These days, cars are totally marvels of creation, fashion and engineering. Complex, yet simple. Weirdly beautiful and sometimes eye-gougingly expensive. Whether you paid a king’s ransom for it, stole it from the White House on a dare or inherited it from your extra-miserly great grandfather is not my business. As long as we are on good terms anyway. My business is instead with giving you some pointers on how to treat your car right, like a lady.
I managed to lay off the booze and hard-living long enough to scrape up some properly awesome car maintenance tips you need to adhere to that will ensure your ride lives to a proper old age. Unless of course, you desire that your local mechanic gets richer than the Sultan of Brunei off you, while ceaselessly fixing your car as it falls apart like it was put together with a thin prayer and some chewing gum. And your bank account sympathetically haemorrhages its way to a particularly gruesome stroke.
Therefore, listen and listen well to these battle-proven and mother-in-law approved car advice tricks and tips and you will practically feel your car weep with relief and grunt it’s heartfelt thanks.
READ THE OWNER’S MANUAL:
Owner’s manual? Hope you know what that is. If you don’t, then you deserve to be repeatedly run over by an overloaded Mack truck! If your ride is as new as a newborn’s soft bottom, then it definitely came with an owner’s manual. Which in case you are still reaching for a dictionary is a colourfully illustrated booklet that says in black and white just what you ought to do to make it shake and shimmer it’s hunky body with glee when you pour on the power or savagely twist the wheel.
If your car was bought used, you can always download an owner’s manual off the web or steal it from someone else who bought his new. Don’t worry, you won’t get cursed and drop dead if you do. And if you do get arrested for theft, be a dear and blame it on me.
Still, it’s no good owning an owner’s manual if you never read it or just skimmed through it like it was a sob letter from that your ex, whom you bought a planet for, yet dumped you for the local alcoholic. So, be a good boy/girl and read the manual. Then re-read it again and again till you can chant the entire contents chapter and verse in your dream, while being chased by a machete-wielding and masked weirdo.
Then, once the manual's contents are firmly locked into your iron skull, apply what it says to your car and treat it exactly as specified. No more or less. Therefore, even if the manual states that you should periodically take your car on a date to the best restaurants in your area and spoon-feed it champagne and baked potatoes, don’t argue and just do that. Else, you are looking at some very expensive repairs in the future as your car is bound to get all naughty on you. And as well, get you, your wallet and bank account into all sorts of avoidable trouble and steep expenses.
DON’T IGNORE WARNING LIGHTS:
Your car warning lights are there for a good reason and are not merely colourful decorations that go blink blink on a whim. Apart from also reminding you of Christmastime when glowingly pretty in the dark.
Get to think of them as a particularly excellent referee in a football game who is either cautioning a player -YOU- or sending him/her off to oblivion and disgrace.
Get familiar with them, learn to pay proper heed to what they are saying and treat them with properly grave respect. I mean the sort you normally reserve for your local and much-beloved football club when they are on a long winning streak.
I get that you are not on the best of terms with your credit card and that your bank account has since disowned you as being totally shiftless and a confirmed heart-breaker. But that doesn’t give you the right to try to maintain your car on a particularly threadbare and shoestring budget.
Sure, you can do some car maintenance all by your lonesome, but there are lots of other tricksy stuff that needs the careful and loving attention only an expert can give. Therefore, know when you are totally out of your depth and go get a professional. Kidnap one at needlepoint if you have to. Else, you and your ride just might be taking a particularly premature trip to the car cemetery.
BRAKE IT UP:
Remember your brakes? That nifty contrivance that enables you to stop on a dime and ogle your crush all you want. Useful, ain’t they? Except when they fail and you are hurtling down the freeway at 130KPH unable to stop. There you are, undoubtedly sweating buckets, incoherently screaming your guts out in utter terror and tearfully promising to join a monastery and forever be good if fate intervenes and somehow rescues you from your inevitable end in either a hospital or a closed coffin.
While lots of things can easily go wrong with your brakes, there are equally lots of things you can do to keep such happenings to a minimum. Things like regular inspections for anything out of the ordinary. Don’t worry, even if you know next to nothing about mechanical things, when you sense or feel something not quite alright with your brakes or any other part of your car you should easily know.
As well, regularly top off your brake fluid level and periodically drain and refresh it when necessary, according to the almighty words of the instruction manual.
ROLL ON CAREFULLY:
Your tires are essentially the only thing that enables you to roll from place to place contentedly, like a chunky wheel of cheese. Therefore, ensure that they always have a manufacturer-specific and optimum amount of air pressure in them. Invest in a cheap tire pressure monitor, and if the pressure gets too low pump it up smartly like a boss. This will ensure better mileage, safety, enhance ride comfort and save up on fuel costs.
While you are down there checking the tire pressure and trying not to fart a stanza of the national anthem, you might as well make yourself useful and check the depth of your tires. It should be deeper than the pockets of a politician, because the deeper the tread the better your tires will grip and hug the road like a long-lost friend.
Most tires made nowadays come with inbuilt tread wear indicator bars, which relegates the venerable tire tread measuring done by your parents with coins to the dustbin of history. These bars are usually invisible or barely visible when the tire is new. However, furiously drive around for a long long while like the devil himself was after you with a vengeance and the bars will start showing up. Much like badly drawn makeup on a teen.
These indicators appear as flat rubber bars running perpendicular to the direction of the tread itself. If more than one or two of these are visible on your tire, then the tread is getting low. And it’s time to start looking for a replacement.
And beware of when your tires start looking like someone particularly sadistic tied them up, beat them silly and gave them huge bumps, especially on the sides. That means it’s effectively a lit stick of dynamite and you should replace it before you even get to take another breath. Else, it’s gonna fail you at the most inconvenient moment and in rather spectacular fashion.
ALIGN YOUR DESTINY: If you notice that your car is continuously drifting sideways like a crab high on heroin, it just might mean that you need to get your wheels properly aligned. That is, unless you plan to endlessly drift through life like a drunk skunk on slick ice.
A good indicator for your car needing an alignment is uneven tire wear. Or a tire or tires that stubbornly does its/their own particular thing, no matter what it’s other companions are doing. Once noticed get it rectified pronto. Thank us later with some nice caviar.
In case you previously were unaware, take it from me that your car, any car in fact, is a fastidious and unapologetic alcoholic that needs a near-weekly dose of the strong stuff. The fluids it unceasingly needs and that you sweat blood to pay for include engine coolant, power steering, brake and even anti-freeze fluids. Learn to check them all regularly and beware of any unusual changes in colour or thickness. Ignore all this and your car engine or the radiator will try to reenact Hiroshima in 3D, with you as an unwilling guinea pig.
There are no hard-and-fast rules as to when you should drain and replace these life-giving fluids, but your instruction manual should have all the oily details needed to properly guide you.
BELT IT DOWN:
Helping your car chug merrily along on the way to work or roar and reach Mach 1 on the race track are all manner of contrivances you wouldn’t normally expect. Belts -timing, serpentine belts etc.- for instance, or any one of the varied and numerous hoses. And no, not the type of belt you put around your waist to stop your jeans from sagging around your ankles and revealing your undies for all to gawk at. These are rather the real deal and as important as the butter in your bread. Neglect them and your engine will cheerfully commit suicide or at least grievously injure itself in a self-mutilating frenzy.
So, what’s to do besides hug yourself and bewail the enormous iniquity of your car, which greedily bites the hand that feeds and fuels it? Well, open the hood for starters. Not to worry, you won’t find any monsters or dragons lurking there. Then periodically and carefully check to see if any of your car’s hoses are swelling up like they are 6 months pregnant with triplets. If they are, they are just about to fail and you should get new ones really fast.
As for the belts, check to see if they are frayed like someone had been hacking at them with a rather dull axe. If you can’t see the hoses, look harder. Or get a qualified mechanic to check them for you. I assure you it will well be worth it.
CHARGE ME UP, SCOTTY:
A car without batteries is not going anywhere. Which makes it really important to know whether or not it’s hard at work keeping you rolling. While most car batteries don’t usually need to be replaced often, that’s possible only if they are well maintained. Therefore, regularly check to see if it’s in tip-top shape. If it isn’t, then replace it. If it’s working well, keep it happy by regularly maintaining, cleaning and charging it up when required.
WAX IT UP:
As your personal chariot and flying carpet, your car really deserves the best possible treatment. Sure, it’s fantastic making sure every little gadget, wheel and cog in it work as perfectly as possible. But it’s arguably equally important that your ride always looks as pretty as possible. I don’t know about you, but I have a pet hate for people with dirty cars. And I keep fantasising about giving them equally dirty slaps.
While you can probably give your car a good bath, there are only so much your elbow grease and clumsy rubdown can do. Therefore, regularly endeavour to take your car to a professional, who will give it a very good scrubbing top to bottom, then wax and polish it like the boot of an army general. This, apart from making it look like a supermodel in a particularly good mood will remove stubborn stains, bird poop, tar, tree sap and the like.
As well, have mercy on your passenger’s poor and miserably abused nostrils and periodically steam-clean the inside of your car. Which lately has been smelling like a dinosaur died and was buried in it. Don’t worry, it won’t damage your dragon skin covered seats. And it’s guaranteed to make your car interior look, feel and smell factory fresh.
We are in the 21st century, remember, and the smartphone and the personal computer have well come of age and shamelessly flaunt their oh-so-luscious curves and hidden delights. As a result, there are lots of very capable apps out there, free or not that conveniently enables you to input every rub down, massage, baby talking and maintenance your car has gotten over its lifetime. You can even get alerts as to exactly when you should do which and what maintenance.
So, check out these apps, consult with your car and find out which it likes best. Then download it and use it like you really mean business.