In the first installment, we offered tips for new-car owners to help them get the most from their shiny new vehicle, starting with initial inspection, studying the owner’s manual, and essential road gear. Here, we continue with advice on proactive car care and maintenance schedule to ensure the car continues to look and run like new
Pamper your car
Extending brake life. Like any wear item, brake pads and components will last a lot longer if you don’t use them more than necessary. Stay at least three seconds behind the vehicles ahead (that’s one-one thousand, two-one thousand, etc.). At this distance, you can react calmly to changes in traffic speed and have enough space to manage an abrupt stop, if necessary. Lift your foot off the gas pedal when you see a red light in the distance or cars bunching up, rather than accelerate till the point you must brake. Keeping a safe distance from other vehicles will save gas, reduce your chances for a front and rear collision, lower the number of stones and other flying debris hitting your hood and windshield, and eliminate those herky-jerky motions that make your passengers wish they had taken the bus.
Avoiding dings. When heading to the mall or supermarket, scout out a parking location where your vehicle isn’t going to be battered by shopping carts and car doors. That usually means parking well away from other vehicles. The extra walk will do you good, and you won’t risk tearing off your bumper as you try squeezing in between that SUV and a Winnebago.
Preserving tires and rims. Hitting a curb can do wonders for those fancy, Ksh 41,000 factory alloy rims and Ksh 24,600 tires. So be extra careful when parking and making U-turns, or at minimum, you’ll face the shame of a scratched rim.
Don’t skimp on maintenance
It’s a lot easier keeping your car looking and running like new than it is to resurrect it once it’s a rusting hulk.
Clean everything. When washing the car, don’t forget the bottom of the car and the wheel wells. Occasionally wipe the door sills clean too and the inside of the gas filler door. And don’t let corrosive bird droppings linger. Beyond being unsightly, they can damage the paint.
Going after the small things. Attack the smallest of stains immediately with automotive seat and rug cleaners. For deep scratches, use a sparse layer of touch-up paint. Once dry, try blending it with the adjacent finish by rubbing with a liquid auto scratch remover. For about $100, a professional paintless dent repair shop can literally massage away door and fender dings—as long as the paint isn’t damaged. Do-it-yourself kits are cheaper, though less-effective.
Maintenance matters. Scheduled maintenance is critical for preventing problems and for catching little ones before they require expensive repairs. But be wary of dealer-promoted “generic” maintenance packages. There’s no need to pay Ksh 31,898 to make sure you have plenty of windshield washer fluid. Also, the packages sometimes replace required procedures with unnecessary ones. Instead, consult the maintenance schedules in your vehicle owner’s manual. Make of list of the big items you can’t do yourself and then get quotes for just those. You don’t have to have a dealer do the work. And be sure to keep receipts.
Do-it-yourselfers should considering buying a shop manual written specifically for their vehicle, either by the manufacturers or an aftermarket publisher such as Haynes. Owners of brand-new models may have to wait several months for a comprehensive consumer manual to be written.
Technical Service Bulletins. While you’re happily driving around, your car’s manufacturer is collecting grizzly details about all the components that will likely break, clunk, rattle, leak, peel, or simply fall off prematurely. Though safety-related issues trigger recalls, manufacturers use so-called technical service bulletins to quietly communicate the other problems to dealers. You can see a list of these for your car and order free copies at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Web site. TSBs can give you an idea about what to watch for during the warranty period, and these are items to discuss with your mechanic to ensure your vehicle is up to date with after-sales fixes.