Treat Your Car Right

Cleanliness is next to Godliness, but there is more to maintaining your vehicle than simply washing it once in a while.  Unfortunately though not surprisingly, a recent survey by Shell found that the majority of Americans are more interested in keeping their ride looking good than in making certain that it runs the way it should.  And the survey identified some areas for improvement, from the car wash to the gas pump.

Of one thing there is no doubt, our countrymen love their cars.  Whether rinsing off the family SUV in the driveway or taking the convertible to a car wash for a special detailing, Americans spend a good deal of time keeping their prized possessions shiny and spot-free. But when it gets down to the nitty-gritty of keeping a car tidy, men seem to care more about how their vehicle looks on the outside than how it looks on the inside. In fact, according to the Shell survey, men (20 percent) are more likely than women (16 percent) to give their cars a special wash and wax treatment on the outside. On the other hand, women are slightly more likely (19 percent) than men (16 percent) to vacuum the interiors of their cars and add an air freshener.

And just as many men and women from coast to coast schedule regular hair cuts, they also agree that the best way to treat a car right is to take it in for routine maintenance. When asked how they prefer to pamper their car, 54 percent of survey respondents said they would perform, or have someone else perform, routine maintenance on their vehicles.  These chores include checking the tire pressure, oil and washer fluid.  The issue, though, is that some do it more frequently than others.

Specifically, the survey found only 24 percent of Americans perform some type of routine maintenance on their cars on a monthly basis.  There is a small, highly anal group of 18 percent that do it more frequently (approximately every two weeks,) but a plurality of those surveyed (40 percent) don't perform routine maintenance until their car's regular oil change.  Even more shocking, one out of every 10 Americans never, or hardly ever, performs routine maintenance to care for their car.  (Of course, they probably lease.)

Who does the best job of maintaining their vehicles?  Southerners, that's who.  In the South, nearly 50 percent attend to the needs of their cars at least once a month by performing routine maintenance. (Or at least they say they do.)  In addition, one out of every four Southerners always fills up with mid-grade or premium fuel, and an additional 14 percent use mid-grade or premium gasoline on occasion. In comparison, nearly a quarter of Western respondents (22 percent) surveyed said they purchase the cheapest gas regardless of the type of gasoline that is recommended by their car's manufacturer. What are they thinking?

While many Americans have tried to crack Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, they seem to have little interest in cracking the spine of their owner's manual. In fact, the majority of Americans (63 percent) have read only bits and pieces of their owner's manual, and 11 percent of Americans haven't even opened it. Only 23 percent of people have read their owner's manual from cover to cover, according to the survey.

So what's the takeaway from the survey?  While we all want our cars to run properly and look great, it seems many of us are skimping on the smallest of chores.  So pamper your car a little.  In fact, if it takes premium gas, you might even want to treat your personal chariot to a little Shell V-Power fuel.  You know, it's the little things that mean a lot.

Automotive journalist Luigi Fraschini, who lives in Cleveland, not only washes his car frequently, he also talks to it.