I have something to get off of my mind that’s been bugging me for the better part of a week. Call this a rant, or whatever you wish.
I’m getting tired of people not knowing the basics of how a car works or how to take care of it besides filling it up with gas. It is one of the most practical inventions of the 20th century, but people still don’t know what they’re looking at under the hood, if they can even figure out how to pull the latch to open it.
This is a disappointment.
I was talking to a friend of mine about her car in the parking lot of my old high school. It’s a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee, with the venerable 4.0 Litre AMC inline-six. It was in great shape, and she got a decent deal for it. I asked to check the fluids for her, since I thought it would be a nice gesture. I asked her to pop the hood, but she didn’t know how. I showed her where the latch was, then I ran her right hand under the gap between the grille and the hood itself and feel for the latch. She opened it and put the prop up after I told her where that was.
I pulled a napkin out of my backpack and I grabbed the dipstick and pulled it out. Afterward she freaked about how I would break her new truck. It has gone a few thousand too many miles on one oil change and when I told her the oil needs to be changed, she told me she would get her dad to do it. She was afraid of hurting her new investment, fine. I get the thinking, but this is a person who didn’t know how to open her own hood 5 minutes earlier.
I have run into this about….. too many times to count. People either play stupid about cars or just legitimately don’t care enough to know what their basic needs are. Change the oil every several thousand miles, make sure your tires are inflated, the simple rules of owning a car and making sure it does not crash or die on you during operation. Do you like having a car that runs? I do too. This plague of ignorance starts in high school, which is when most people start driving. I walked through a lot of about 700 cars or so, and I spot a few cool ones. A Fox-Body Mustang, an FR-S, a 1.8 Miata. The vast majority of the lot is either 10-year old luxury cars that were gifted to kids when a car was replaced, or general late-1990s to mid-2000s mediocrity. Mind you, the mediocrity isn’t bad, it’s just what you would normally see. Ford Tauruses, Dodge Neons, Durangos, Chevrolet Avalanches, etc. General, average cars. And a solid 20 percent of them had tires that were running low on air.
I would like to say it is not entirely the kids’ faults. Yes, it’s the owner not really taking care of their cars… but what about outside factors that come into play with car knowledge? I have a copy of the 2016 Georgia Driver’s Handbook, July 2016 revision sitting right here on my desk. There’s no addendum or section that even mentions car maintenance. It goes into extreme depth about how to make a right turn, but not how to occasionally check your oil or air up your tires, which help you continue driving on the roads of Georgia, there is nothing. And from what I have heard, the whole country is like this. The attitude of the modern world about car maintenance is astonishingly distant, aloof if you will. I say it is mostly the owner’s fault, but when they are not even taught about how to care for a car, what can you expect other than for things to go wrong.
The common exclamation I hear is, “Oh, I’ll just take it to the shop.” But I don’t even hear that phrase enough. On a more personal note, even my own mother ignores the lights on the dash. They just scream “Hey, I need to get fixed sometime… Please check me into the shop so I can get fixed?”.
I’m just tired of this kind of thing happening so often. Right now, I’m replacing my timing belt because it snapped and if I show what I did to any one of my friends outside of the car world, they would ask what a timing belt is and what it does. I’m thankful for them at least asking questions. I’m lucky my car has a non-interference engine. But I just don’t want anyone’s piston to meet a valve.
Do you know what a piston and a valve are? I know you do. Most don’t. I’m pushing right now for all readers at this moment in time, to talk to their friends and teach them the basics of car care. Modern engineered cars can take tolerate some slack in their maintenance schedules, but not much. I just don’t like seeing cars either sold or sent to the junkyard just because someone didn’t change their oil or didn’t check their belts. I don’t like to see this hands-off approach to car care, since every time I go to Pull-A-Part to get some parts for my car, I see newer and newer cars in there. Not wrecked, just quit running, which is mostly attributed to maintenance.
Please, take a look in your owner’s manual. Have you even opened it? No? Read it cover to cover. If you have, please still do. There’s always something to learn about how to drive and take care of your car. It’s not an appliance, even if you do treat it like one. I want you to know how long it takes between oil changes and if your tires are at the right pressure. If not for me, for everyone else out there on the roads with you. Thank you.