Car Ownership Basics – Top 10 Things to Know Before You Hit the Road

I've been thinking...One of the most appealing characteristics of urban living has to be how everything is so accessible. It does however, create unhealthy habits of consumerism. So many people coast through their life having no clue of how the things they use on a daily basis work. Personally,  I have always been the curious type, taking things apart to see how they work and putting them back together is who I am to my core. Consequently, I have developed a passion for cars and lately, it seems to me that more and more people are driving around oblivious of their cars basic functions.   All around me I see people with no headlights on after dark or with their windshields full of condensation from the A/C.  My intention is that this be the start of a series on car ownership basics where I can share with you some of the knowledge I have accumulated over the years. 

When it comes to owning a car, your most important resource is your owner's manual. Everything you need to know about your car is hidden somewhere in there. The first thing you should do then, is to get familiar with it. You will find great information on how to program your radio, how to turn your lights on, where the power outlets are situated and you'll also learn how your A/C and heater work. But that's not it; in this amazing piece of literature, there is also everything you ever need to know about the proper maintenance of your vehicle, what the manufacturer suggests for oil change intervals and the correct tire size for your vehicle. I have always found it crazy how people will read the instruction manual to build a $300 BBQ but when it comes to their $40 000 car they just "wing it"

Having worked in the automotive industry for over 20 years now, I think it is safe for me to say that I have driven many different cars. I have a ton of experience with them but when I purchased my new car a few months ago, the first thing I did was to go through my owner's manual. My wife was mocking me about it but I can assure you that I found things in there I didn't know were possible with my car.  She has since stopped the teasing because I was able to show her how she can automatically tilt the passenger side mirror while parking in reverse.  A feature she uses regularly.    So don't wait until you are driving down the road at ninety kilometres an hour before you need to figure out how your wipers work. There are enough things that require your attention that  you don't need to do these things while driving. Take a few minutes and go through my list for the top ten things you should know about your car before hitting the road.  The answers to these questions can be found in your Owner's Manual and having this list will make it a lot easier for you to do so.

1. How do you adjust the driver's seat and seat-belt?
2. How do you adjust the side mirrors?
3. How do you adjust the steering wheel?
4. How do you turn the lights ON and OFF?
5. How do you turn the wipers ON and OFF?
6. How do you use the A/C and Heater controls?
7. How do you apply and release the emergency/parking brake?
8. How do you lock and unlock your doors?
9. How do you turn the hazard and turn signals ON and OFF?
10. How do you start your engine?

I recommend that you sit in your car as you familiarize yourself with these ten things. That way you can put into practice as you read and commit it to memory a lot better. Once you are comfortable with these things then you are ready to move on to the fun stuff; Driving! Do keep in mind however that driving is a privilege and not a right and if you don't obey the rules then that privilege can very easily be taken away. Just to be clear, I am not getting up on my soap box and condemning everyone as if I have no faults. I am merely speaking from very difficult experience. I learned this lesson the hard way and I hope to help you avoid this long and very expensive journey. There are too many people driving the roads today who believe they somehow own it and can do whatever they want on it. I assure you this is not the case, and sooner or later they will either get caught or hurt someone.

I hope I am not being too harsh but I feel like driving should be relaxing and enjoyable not make me want to pull my hair out. That being said, I realize people have places to go and that sometimes we are running a little late. That is no reason to be unsafe and pull crazy manoeuvres and put everybody else's life in danger. Too many times, I have seen people weaving in and out of traffic, burning through red lights, using turning lanes or the shoulder to get ahead.  It is dangerous and irresponsible. Take your time, get to know your car, leave a little earlier and respect the rules as well as the other drivers. That way, nobody gets hurt, your wallet is a little happier at the gas pump and the police doesn't have to chase you to give you a ticket or even worse, take away your driving privilege and even possibly your freedom.

As I said in the beginning of this post, I want to make this into a series of posts about car ownership basics where we can dive a little deeper into the subject.  So keep an eye out over the coming weeks for these and much more.

Thanks for reading!

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