“Classic” VAZ: how to maintain the most popular aftermarket car

While AVTOVAZ is striving for a bright future, and world concerns are introducing liter turbo engines and hybrids, most of the buyers of used cars in Russia choose VAZ. Because it’s cheap, practical, and still relevant.

We are talking about cars that only by the standards of developed countries belong to the category of “retro”, but in the former USSR these are still only yesterday taken out of production “Zhiguli”, although they were designed almost half a century ago. In fact, they remain quite functional to this day. Don’t believe me?

Here are their advantages that are difficult to dispute:

  • low cost;
  • available spare parts;
  • undemanding service;
  • undemanding to the quality of gasoline;
  • the opportunity for inexpensive conversion to gas fuel;
  • adaptability to bad roads.

Naturally, the living classics also have considerable, equally obvious disadvantages:

  • not prestigious;
  • not always decent dynamics and brakes;
  • increased noise level in the cabin;
  • fuel consumption is higher than modern classmates;
  • active and passive safety at the level of the 1970s;
  • lack of air conditioning, power steering and similar options.
Soviet Lada VAZ-2101 in good condition

“Always ready!”

Of course, the daily operation of a car of the “generation before last” requires not only a special attitude, but also some additional knowledge. Yes, on the one hand, a brand new Zhigul is not a pity to be crushed or scratched in the city crowd or thrown at night in front of the entrance. But on the other hand, the brand is one of the most stolen, because there is always a demand for “used” spare parts from disassembly. Therefore, a security system is needed, even of the simplest level: fortunately, serious professional hijackers with code grabbers still hunt for other cars. Oddly enough, but the repair of a VAZ of previous generations usually requires no more often than a second-hand foreign car of an average hand. Moreover, we are not talking about particularly careful operation – the rear-wheel drive “classic” is always ready to endure the hardships of domestic roads and off-road. In addition to a considerable margin of safety, the rear beam of the Zhiguli on five levers, coupled with a parallelogram independent front suspension, have the ability to gently absorb irregularities, providing good comfort even on bumpy roads. Actually, this is one of the most important differences between “kopecks”, “twos”, “threes”, “fours”, “fives”, “sixes” and “sevens” from later classmate cars. Whose simplified, stiff and shaky undercarriage is more suited to high-speed driving on flat roads than bumps.

The issue of service deserves a special discussion. Many service stations in large cities do not want to service VAZs of previous generations, especially when it comes to a car that has changed its second or third decade. So, in the absence of a “branded” dealer service, you will have to contact small private traders, and then the task is to find conscientious craftsmen who could be visited with any problem.


Knowledgeable people buy spare parts for old VAZs not in markets where a lot of Chinese surrogate is offered for inexpensive cars, but in more or less serious firms supplying branded parts. In addition to original Russian parts, there are even better quality imported products. After all, thanks to the fact that at one time “Lada” sold well in Europe and Asia, a lot of high-level spare parts are now produced for them abroad. Another inexhaustible source of quality spare parts is the Internet, where you can buy original Soviet-made components at affordable prices. One caveat – you need not run into the site of auto collectors and fans of antiques, because no matter how paradoxical it sounds, many of the actively exploited models of the same AVTOVAZ have already become objects of worship and collectibles. Pricing old parts is a tricky thing. For one, original spare parts from “Zhiguli” are just rubbish that occupies the garage, and those who know their price will “bend” the cost to arbitrary values. A price difference of 2-3 times is considered quite normal. The prices for spare parts are lower, and sometimes significantly lower than for modern models, not to mention the fact that some expensive components in old cars are simply missing structurally. Such as oxygen sensors, high pressure fuel filters and submersible electric petrol pumps, mandatory for injection engines.

There is one more circumstance that explains the survivability of the “rear-wheel drive” from Togliatti. An owner who deliberately (and not by coincidence) chose a Zhigul instead of a foreign car, as a rule, has the financial ability to buy high-quality spare parts, a reliable battery, “correct” rubber, good oil and other working fluids for his domestic “swallow”. Hence the reliability and durability.

As for the speed qualities, it is difficult for the cars of the project more than forty years ago to compete with the products of the modern automobile industry, but it is quite possible to keep in the city traffic. Except that on the weakest “Ladas” with 1.2- and 1.3-liter engines (64 hp and 69 hp), it is not recommended to abuse the movement in the left lane. The brakes on the vast majority of “Zhiguli” are quite suitable for a calm driving style in modern conditions. And only the drivers of “kopecks” of the first years of production should keep their distance from the cars in front “with a margin”, since they are not equipped with vacuum brake boosters.


It should be noted that when we mention cars of older generations, we do not mean worn-out copies that have been in the hands of several owners, repaired many times and mercilessly used as “trucks” or provincial taxis. First of all, we are talking about well-preserved copies of “Zhiguli” with low mileage, not much different from those that have just left the marketplace of the autoshop. There are a lot of them on the “secondary”. A decent “penny”, “two” and “three” must be looked for, with “sixes” a little easier, but “fours”, “fives” and “sevens” are offered in the widest range.

Thus, practical citizens, deprived of excessive ambitions, instead of a badly shabby foreign car of about 15 years old, can safely choose a vehicle twice as old – up to the “kopecks” of the 1970s, based on the same components and assemblies that held out on the conveyor until 2012 “sevens” and “fours”. In principle, this can also include the “eights” / “nines” of the 1980s (although there is a special conversation about them), but seemingly similar in essence “Tavrii” should be feared: good spare parts for them are inadequately expensive, since they exist only “in the original”. The situation with the comfortable and roomy “Moskvich” -2141 (aka “Aleko”) is even more complicated. In different periods of production, the quality of this car was very unstable, and it is all the more difficult to find a successful copy today. And good spare parts for them are even more difficult.

Forever and ever?

Alas, in the end, any old car has a moment when it makes no sense to invest money in maintaining its performance – the cost of repairs can come very close to the residual value of the vehicle. As a matter of fact, this judgment is valid only as long as “Zhiguli” has not passed into the category of cult rarities…