Defensive Driving Tip 3
Take Care of Your Vehicle
and It Will Take Care of You
Cars and trucks are wonderful things. They get us to where we need to go at speeds undreamt of one hundred years ago. They’re almost like magic.
Unfortunately, motor vehicles are not magical and must be maintained so that you can get to where you need to go with ease and without difficulty. How many times have you put off that oil change or filling your radiator with coolant, or putting air in your tires only to have your vehicle break down on the side of the road? You pull off to the side of the road, beat your steering wheel and curse everything from the government to the automobile industry all to no avail, because your car is still sitting on the side of the road and isn’t going to move no matter how many times you kick it or how many names you call it.
Knowing how to maintain your vehicle is just as important as knowing how to drive one.
There was a time when only a mechanic knew anything about maintaining a vehicle, but it’s much easy nowadays, because modern vehicles come with an owner’s manual. (It’s that book in your glove compartment that always gets in your way when you’re looking for your insurance…or a stick of gum or an address that you wrote down on a napkin)
Maintaining your vehicle is the
single most important part of owning a car.
What good is buying a new stereo/cd player,
or new hubcaps, or a personalized license plate,
or a paint job if your car isn’t going anywhere?
“But I don’t know anything about cars!,” you say. You don’t have to know anything about cars to keep them maintained. Take it to someone who does know about cars. That’s what they’re there for!
“But they might try to rip me off!”
Well, yes, some might. If that’s what you’re worried about, then take your car to a reputable or popular car service chain. Don’t let your car go to the dogs because you’re afraid of getting ripped off, because your car doesn’t know the difference and will quit on you faster than you can count to one.
Oil changes are a basic necessity for your car. You simply take your car to a Jiffy Lube or a Quick Lube or any other popular franchise that primarily performs oil changes. Most cars need their oil changed every 3000-5000 miles. (Look in your owner’s manual if your not sure) Most of these places don’t just change your oil, they check the air filter, coolant, wiper fluid, spark plugs, and other necessities, so you/they are killing several birds with one stone. (Pardon the metaphor)
After they are done, they put a sticker on your windshield, which gives you the mileage your car should be at when it’s time for the next one. Oil changes are not expensive unless you have to replace things like the air filter, etc., and even then, most of the things that need to be replaced aren’t generally that expensive.
Again, if you’re afraid of getting ripped off, take your car to a reputableable establishment.
It’s the tires that provide your vehicle contact with the road surface, which means they are also the source of your traction. Without traction, you can’t steer or control your speed and your brakes won’t stop you when you need them to.
Tires are one of the primary bits of safety equipment on any vehicle, but they can also be one of the most vulnerable.
Tires leak naturally, so they need regular checking. Most people believe that you simply look at them and if they look low, you put some air in them. Not true. Overinflated or underinflated tires wear out sooner. Again, check your owner’s manual and find out how much air pressure your tires take, buy yourself a small tires gauge for a few dollars, and use the gage when you air up your tire(s). If you find that you’ve put too much air in them, simply put your finger on the tire stem and push. You’ll hear a familiar hiss and this will expel air from the tire, then try again. Do this until your tires meet the air requirements. This process might take all of five minutes. (Beats the heck out of changing a flat!)
Drivers should also check to make sure that the spare tire is aired up and that they have a proper jack. You might want to buy a few cans of tire sealant such as Fix-a-Flat in case you walk out to your car in case of slow leaks. There’s no worse feeling than to walk out to your car and find that you have a flat tire.
(I suppose two or more flat tires would be worse, but you get the picture.)
A car is a machine and machines need maintenance to keep them working. You should get a tune up at least once a year. (Sometimes twice a year for older cars) Tune ups can be major or minor depending on what needs to be serviced on your car. Clogged fuel injectors, dirty air filters, corroded spark plugs will decrease your car’s performance. You’ll have a decrease in gas mileage, loss of power, engine knocking, engine stalling when stopped, and your service light will continue to stay on.
As stated before, take your car to a reputable place for car maintenance. If you go somewhere because their price is twice as low as most other places, the quality of work may also be twice as low. If you have a friend or know someone who is good with car maintenance and fancies themselves a “shade tree mechanic” make sure you trust them or you might find your car in worse shape than when you brought it to them.
Always keep your car in proper working order. Cars can last years or decades. If you don’t have the money to buy a new car every other year, then spend a little money to make sure that the one you have lasts a long time.
(If you do have that much money, can we talk about a loan?)