Things to Ignore This Fall
“Tomorrow: the best day to do most anything.”
Sure, not everyone subscribes to the epigram above, but when it comes to vehicle maintenance, that philosophy seems to have many adherents. Today’s vehicles are built to require less maintenance and repair than any since the age of the chariot, but even when asked to do very little, many consumers follow their natural instinct to do even less.
Fall weather is fast-approaching, and as the seasons change, so do your vehicle’s needs. Heat, humidity and heavy traffic may have taken their toll during the summer months, so you might see this as the perfect time to take advantage of the cooler temperatures by giving your car some attention before the first cold snap hits. On the other hand, you might not. Whether you’re heading back to school, tailgating at the stadium or just taking a leisurely drive to enjoy the changing leaves, some experts recommend tackling a few simple fall car care maintenance tasks before setting out, in order to keep your car running smoothly as the mercury begins to drop. But others don’t see the necessity as long as everything seems to be operating properly, and that easy chair equipped with the TV remote beckons. So as a service to those who believe in the tenet “out of sight, out of mind,” we offer these maintenance items to ignore this fall:
- Shocks and Struts These suspension pieces help keep your car on the road, but we doubt that you’re having much trouble with that, so you might simply want to assume they’re OK and move on. After all, they’re pretty hard to check, anyway.
- Oil and Filter Something pretty easy to check is your oil, but it does require that you get out of your car, and it might get your hands greasy. Experts say you should check the oil level at every fill-up and change it, along with the oil filter, as specified in your owner’s manual, but they obviously have way too much time on their hands.
- Battery Its efficiency drops off drastically in cold weather, so this might be one instance where global warming is actually working in your favor. We assume your car started the last time you turned the key, so that’s a pretty good indication it will the next time.
- Brakes You’re a person on the go, so why worry about stopping? Even if your brakes aren’t at their optimum, you car will still stop -- eventually. Maybe it won’t be exactly where you want to stop, but if you haven’t noticed dragging, squealing, grinding, pulling or a pulsating brake pedal, your brakes are probably good enough.
- Wipers and Lights Here’s a quick test: Can you see out your windshield? If you can, your windshield wipers are likely one reason, so why not leave well enough alone? Ditto with all those lights you have -- hazard lights, headlights, brake lights and turn signals. Geez, if you tried to test them all, it would probably take 10 minutes. Who has that kind of time these days?
- Belts and Hoses Have you seen steam or water spewing from under your car’s hood lately? That’s a sign that you probably don’t have frayed, glazed or cracked hoses that are leaking, brittle, rusted, swollen or restricted. And odds are your belts are OK, too.
- Fluid Levels Some experts insist you should check all fluids regularly, including brake fluid, power-steering fluid, transmission fluid and antifreeze -- but these people are undoubtedly belt-and-suspender types who have never lived on the edge. If you’re in a time crunch or just feeling a little tired, you might as well just blow them off.
We’re convinced that if you ignore all of these potential problem areas, you could save an hour or so of time. Or you could find yourself stranded in some muddy ditch somewhere, cursing he fact that you were ever born. It’s your choice -- do ‘em or don’t. Or you can take the passive-aggressive approach and decide not to decide. Happy motoring!
Driving Today Contributing Editor Tom Ripley writes about the automobile industry and the human condition from his home in Villeperce, France.