Wednesday, September 06, 2006

How to Maintain Your Car...

First, think long-term.
A great many people still believe a car is getting "old" at about eight years and 75,000 to 100,000 miles -- and so they start to think about getting a new one. This is 1970s thinking -- an echo of an era when the average new car was indeed getting noticeably tired as the odometer rolled close to six figures. But today's cars are often just hitting their stride at 75,000 miles -- and have another 75,000-plus left in them, easy. Unless you're one of those people who just likes to have new stuff all the time (and there's nothing wrong with that, if you don't mind a constant car payment) there's no reason short of abuse, poor upkeep or the occasional lemon you shouldn't be able to keep on driving your new cars for many years after it's paid off -- with gas, oil and routine maintenance your only out of pocket expenses during that time.

My comments: I would like to keep my car as long as possible. But I’ve been told my car can go 7,500 miles without an oil change. It’s still under warrantee, so lets find out, shall we?

Two, treat her nice.
This is just common sense -- but then again, common sense isn't so common. Many people condemn their car to an early date with the crusher by failing to do simple things like following the service recommendations in their owner's manual to the letter -- letting oil change dates come and go, forgetting about crucial preventive maintenance such as flushing out the brake system, changing the transmission's hydraulic fluids -- and so on. The advent of so-called "long life" chemicals (engine coolant, oils, transmission fluid, etc.) and extended tune-up intervals with "100,000 mile" spark plugs, etc. doesn't mean "eternal life" -- and that's precisely what your car won't enjoy if you don't pay attention to what the manufacturer recommends be done.

My comments: I probably should look in the owners manual to find out how long everything should last. Or better yet, maybe I should ask when I go get an oil change. My car was acting funny so I took it in to be checked out. While I was making my appointment, the lady asked me if I wanted my tires rotated. I did and said so and also asked her how often it should be done. She said every other oil change. I never knew that.

Three, know how things work -- and use them as directed.
Improper use of components and features will wear them out prematurely. An excellent example here is the misuse of four-wheel-drive and the two-speed transfer case -- an increasingly common feature as 4x4 SUVs and pick-up trucks have grown in popularity. Many people don't understand that leaving the transfer case in 4WD mode when driving at normal speeds on dry, paved roads (and especially going around curves at speed) will rapidly accelerate wear of the 4WD components, possibly resulting in failure of the transfer case, drive axles and other components. The selector should always be left in 2H on dry, paved roads and moved to 4High (or 4Low) only when attempting to get through heavy snow, mud -- or when driving on a rough, uneven (or gravel-surfaced) road. Read your owner's manual and become familiar with how every feature of your car or truck works, when it's supposed to be used -- and when it's not supposed to be used.

My comments: I never knew this either, but then again, I don’t have 4 wheel drive on my car.

Four, keep her covered if possible.
Vehicles that have to sit outside all their lives tend to deteriorate faster -- and show their age more obviously -- than cars and trucks that lead more sheltered lives. The sun beating down on a car's finish will leave it looking dull much more rapidly than would otherwise happen if the car sat inside a garage (or at least had a car cover on most of the time). The dash will fade and crack, seat fabrics wash out -- and so on. Heating and cooling cycles are also more severe when a car is subjected to the full force and effect of the outside environment. The AC has to work harder (and so will likely wear out earlier) when it has to repeatedly cool the interior off after the car has been sitting in the 100 degree sun. And it's much harder on the engine when cold-started on a 10 degree January day than it would be inside a garage that's 10-20 degrees warmer.

My comments: My car is an outsider car. We have well water which is bad for the car. The sprinkler come on in the morning and my car gets wet. My car looks like it’s a two tone color. I don’t have a cover for my car. I did have a cover for a previous car, but that was a lot of work. You need two people to cover it and uncover it. And how are you going to cover it when you’re at work?

Five, use the clutch properly.
If you drive a stick shift car, don't keep the clutch in any longer than necessary; in particular, don't hold it in while you're sitting at a light waiting for it to change. This will rapidly wear out hard-to-get-at (and thus expensive to fix) parts like the throw out bearing. Also learn to engage and disengage the clutch quickly and smoothly, without "riding" it -- or you'll be heading to the transmission shop for an early date with a big bill. Be especially gentle with your shifting on very cold days until the gear oil has had a chance to warm up a little -- which takes about 10 minutes of driving. No hard up or downshifts. If you have an automatic-equipped car, keep it in "D" and use the brakes to slow the vehicle on downhill grades (new brake pads being much cheaper than a new transmission). Always set the parking brake first before putting the gear selector in "Park" -- to avoid putting the entire weight of your vehicle on the transmission's internal "pawl" -- which can break or bin dup so tight under the load you ma not be able to get the transmission out of "Park" when you want to get going again!

My comments: I don’t have a clutch, I have an automatic.

Six, use the engine properly.
If you drive a manual-shift car, that means always selecting the right gear for the speed you're driving -- and above all, never "lugging" the engine by failing to move down a gear when necessary, as when slowing from highway speeds to in-town speeds. Lugging the engine can cause early bearing failure and other major problems. Regardless of transmission type, avoid short duration trips that keep the engine from reaching its fully warmed state -- what engineers call "thermal equilibrium" -- and if this is not possible, change the oil and filter more frequently, in accordance with the "heavy duty" or "severe service" schedule listed in the owner's manual.

My comments: Don’t know what to say here. Maybe I should get my oil changed more frequently. I haven’t waited until I drive 7,500 miles, but maybe close to it. I don’t know. Maybe I should start paying more attention.

Seven, pay attention to your gauges (and warning lights).
If the "check engine" light comes on, don't use electrical tape to hide it from view -- find and fix the underlying problem. Always scan your water and oil pressure gauges as you drive and make a mental note of their "usual" readings so you'll notice it immediately when one begins to indicate a potential problem developing -- for example, unusually high (or abnormally low) temperature gauge readings. Driving around obliviously while your engine overheats (or never warms up because of a stuck thermostat) will shorten your vehicle's useful life as surely as a diet of nothing but Hardee's Thickburgers will land you in the coronary care ward.

My comments: I do pay attention to warning lights. With one car I had the warning lights come on and go off. While they were off I went to Firestone(?) and they didn’t find anything wrong. The next day my car really acted up and I had to have it towed to someplace (Olsen Tires) and they ripped me off.

Eight, feed her right. Don't cheap out by pouring 20 gallons of unleaded regular into the tank instead of the premium called for by the designers of your car (if applicable). While modern electronics (knock sensors) will prevent the worst from happening -- specifically, engine-killing pre-ignition ("pinging") -- use of the incorrect grade of fuel is not doing your car's engine any favors. And beware of off-brand fuels -- no matter the stated octane. These may not have the same detergent additives as name-brand gasoline -- crucial to the well-being of a modern car's fuel injection system -- and may be contaminated with water and other things you don't want in your tank. Saving a buck or two at fill-up isn't worth risking a few hundred dollars in avoidable repairs down the road -- or hastening the end of your four-wheeled friend before its time has come.
Need a New Car?

My comments: I can get the cheap gas. Saves on money that way. Also, my car can take it. The owner’s manual says so.

What are your comments?


Mayden's Voyage said...

I suppose everyone grows up differently- but BEFORE I was ALLOWED to buy my first car I had to pass dad's test~

I had to learn how to dive a stick shift FIRST

I had to learn how to check and change my own oil- I did get under the car and drained the oil and replaced the filter (and he showed me where to buy them and how to pick out the right one)

I had to know how to change my tires- I have changed them several times.

I had to know where the battery was and how to re-charge it, (ground first, then red).

I had to know where to add the oil, where the radiator was (don't EVER open it when the engine is HOT!!!)

And I had to know where my air filter was and how to replace it.

EVERY KID who learns to drive should have to do the same. BUT ESPECIALLY GIRLS.

There is nothing more silly to me than a chick on the side of the road with a flat tire and a perfectly good spare in the trunk, but she doesn't know how to change them out.
Trust me, it isn't rocket science.

At 17 (and on) I also had to pay for my own car insurance.

puerileuwaite said...

Good post, Lamby. I learn SO much from your blog. Here's my "takeaways":

1) Cheap gas is not only bad for the people close to you, it can be bad for your car.

2) The rotation that your tires naturally get from forward or reverse movement is NOT the same as you described.

3) Aside from your one bad experience, repair shops are extremely honorable and should be blindly trusted.

4) Watch those fluids! This is why I flush mine at least twice each day, depending on mileage and equipment usage.

5) Urine can quickly oxidize and discolor a car's finish. Be careful where you pee as you evict that 6-pack of "road pops" from your system.

More to follow ...

Anonymous said...

are you a mechanic,

you seem to know a lot
about cars


Little Lamb said...

FM, Dad said he wouldn't let me buy a used car. I can understand why. I got my license later in life. What do you think my first car waw? A used car. He didn't want me driving his car. Understandably so, I wrecked his car when I was in high school learning to drive.

Pug, Your posts and you coming here cheers me up. From now on I'll be careful where I urinate.

/t. I know nothing about cars. I got this article on the net and added the comments.

Anonymous said...


you certainly do have an eye for good articles on the net, and your comments are good, too

i don't drive a car -- never learned how -- my wife drives -- and both of my daughters are learning to drive -- am glad for that

enjoyed your found car maintenance article and comments just the same


Little Lamb said...

Thank you, I thought people would find it boring, but I posted it just to see. It seems to me it was appreciated.

So if your wife doesn't want to take you someplace one of your daughters can.

Anonymous said...

i suppose so,
lamb, tho they are
just learning now

usually, i don't need to go too far, or i just don't -- people come to me, often, or they don't -- and i'm good with that -- so i don't miss driving for myself

also, i have a nice bicycle


Little Lamb said...

That's how I used to get around before I got my license. It seemsed when cars saw me they tried to run me over.

I do miss riding a bicycle. It's good exercise. You must be in great shape.

Anonymous said...


you do kind of look like you'd make a nice meal... but i'm glad to hear they've stopped trying to run you down

i have a shape...


Little Lamb said...

I look like I would make a nice meal? My avatar does, I don't in real life.

Anonymous said...

i'm sure you do
in real life, too,
but i've never seen
you, of course

to me you are, and will ever be, i expect, an orange, round little lamb jumping rope -- always happy


Little Lamb said...

You're another one who said I was orange. I always thought it was light brown. And my avatar looks like an orange, too.

Anonymous said...

an orange lamb
is cool, lamb

and you know
that my avatar, Salvador Dali, was a surrealist artist, so i'm really digging your orangeness

but on another subject, lamb, what about the pug -- do you think he deserves to know and learn from our efforts to anthrax him? i do. and i think you should break it to him, gently, of course -- we can punish, but we can forgive, too. yes?


Little Lamb said...

I think he should know. Ok, I'll tell him, but everytime I go to Mo'po I don't him, I only see me.

Anonymous said...

i think he's over at his blog

i think you're over there, too

i think i'm over there, too

my head is starting to hurt from all of this thinking...


Little Lamb said...

I don't know where he is. I did find out where you put him.

Anonymous said...

where i put him?

if you mean PUGPOX

  codepo(): PUGPOX


Little Lamb said...

That's the one!

puerileuwaite said...

Lamby, I cheer you up? How the heck did THAT happen? Certainly it's not the effect I desired!

I change my oil every 3,000 miles. This is highly recommended. I do this because I keep my cars for a long time. Everything I can do myself, I do.

So what ARE your dimensions, Lamby (You don't have to answer)? I pictured you looking like your avatar. No?

Ditto for /t.
I was convinced that he looked a lot like Salvadore Dali (of whom I am a BIG fan, and recently read a book about him), so I am slightly disappointed.

I like my picture. Thank you Lamby and /t.

Crashtest Comic said...

Getting ready for the big big show, Lamby

Mighty Dyckerson said...

I treats my cars like I treats my women. I ride 'em hard til they wear out...then I trade 'em in for a newer model.

Little Lamb said...

Do good Crash,

Dyck, does revree know this?