Motor vehicles, particularly cars are interesting to me. Although pickups, SUVs, and truck-like “crossovers” are in vogue now, automobiles are the vehicles I most relate to. I grew up in family that paid careful attention to the care and maintenance of their cars. Both grandfathers, most of my uncles, my father, and my brother enjoyed spending time tinkering underneath the hoods of their cars. I also like to do the same but less so these days.
I cut my shade tree mechanic’s teeth as a young boy by “helping” dad perform minor tune-ups and oil changes on his Buick. As a teen, I tinkered with my Camaro’s engine and drivetrain. It wasn’t until I bought my first brand-new car that I had to learn how to tear down and do major adjustments and repairs. The car was one of the most infamous Chevrolets of all time–a Vega Kammback wagon. The car was a lemon from the day I picked it up from the dealership.
The first time I ever had to adjust the engine valves was my first major mechanical undertaking. While the engine was torn down, I replaced the coolant pump and the timing belt. The car’s carburator eventually needed rebuilding–twice. One summer, I replaced all four shock absorbers. The only professional replacement the car recieved was a new clutch. The first one wore out with regular driving in hilly San Francisco.
It was a bittersweet day when I finally traded the Vega for a Honda Civic. The Civic required much less attention and was not at all fidgety. The only major work I performed was to replace the brake pads on all four brakes.
Fast forward to 2001. I purchased a low mileage, used Toyota Camry. It’s the car I still drive daily. It’s not flashy, but it’s the most reliable car I’ve ever driven. It’s simple to maintain and has never had mechanical problems. There have been two professional replacements, not counting new sets of tires–a new starter and a new clutch. The rest of the routine maintenance has been taken care of by myself.
To help ensure the longest service from one’s vehicle, I recommend following the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule to the “T”. The chart is found inside the owner’s manual. If the manual has been lost, you can find the schedule for your vehicle on the Internet through a simple search.
If you want a more hands-on experience, I recommend purchasing the shop or mechanic’s manual for your particular year, make, and model of vehicle. You can also find this information on the Internet. Even if you have no desire to work on your own vehicle, it pays to have a basic understanding of the important vehicle componants. Having some basic knowledge helps you to be partners with your mechanic. (It’s best not to have an adversarial relationship with the people who maintain your vehicle.)
Although today’s motor vehicles are quite complex, there are still a few owner-doable tasks we can do: make sure to have the motor oil changed according to schedule or more frequently; check and refill the other under-hood fluids with the correct liquids; examine the battery on a regular basis; check the tires for wear and damage; and visually check all of the exterior lights from time to time.
To further extend the life and appearance of your vehicle, wash or have it washed regularly. Apply a “wax” finish that is appropriate for the paint and clearcoat on your vehicle. I do this once a year. It goes without saying that keeping the interior clean and uncluttered not only makes the driving experience more pleasant, it’s also an important safety factor. Clutter and trash can become projectiles in the event of a panic stop or a collision. Finally, if possible, garage your vehicle. Parking the car out of the harsh elements will extend the vehicle’s appearance and overall longevity.
If you drive a vehicle, it’s important to properly and regularly care for it. If car maintenance is not your thing, be sure to hire a dependable, proficient mechanics’ shop to do so. A well-maintained car provides peace of mind plus an extra margin of safety.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the writer, Amit Kalantri. “Take care of your car in the garage, and the car will take care of you on the road.”