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The Responsibility of Car Ownership

 

Owning a car is a big responsibility. Whether you received your first car at sixteen, or worked long hours well into adulthood, in order to make that first big purchase – you quickly realized that a vehicle is a big financial responsibility. Like anything else, cars need to be well taken care of in order to run properly. Regularly scheduled maintenance, weekly trips to the gas station, windshield wiper replacement fluid… the list goes on, and on.

At McCluskey Chevrolet, we understand the importance of having good auto repair for a Chevrolet Cincinnati Ohio. But knowing and doing, are two completely separate things. Wherever it was that you made your first car purchase, the dealership, or previous owner handed you a very important book. Your car’s owner manual. Within that postcard-sized booklet, is everything you need to know about your car. How it works, what the engine needs, and what your responsibility is for keeping it running smoothly.

Chances are, you studied that booklet, and marked down important dates on your calendar to ensure optimal health for your new vehicle. If this was you, give yourself a big pat on the back! More often than not, a vehicle’s Owner Manual sits untouched in the dark abyss of the glove compartment. Drivers rely solely on the “Check Engine” light, or a strange noise, to alert them of when their vehicle needs a tune-up. Unfortunately, when your car violently shakes, the brakes screech, or your check engine light goes on, the cost-effective, simple repair is no longer possible.

Some dealerships may avoid talking about preventative health measures to take with your vehicle, hoping that one day, you bring your costly, unnecessary repair to them. At McCluskey Chevrolet, we care about our customers. We want to help our drivers take every possible step towards keeping their vehicle in the best possible shape, so that their vehicle lasts longer, runs better, and is safer for everyone who gets inside its cabin.

So whether you drive a Chevy Silverado full-size pickup truck, or a compact car like the Chevy Volt, McCluskey Chevrolet has everything you need to know to keep you on top of your vehicle’s preventative maintenance.

Get to Know Your Vehicle

Most likely, you and your vehicle spend a lot of time together. Whether that entails daily commutes to the office, long road trips, or running errands around town, it is important to take care of one of your most valuable, and expensive assets.

Our first suggestion, is to study your vehicle. Learn how everything works. Pick a day of the week, and spend five minutes prior to embarking on your busy day to make sure all of your lights and signals are working properly.

Once a month, pop open the hood, and check out your fluid levels. Oil, windshield wiper fluid, coolant, antifreeze, and power steering, can all be easily checked. Remember that Owner’s Manual we mentioned? If you haven’t already looked through it, it’s time to dust it off. Most likely, it’s in your glove compartment. Inside, there will be a visual display letting you know where each fluid is located within the engine compartment, and how to check it.

Check Tire Tread

A woman measures the tread on her car tires

Grab a penny, and head out to your vehicle. Place the penny into several grooves throughout the tires on your vehicle. If part of Abraham Lincoln’s head is always covered by the tread, it means that your tires have a tread depth of 2/32”. Tires with this amount of tread, will likely have no traction in snow, and are prone to dangerous hydroplaning in rainy, or inclement weather.
Ideally, you want to have at least 4/32” of tread remaining, which would mean that George Washington’s head on a quarter would be partially covered during the same exercise.

To make things a little bit easier, tires sold in the United States are required to have wear bars molded into the tread design, which give a visual indication of tire wear. The health of tires on a vehicle often go unnoticed. Be sure to regularly check your tires, and replace them when the tread is worn. Be sure to also ask your auto repair center to rotate your tires every other time you get your vehicle’s oil changed.

Get Your Oil Changed

Over 25% of cars driving on the road today, have dirty or low engine oil. This is one of the most affordable maintenance steps you can take to ensure your car continues down the road of good health. The most common recommendation is to have oil changed every three months, or 3,000 miles. While this may have been a good gauge in the past, modern cars can go longer and further between oil changes. Check your Owner’s Manual to find out the exact recommendation for oil changes – and don’t put them off! Not only does changing your car’s oil help the engine run more efficiently, neglecting this simple task can cause ultimate destruction to your vehicle’s engine.

Change the Air Filter

The air filter in your car’s engine is the very thing that allows your vehicle to breathe. While one may not equate breathing with a vehicle, clean air is exactly what your engine needs to run efficiently and smoothly. Neglecting to change an air filter can cause your engine to overheat, and can end up costing you thousands of dollars.

Stop Ignoring Your Brakes

Don’t wait for your car to come to a screeching halt to get the message that it’s time for new brakes. Disc-brake pads sit between the metal caliper and the rotor, helping your car brake, and eventually stop. When those pads wear down, bare metal rubs on the rotor, causing less effective braking and damage to your vehicle’s rotor. Have your brake pads checked at routine oil changes, and replace them when it is recommended. After all, stopping is the second most important task your car will ever do.

Replace Worn Shock Absorbers

If your vehicle has over 50,000 miles on it, it’s time to have the shock absorbers checked. These essential components to your vehicle help to ensure that your entire suspension is in good health. Without a suspension, well – you won’t have a car to take care of anymore.

Overall, your vehicle is a large moving vessel, composed of many parts. If one of those parts stops working, or fails to work properly, it can throw off your entire vehicle. Check out our last list of auto repairs and checks you should have performed on your vehicle at the end of every year:

  • Brakes
  • Change air filter
  • Chassis lubrication
  • Antifreeze refilled
  • Steering and suspension checked
  • Wheel alignment tested
  • Wiper blades replaced

Whether you have owned your car for five minutes, or five years, it is important to take care of it. Chances are, you want to hold onto your vehicle for many more years to come. In order to do so, you need to make sure that you take the best care of your vehicle. Take time to complete these simple checks, and be sure to have regularly scheduled maintenance completed by an auto repair center in Cincinnati, like McCluskey Chevrolet.

If you are ever in doubt, can’t find your owner’s manual, or have questions. We are happy to help, whether or not you have been a customer with us before.

Wait. Have we even bothered to congratulate you on your new purchase? Listen, aside from the purchase of a home, acquiring a new vehicle is one of the most significant purchases that we make in our lifetime. It represents an investment not only of money, but of time. It is the beginning of a relationship and, as with any relationship, you’d prefer that it be drama free.

But whether you like it or not, most of that burden is placed upon you. Your diligence (or lack thereof) in the responsible operation and preventative maintenance of the vehicle will be the primary determinant in the longevity and quality of your relationship with that vehicle. Common sense, right?

Unfortunately, all-too-many car owners make the conscious decision to cut corners, or extend timelines on certain services. In fact, a staggering number of new car owners leave the dealership without a genuine understanding of their vehicle. Whether driven by pride, or a lack of willingness to admit they’re unfamiliar with a particular feature or capability, they begin their relationship in a state of ignorance. So, let’s just put it all on the table for the benefit of those car owners who love their new car, but might not be inclined to take the steps needed to save themselves from headaches down the road.

First Things First

Your privilege to operate a vehicle legally within these United States will depend on several criteria. While they will differ between each of the fifty-states, they are likely to consist of (i) a valid driver’s license (ii) a valid vehicle registration (iii) proof of insurance, and (iv) valid state inspection. While the former will normally be kept on your person, and the latter is normally represented by a sticker on your windshield, registration and proof of insurance should be held accessibly within a protective binder, located in your glove compartment. A scan of your driver’s license and hardcopy of your inspection report can (and should) be included as well. In fact, that binder is one of two items that you should keep in your glove compartment (or console) along with your vehicle’s manual.

Exploring Your Manual

A representation of a car manual, section 1: getting started

It might be a hard pill to swallow, but you don’t have to be mechanically-inclined to understand a car manual (you just need to not be lazy). If the idea of flipping through the pages of your manual is intimidating, why not start by opening the glove compartment and just looking inside for a few minutes? Simply reach your hand out towards it, and move closer ever twenty seconds (or as you feel comfortable) until you are actually touching it. All jokes aside, there’s nothing to be intimated about. Manuals are translated to layman’s terms as much as possible, and are presented in a self-referential manner linking related sections to one another. In other words, it exists solely to help you.

Because no-one’s expecting you to tackle complicated repairs or preventative maintenance that’s most likely covered by your vehicle’s warranty. However, there is an expectation that you (i) understand your vehicle’s capabilities and limitations (ii) know where to find, access and control all of your vehicle’s features and (iii) understand the methods that have been designed so that your vehicle can communicate with you.

Exploring your vehicle’s manual can help with each of these expectations. Tactful wording and helpful diagrams transform your new vehicle into familiar territory, making you a more empowered owner. And if it helps you to feel more comfortable with the task of changing a tire, bulb, fuse or filter…well…even better.

Vehicle Warning Lights 

In case you glazed over those last few sentences, yes your vehicle is designed to communicate with you. Modern vehicles are constructed with dozens of sensors, monitoring the operation of your engine, brakes, safety features and emissions (just to name a few). Any irregularity or interruption of the normal function will trigger these sensors, resulting in the activation of a warning light. Surrounding the gauge cluster, these lights are designed to grab your attention and prompt immediate action.

So, here’s a helpful hint for when you see a notification light go on…

Take immediate action.

All jokes aside, failure to react to warnings related to engine temp, fluid levels or tire pressure could pose an immediate safety risk for you and your passengers, while setting the stage for costly repairs.

And, understanding that some drivers might not be ‘in the know’, the dreaded-yet-misunderstood ‘Check Engine’ light triggers a code when activated. While the light exists to grab your attention and prompt action, the code exists to tell a technician or mechanic what the problem is. A diagnostic machine is used to interpret the code, which could be anything from a loose gas cap to major engine woes.

Bottom-line: your manual can help you to interpret any warning lights, and what steps you need to take. Make sure that you’re receptive to your vehicle’s attempts to communicate with you, and responsive to its needs.

Tire Rotation

Just above we mentioned the importance of monitoring tire pressure. And earlier, we touched on the importance of checking your tire tread in order to ensure the safe operation of your vehicle, briefly mentioning the importance of tire rotation.

Tire Rotation is another example of preventative maintenance which is often overlooked. In fact, far too many drivers rely on service shops, garages and dealerships to tell them when they’re supposed to rotate their tires (or even explain ‘why’).

Simply put, the distribution of weight upon the front and rear axles (and, in turn, your tires) differs. As such, it’s important to change the position of each tire, in order to balance out the wear. Recommended every six months (or 6,000-8,000 miles) the method of tire rotation differs depending on your vehicle’s drivetrain. Diligent tire rotation will ensure a longer life, and greater dependability, especially if your vehicle is driven in mixed terrain or weather conditions.

Scheduled Service and Preventative Maintenance

The needs of individual vehicles will differ in terms of scheduled maintenance. From tire rotation to oil changes, transmission service to tune-ups, it’s important to understand the frequency and/or intervals required to keep your vehicle in optimal running condition.

Such information can be found within your owner’s manual, as it is reflective of the automaker’s specifications (and not by a service center’s desire to increase incremental revenue). Heeding the manufacturer’s recommendations is crucial for a satisfying ownership experience, and should never be diminished in terms of importance.

Emergency Kit

Automotive first aid kit with a car in the back

Even if you do everything correctly in terms of protecting your investment, there is the lingering possibility that you could find yourself stuck on the side of a road or immobile in a parking spot. Rest assured, it happens (or at least has happened) to the best of us.

Just as important as the act of ‘getting to know your vehicle’ is the importance of ‘getting to know your coverage’. Many insurance providers can be helpful allies in situations of automotive distress, so it’s worth exploring what kind of aid is covered as part of your automobile insurance policy (especially since all providers are not created equal). There is also a lot of merit to acquiring a road-side assistance membership, such as that offered by a AAA Membership.

But, regardless of the steps you take to cultivate support, it shouldn’t diminish the importance of being well-prepared. This means equipping your vehicle with a number of accessories that could prove helpful in times of unexpected need.

Of course, there are obvious items associated with automotive maintenance. A tool-kit, a car-jack that you know how to operate, a set of jumper cables and even (however dated it may be) a manual tire pressure gauge. But there are also ‘common-sense’ items, like a first-aid kit, flashlight, extra batteries, rain poncho, duct tape and even a fire extinguisher. Assemble these items, and place them in a secure location inside of your trunk where they’ll remain accessible regardless of the trunk’s contents. I promise you, you’ll never regret it.

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