To say I know nothing about cars is a huge understatement.
On a scale of 1-10, I would probably score a miserable 3, and that’s only because I remember to put gas in the tank.
It’s not that I’m trying to be clueless, but if there were such a thing as a car gene, I didn’t get it.
I guess I feel the same way about cars that men feel about shoes and handbags; start saying words like Coach and Jimmy Choo and they begin looking flustered and confused.
Mention thermostats and fuel pumps, and I won’t even pretend to be listening. All I need to know is, when should I come back for the vehicle?
The thing is though, at the end of the day not knowing some of the basics about maintaining my car has probably done me more harm than good, as was the case recently when the mechanic opened up my coolant reservoir and almost blew a gasket –no pun intended, when he realized it was close to empty.
The shock on his face would have been priceless had the situation not been so dire. If there were a DFACS equivalent for car owners, my vehicle would have been taken away immediately, such was his level of frustration.
Instead, I was seriously reprimanded as he poured in almost an entire gallon of coolant, explaining to me all the complications my negligence could have caused. Mechanics, I’ve come to realize, are almost as ticked off with their customers for not taking care of their vehicles as dentists are with their patients for not flossing and taking care of their teeth.
In all seriousness, I know I need to do a much better job of taking care of my car. Sadly, I am not the only one. According to a report in Auto Blog done in 2014, women still lag behind men in car maintenance knowledge.
Only about half of the women they surveyed said they had ever changed a tire and a third said they wouldn’t know how if they had to.
Also in a recent study done by PEMCO Insurance, 74 percent of men had completed oil changes themselves as compared to only 30 percent of women.
Says Jon Osterberg, a PEMCO spokesperson, “Gender shouldn’t be a barrier to maintaining the car you drive, even if you prefer to hire roadside assistance for breakdowns, all drivers should know how to remedy basic disruptions like flat tires or dead batteries, so that you’re not stranded in unsafe circumstances.”
And I agree. If I do get stranded, I would like to have some basic idea of what’s going on so that firstly, I won’t panic unnecessarily, and secondly, I would be able to convey that information to whoever’s on their way to help me so they’re prepared (it may not always be AAA).
So we may never have to change a timing belt or fuel pump but there are some basics that we can do to help in the care and upkeep of our vehicles, saving on costly and unnecessary repairs in the long run.
I think that recording the dates and times on a calendar of the last time we did what, would be helpful, since most times it’s forgetting that leads to the negligence in the first place. We have good intentions, but those can easily go awry with the busyness of our daily schedules. Here are some others lessons I have learned:
- Pay heed to warning lights on the dashboard (ignoring them won’t make them go away. I’ve learned this the hard way.)
- Check your oil at least once a month. Change every 3000 miles.
- Change your air filter with your oil change.
- Check for worn brake pads.
- Know how to jumpstart your engine and keep jumper cables in your car.
- Check the pressure on your tires on a regular basis.
- Check your coolant level regularly.
These are merely a few but a good place to start. Nothing you haven’t heard a dozen times before, but putting them into practice would and should take some conscious effort.
The DCPL Library System carries many of the Chilton’s auto repair manuals as well as two very helpful reference databases on their website, Auto Repair Reference Center and Small Engine Reference Center, dedicated to vehicular repair and maintenance.
You can also check-out these titles:
Clueless about cars: an easy guide to car maintenance and repair– Lisa Christensen
Auto upkeep: basic car care, maintenance and repair– Michael E Gray and Linda E Gray
Dare to repair your car– Julie Sussman & Stephanie Glakas-Tenet
Popular mechanics complete car care manual– Leonello Calvetti