I have to admit, I’m not much of a “car guy.” In fact, I bought my Toyota Matrix partly because it was named after my favorite Keanu Reeves movie; it’s a 2006 model with no hubcaps, a missing door handle, and over 212,000 miles on the odometer. I don’t know much about how the engine works, or if turtle wax is actually made from real turtles, but I do know that if you want to get the most value out of your automobile you have to keep it properly maintained.
Just like regular exercise will keep your six pack abs from turning into a keg around your belly, regular car maintenance will keep your car in tip-top condition. Not only does your car need to be in good shape to get where you’re going, it needs to be in good shape for you to get to be able to take the DMV behind-the-wheel test. In addition to making sure your brake and signal lights are working the DMV examiner will want to make sure your windshield isn’t cracked, the driver’s window rolls down (so you can hear instructions from outside the car, and demonstrate your hand signals,) you have at least two rearview mirrors (center and driver’s side,) seat beltsfor both you and your passengers, and your tire tread is not too worn down.
A good way to tell if you need new tires is the “penny test.” Place a penny head first into several tread grooves across the top of your tire. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, your treads are too shallow and worn down, and your tires need to be replaced. If a part of Lincoln’s head is always hidden in the tread, you have more than 2/23 of an inch of tread depth remaining. This means you probably don’t need new tires. Of course, if you don’t have a penny to spare for this test, it definitely means you need a new job.
Make sure your headlights are working, and you can set your parking brake. Even if there’s not a drop of rain in the sky and the weatherman is predicting a sunny day, make sure you have functional windshield wipers. It’s okay to love fast food hamburgers, just make sure your passenger seat isn’t filled up with their greasy wrappers. Your auto doesn’t have to have that new car smell, but make sure it doesn’t smell like old feet either.
Remember you will not be able to take the driving test unless the car you arrive in is in good condition, properly equipped, and correctly registered and insured. Your chances to take the test will be chilly at best if you have defrosters that don’t work, and you won’t be able to toot your own horn after the test if you can’t honk your horn during the pre-test inspection. It even lists on the DMVtest sheet that you’ll need a passenger door and glove box, I think that’s setting the bar pretty low as far as requirements go, but I guess the examiners need a glove box so they can put your registration and insurance in to it, and a passenger door so they won’t have to enter your car through the trunk.
I like to get a car tune-up and oil change every 3000 miles. My tires rotated every 6000 miles, and new wiper blades every 7500 miles. Refer to your car’s owner manual for recommend tune-up intervals. Keeping your car in good condition will extend the life of your car, prevent breakdowns that could leave you stranded by the side of the road, and save you money in the long run by making your car more efficient so it will use less gas and oil. Remember “If you don’t keep your car running well, you may end up walking more than you like.”
By Daniel Holzman
Local Driving School