We all know that a car is not just a big chunk of metal with an engine and wheels that can take you and your entire family from point A to point B. Yet oftentimes we see stalled newer model automobiles on the road, and are ourselves as well caught in these situations when you’re ready to roll, stick the key in, and a buzz-like clicking sound reverberates through everyone’s eardrums, as do the two words that often follow them: “AYAW UMANDAR?” (It won’t start?)
Apart from coming back with a “Why yes Captain Obvious, why don’t we take your space shuttle instead?”, we just scratch our heads, open the hood and wait for a Microsoft “Help” Balloon to magically appear.
Apart from manufacturer recalls and complex defects, most modern cars can be road-worthy and reliable all the time. You don’t need to be an F1 mechanic or keep a 50-piece tool kit in your trunk. All you have to do is to arm yourself with basic maintenance know how. If you are crafty with motors, good for you. If not, read up.
A note before I go on, if you have a small child, please do use car seats and never sit them in front. It may cost a little, but we can never put a premium on the safety of our children…oh and buckle up!
Easy Automobile Maintenance Tips:
1. Check your tire pressure, and adjust at a gas station. Normally, you would find the ideal psi (pounds per square inch) rating on your manual, or through your manufacturer. I drive a compact sedan, and I keep it to 30 psi all around. This allows for maximum fuel efficiency as well.
2. Since it’s raining, keep your wiper fluid full. Use a good quality washer fluid. If it stops raining and your wind shield gets murky you would want maximum visibility. Check and clean your blades well when you wash your car.
3. Tires again. Check them before you go. There could be a nail or a tear.
4. We live in a tropical country. Make sure your water level and coolant are sufficient.
5. Check your lights. All of them.
6. In safe and permissible circumstances, tap on your brakes to check if they’re working. Follow manufacturer guidelines regarding brake pads and fluid. If there is a slight problem, it may just be air in the hoses that a mechanic can easily “bleed”. Best be safe and seek out a competent technician or shop.
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Every Two to Six Months
1. Check your oil level, and if you have changed your oil according to manufacturer’s specifications. Ideally, oil should be golden brown. Dark sludge is old oil, and could severely affect engine performance and eventually lead to seizure. (Yes, your car first then you!)
2. Look at your hoses, belts and battery cables. Check for any tears or loose portions.
3. Make sure your horn is functioning properly.
4. Check your spare tire. Is it properly inflated?
5. Check your air filter. Is it clean or does it need replacement?
6. Look at your shock absorbers and see to it that there are no leaks.
7. Rotate tires (usually every 5,000 miles). This will allow for better grip and longer tire life.
A few reminders
1. Check your battery. I recommend a maintenance free one. No batteries have a standard replacement period so ask a reliable battery dealer, or call their hotline number.
2. Useful things to keep: A working flashlight, a spare cell phone battery, slippers in the trunk (you won’t believe how often I’ve used these), jumper cables, REAL tow rope, an emergency warning triangle and a first aid kit with a few medicines (check for expiry dates).
3. Always check your manufactures manual for maintenance dates for brakes, suspension, electricals and the like
4. Make a car maintenance checklist at home and stick it on your refrigerator. Use tips and schedules here, online, or on your manual.
Louis Ramirez, son of the late, great Pioneer of Philippine Racing Pocholo Ramirez, is a father, and the 2004 Petron Driver of the Year. Here are his two cents and more regarding driving with children:
“There really should not be any difference between driving with or without your kids in the car. Every time we get behind the wheel of a car we are responsible for, not only for the safety of our passengers, but also the other the safety of the other motorists sharing the road with us. So at any given time there could be someone’s child in the car next to you. We should be just as concerned about that child, or anyone that might be endangered by our actions.
Personally, I just minimize the risks I take when the children in the car. I drive slightly below my comfortable speed, double check my mirrors before turning or when I'm crossing an intersection. It is also important to set an example for them to follow when they start to drive.”
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Menchie Ramirez, a mother, Louis’ sister and law, and 2002 Philippine Novice Production Car Champion has this to say:
“If you want to go racing, do it on the track”, given that there are a lot of inexpensive ways to start racing, like “Run What You Brung” events or time trials with your own car. She and her champion racer husband Cookie taught her son Stefan, now 19 and a responsible driver and racer to “Be courteous to other drivers and do not have a bahala na attitude”
Aside from words from race car champions, you can learn many things from any reliable mechanic like proper jumper cable starting, and the correct way to change a flat. Remember though that these are simple tasks, and everyone in your household ten and over should be taught how to do so with care, so that in case of emergencies, they can assist. This is especially useful if you have a teenager who has just started driving. Though these things are not often taught at driving school, they are very useful lessons you can impart, aside from endless lectures on safe driving.