by Kim Walker, Owner of Peak Automotive
As many young girls did, I grew up trusting my father to take care of all of the automotive issues for our family. As a responsible adult now I sometimes reminisce on the automotive lessons I learned from my dad – or those I didn’t actually learn. My dad subscribed to the less-than-proactive belief of “fix it when it breaks.” Needless to say, that is not the same belief system I have come to follow.
For three years after my dad died and until I met my husband, Brian, I was involuntarily forced into taking care of my own car maintenance and repair, purchasing of a new or used vehicle, as well as the day-to-day issues that evolve from being a responsible automotive owner. Notice I mention responsible automotive owner. I believe in being prepared and acting proactively. Beyond learning these lessons on my own, being closely involved with the female clientele in our business and listening to friends and family members have helped me develop a list of 10 automotive lessons my dad never taught me. Being surrounded by highly skilled automotive experts, I chose to ask them what lessons they would be certain to teach their moms, daughters, and wives. These lessons follow:
1. Must Haves: Always keep a flashlight, duct tape, fire extinguisher, and first aid kit in the trunk of your car. A flashlight is a must for a dark night locating the tools to change a tire or if you have to take a walk to a gas station. Duct tape can be used to patch a busted hose when in a rut or even plugging a tire until you can get to the next repair station. The fire extinguisher is a necessity in case of an engine fire. Some late model vehicles even come equipped with first aid kits and you can ask your dealer if you have one. Whether you are involved in an accident, witness an accident, or simply need a Band-Aid for your three-year-old while taking a family vacation, a firs
2. Gas Cap 411: Be sure when tightening your gas cap that you tighten until you hear three clicks. Often times a CEL (check engine light) will be triggered by a loose gap cap. The loose gas cap can create an evaporative emission leak which triggers the CEL. t aid kit is thinking proactively!
3. Pre-Purchase Inspection: Before purchasing a pre-owned vehicle, have a Pre-Purchase Inspection (PPI) done. Take the pre-owned vehicle to your mechanic and ask him or her to check the car over before you purchase it. Hopefully they already have a plan for this and should give you a printed copy of the inspection that was done. We offer a 59-point inspection that checks all of the following: engine plugs, wires, filters, belts, cooling system, drive train, electrical (alternator, starter, battery, cables), leaks, the body of the car, brakes, suspension, exhaust system, air conditioning, and a test drive. Often buyers think that simply opening the hood is enough. Having an ASE-certified technician put the car on a lift and checking the vehicle thoroughly brings a huge sense of relief for the buyer. Don’t forget to use the inspection form and quote for repairs as bargaining power when negotiating the price of the vehicle! Many shops will perform this inspection for free!
4. Pre-Trip Inspection: You have spent numerous hours planning your long trip, whether it is a family vacation, a business trip, or a holiday trip. Many people forget or don’t think to have the family vehicle inspected before a long trip. All of the advance planning for hotels, dinners, and recreational tickets will not matter an ounce if your vehicle breaks down on your trip before arriving at your destination. Be proactive! Take an hour and have your Pre-Trip Inspection (PTI) done by your certified technician. They should pretty much do the same inspection as the PPI, however, this time the technician knows you are taking a long trip and may take more time looking at specific items relating to long travel. Many shops will perform this PTI for free!
5. Got Allergies? Did you know that your vehicle may have a Cabin Air Filter? The purpose of the CAF is to clean the air that enters the interior of the car. Allergens, dust, and trash can collect on the CAF, causing the air that enters the cabin of the car be unfiltered. This can increase the affect of allergies. Read your owners manual or ask your technician to find out if you have a CAF and how often it should be changed.
6. Defunktify It:
Have you ever had an unpleasant smell coming from your air conditioner
or vents? Often times moisture and humidity come together with the
change of seasons to create a moldy/musky/unpleasant smell that is
emitted through your vents when the air conditioning or heat is
activated. The reputable company, BG, has created a very effective
product called Frigi-Fresh® which is formulated to quickly and
effectively eliminate foul, musty odors from automobile air
conditioning systems. It kills mold, mildew and other odor-producing
organisms that grow in the evaporator core and housing. Powerful
deodorizers in BG Frigi-Fresh® keep the automobile interior smelling
fresh and clean. Contact your independent repair shop to have this
7. Crash! Bam! Boom! When a car accident occurs one of the last things on our mind is to take pictures of the damage, however, being proactive and keeping a small accident kit in the car will prove to be a huge benefit if the need arises. An accident kit should have a disposable camera, pen and paper, insurance information, and a preferred towing company as well as body shop. Though the body shop info is not the immediate need, the camera, pen and paper, and insurance information are immediate necessities. Take pictures of your car as well as the other car(s) involved in the accident, write down the other person’s insurance information (if they are at fault). Having a towing company’s information on hand will make the process quicker as well and you will not have to depend on the rotation schedule of towing companies for the police department.
8. It’s Hot: On a hot summer day you can cool the interior of your car much quicker if you turn the air conditioning on a lower setting for cooling instead of a high setting for a few minutes. People automatically think that getting in the car and turning the A/C on the highest setting will make it cool off quicker. Since this is only pushing a larger amount of hot air into the car on a high setting it will take longer to cool the inside temperature of the car. So keep it low for a few minutes!
9. Really Read It: Reading the owner’s manual of your vehicle seems like a nuisance, but it can actually teach you a few things that you would otherwise not know or that the dealer did not share with you when you bought the car. For instance, on some newer model Mercedes there is a “rest” feature that most owners are not even aware of which actually tells the car to continue to circulate warm air inside the car for 30 minutes after you turn off the ignition. If you are going to be out of your car for a few minutes or so then simply press the rest button and when you re-enter your car up to 30 minutes later the interior is still warm for you. (Only works for continuing to circulate warm air) This is simply one feature that you can learn about while taking a quick tour of your owner’s guide. You many find that you already have a first aid or tool kit that comes standard with your car.
10. Locking Lug: What is that you might ask? The locking lugs are the bolts that hold your wheel onto the car. Be sure to verify with the dealership that the correct key/socket that fits the lugs comes with your car. In the event of a flat tire that key/socket is the only thing that can unlock the lugs. Even if you have to call AAA or some roadside assistance to come help they will need the exact key/socket – this is not something they carry with them.
As one last tidbit, I could not pass up telling you about Aquapel®. Aquapel® and good, high quality wiper blades are a must. This is a very fast treatment that can be put on by you, many automotive detail shops, as well as your local independent repair shop. Aquapel® treats your windshield making the rain simply bubble up and glide smoothly right off of the windshield, improving visibility drastically. In addition it will allow ice to be scraped off of the windshield much easier. Don’t waste your time using Aquapel® if you are not using a very nice, high quality wiper blade like the Bosch Icon. The two of these together are fabulous!
As I mentioned, I did not learn these valuable lessons from my dad but rather from the ladies that frequent our shop, my mom, sisters, friends, as well as my husband and our technicians. These are some of the lessons that I have been told people wish they’d known and what we will be sure that our daughters know. There was one theme throughout these lessons and that was to be proactive and smart. Thinking ahead, being prepared as well as being a smart, responsible vehicle owner are all characteristics that will help to make you a savvy female motorist. Happy Driving!
Kim Walker is the Owner and Marketing Director of Peak Automotive in Apex, North Carolina.