It’s Car Care Month

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.

This photo was shot on my car’s 22nd “birthday” last year

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.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
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8 Responses to It’s Car Care Month

  1. Marlapaige says:

    Your car is the same age as mine! You are the first person that has had a car that old – or even close to. Very impressive. I am mechanically inclined – at least compared to my family. I have successfully exchanged my busted up tires for that pathetic donut in my trunk multiple times, jumped my car (well I have the cables, the good Samaritan has to hook them up because I’m terrified I will electrocute myself like in the cartoons), I have added oil because I couldn’t afford to get an oil change, I have added liquid to every single thingiemajig under my hood, and I have successfully punched several things that got jammed and made them work again. In my family, these talents basically qualify me for mechanic of the year. I, myself, come from a family that seem to be morally opposed to taking care of their cars. My dad admits to driving around for about six months in a car with the light on the dashboard that read “Oil Press”. He couldn’t figure out what it meant, and couldn’t find one at the store, so he ignored it (this was pre-internet). He realized it was a warning for low oil pressure…after he blew the car up. I also push things to the limit. Because of my make and model, only the dealership ever has what is needed to fix anything (and now even they are going to have to head to the scrap yard to find parts as my car no longer exists in their line and hasn’t for over a decade – new parts no longer exist because I have used all of the extras). Because every minor repair is so expensive, I ignore them until I have too many to ignore or my car is suddenly not running properly. However, I admit to being exceptionally picky to how it runs… in 21 years, I still keep my car running as if it just came off the showroom floor. If it so much as feels a teensy bit off I’m dragging it’s trunk to the dealership and telling them insane things like “it’s kinda blurby”. Thank G-d the woman who takes care of me has taken care of me for over a decade. She will write my nonsense down but sort of translate it for the mechanic, who also knows me and understands that “blurby” is Marla Speak for “fix whateverr is making it feel not perfect.” The repairs always cost an arm and a leg, but they give my baby back without the issues it was having. They also do their best to save me money – a new key would cost me $500 USD – just a new key. The remote is a separate $450. Yeah right! Nearly a thousand dollars for new ones. Inexplicably, my car key leapt off my keychain nearly a decade ago at my parent’s house and someone parked their car on it. My cousin found it all scrunched and crunched up. It still worked though, but it kept falling apart. I used scotch tape to keep it together, and kept reapplying weekly (never removing the previous tape because it took forever to do that). I’ll never forget: I took it in for running “wobbly” and I got my car back and my key had been magically repaired with electrical tape – and all of the scotch tape had been carefully removed. Every time I bring it in, they remove the old tape and add new tape, one time silently replacing the battery (which I knew was dead but didn’t mention) and didn’t charge me for it (likely nine thousand dollars for that battery if they did charge me). I have never had a home with a garage, so my car has dealt with everything from nearly 100 degree heat beating down on it to 10 degrees and buried in snow. Hail, rain, everything. It has survived multiple car accidents, including being rear-ended at about 40 mph while at a stand-still (the only damage was the emblem of the other car was dug into my bumper, which otherwise was pristine). Yes, Bee (my car) has temper tantrums, although I rarely know what I did to cause them. About three weeks ago she decided she wanted to show me her “check engine” light. She refused to turn it off despite multiple conversations about how I did nothing wrong. She was very angry at me and kept it on, but there was absolutely no change in how she drove. I actually called the dealership to make an appointment and when I was on hold she was finished with her obnoxious tantrum and turned the light off. I hung up. The light has been off since. In the course of our friendship, she has gotten mad like that several times. She is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum as well… she doesn’t like a cold start and spits and spurts for about a block, but loathes being in idle and puts the check engine light on within two minutes until I start driving. She doesn’t like to rush but she hates driving slow (she’s happiest at incredibly stupid speeds and she handles better than a stunt vehicle but gets antsy when it’s just a straight road and there’s just a calm drive). I admit it: I’m not fascinated with cars, but my baby is my baby and we’ll be together until the day one of us dies. Based on her make and her life so far, she’ll probably outlive my entire family’s bloodline, but she’ll keep getting mad and keep driving me crazy for the rest of our lives. In a way, I’m married to my her… she was around before my marriage and she’s still around after it. She’s one of the longest relationships I’ve had with anyone not related to me – and even some of those. I have a few friends older than her, and maybe a pair of really ratty socks, but that’s it. She’s my forever. And I have no idea why I felt the need to write all of this, but here it is šŸ™‚

  2. Hey there. Iā€™m impressed by your many skills. Most people, including me, have far fewer. When it cones to car repairs, I have almost none.

  3. I envy your mechanical abilities and successes. I had a ’73 Vega. It only lasted six years before I traded it in. Your Camry, 2000 I think, looks fantastic. You’ve taken great care of your vehicle.

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