140,000 breakdowns a year, said it has noticed "a significant increase" in breakdowns from its members driving older cars over the past three years.
Using 2006 registered cars as a benchmark during 2010, there was a 15pc increase in breakdown callouts to four-year-old vehicles since the end of 2007.
"It's at about the four-year- old mark, depending of course on the car's annual mileage rate, the first signs of wear and tear will appear on a car," said Noel Keogh, head of AA Rescue.
The EU has introduced mandatory car testing right across the members states for cars of four years old for safety and environmental reasons.
After four years, suspension issues with a car's wishbones, bushings, anti-roll bars and drop links are likely to occur, the AA says.
Worn tyres are also often a problem on four-year-old cars.
While a high performance car might get as little as 8,000km from a set of tyres, it's likely that a family saloon doing 12,500km a year will need new tyres after four years.
"Motorists should check their tyre depth regularly," Mr Keogh said. "The legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm in Ireland but, in fact, that is too low."
The AA recommends changing a tyre when the tread depth is down to 3mm. Tyres should also be correctly inflated.
On average, 16pc of the call outs to four-year-old cars concerned punctures, with the other most common faults being faulty or worn out batteries, followed by alternator, engine and clutch related defects.
The review also found wear affects a vehicle's breaking system.
Most four-year-old cars serviced this year as part of a new on-the-spot servicing scheme required at least one brake pad or discs to be replaced.
The AA is now urging drivers, particularly those used to driving new models, to "stay on top" of their recommended car servicing schedule and react to changes in their car's performance such as reduced braking power or poor vehicle handling.