I've always said that there are two types of people in the world: car people and everyone else. It's easy to pick out a true car person, because they always look back at their vehicle as they walk away from it in a parking lot. Everyone else walks away without a second thought or concern. And why not? After all, a vehicle is just transportation.
To a car person, the loss, damage or complete destruction of their cherished vehicle can be devastating. Not devastating like the death of a family member or friend, it simply throws off our groove. For the car person, when all is well with our car, all is well!
The other day, my friend Brad wrote in lamenting that his trusty Ford Explorer had been rear-ended while parked on the street. I, too, have had such luck, which got me thinking. What can we do to protect ourselves from the non-car people in the world?
I hate parking lots, especially if they're full. I just know that some old battle wagon is going to pull up next to me and give my car a big door ding.
I recently purchased an SUV, which has increased my parking challenge at least two-fold. Unlike my sport sedan, the SUV is too big to fit in the "compact car" spaces and it does not have door trim. It's a sitting duck for a door ding.
A few days ago I attended Sneak Preview Night at the Los Angeles Car Show. As normal, I headed for the top of the parking structure to find an open parking space on a corner, as the corner and end spaces reduce your chances of a ding by 50 percent. In many cases, the corner and end spots are also larger. I found an end spot and parked as far over as possible. After getting out of the car, locking it, and walking away, I had a funny feeling and return to my SUV to move it. A bewildered BMW owner sitting in his car popped his head out of the window to ask me why I moved. "Simple reason," I said, "I didn't want to be hit when someone rounded the corner too close." My point is, think about how people can get you and don't give them the chance.
Going back to the story about my friend Brad's Ford Explorer, he was parked on the street in front of his house on New Year's day. My guess would be that the guy who hit his truck had been out drinking all night New Year's evening. Brad lives on a quiet, peaceful street. Even so, there are two nights a year my cars will never be found out in public: New Years and Halloween. Think about where you park before an accident happens.
A while back I started using a magnetic door guard on my Porsche 911 while keeping it parked in the garage. My youngest son, Andrew, has a habit of opening doors with great enthusiasm. The guards are made of clear rubber and stick to the sides of the door. They have saved my doors, and Andrew, from certain death. If their is an Andrew in your family, I highly recommend some form of door guard. I pack a pair of them in the trunk of my car to use when forced to park in a bad area. So far, knock on wood, they have not been stolen.
Speaking of SUVs and parking in the garage, did you know the standard garage is 22 feet deep? That sounds like a decent amount of room to park until you realize the average SUV, full-size pickup and full-size sedan are 16 to 17 feet long. So, if you have storage or a work bench at the end of your garage, there's just barely enough room to pull your vehicle all the way in and still have enough room to walk behind. I thought about getting one of those little electronic gizmos, but the end of my garage is all storage. One bump of the shelving with the SUV and bottles, cans and tools will come crashing down on my hood. I solved the problem with a little device called the Park Smart Pad. You put it in the garage where you want to stop and you park perfectly every time.
RUNNING FOR COVER
Back in the 1980s and 90s I worked as an independent consultant. My work took me all over the east coast. For most jobs, I enjoyed driving to the client's site because it gave me time to think and relax.
Any time I traveled away from home I brought a car cover with me to cover my car while it was not being driven. During the day the cover protected my car from sunlight, birds and airborne contamination. At night the cover kept my car dry and away from the prying eyes of potential thieves.
When I moved back to the coast of California, I continued to use a cover, but for a completely different reason. Anyone living less than a quarter mile from the ocean must deal with salt air corrosion. Even if you keep your car in the garage, the salt air creeps in the garage, laying down a thin film of salt. The only way to protect your car from the damaging effect of the salt air is to keep it covered.
A car cover is an essential accessory for anyone with a nice car. If you don't have a garage, you need an all weather cover (water resistant). If you do have a garage, you need a dust cover.
SUN LOVERS BEWARE
When I was a kid, my parents let me run around outside for hours without a thought of skin protection. Being a fair-skinned boy, I'd get burns that would make my skin blister. In the last 20 years or so we've come to realize just how damaging the sun is to us and our stuff. These days, most parents are savvy enough to cover their children with SPF-30 or better sun protection, but are we as smart about our cars?
Modern cars are being designed with inherent protection features, but these features do not offer full protection. For instance, automotive glass is tinted, but the tint level cannot fully protect the interior against long hours of ultra violet (UV) light exposure from the sun. Likewise, many of the new paint clear coat systems have UV inhibitors, but the measure is not total protection. Unfortunately, car sales professionals sell these features as benefits, and new car owners mistakenly believe the car cannot be damaged by sun exposure. They are sadly mistaken. Due to the ozone layer depletion in our atmosphere, UV radiation strength is increasing.
Protecting your vehicle from UV radiation damage continues to be necessary maintenance if you want your car's appearance to hold up more than 5 years. Here's my 'how-to' list for keeping your car sun damage free for 10 or more years:
Use a synthetic sealant product on your paint every 3-4 months. No product on the market retains UV protection effectiveness more than 2-3 months.
Use a vinyl and rubber protectant with UV inhibitors on all exterior vinyl and rubber twice a month.
Treat cloth upholstery and carpet with a UV and stain blocker treatment once a year.
Treat vinyl, plastic and leather upholstery every two months.
Tint the rear and passenger side windows.
Use a sun shield in your windshield when parked outside.
Cover your car when parked outside for extended periods.
When these simple steps are taken, your vehicle's appearance has a chance of remaining in excellent condition for ten or more years. If you take no precautions, your car's appearance will noticeably deteriorate in less than five years.
EXTENDING SERVICEABLE LIFE
Theft prevention and appearance preservation are not the only ways you should protect your car. You can extend your vehicle's serviceable life by many years through basic maintenance.
In the year 2000, the average age of an automobile on the road was 10 years. Ten years of serviceable life is not all that bad, but you can certainly do better with proper maintenance. Going beyond standard oil, air and fuel filter changes, as an example, makes a huge difference in engine wear, reliability and economy.
The best way to prolong the life of a car is through regular, preventive and predictive maintenance of your vehicle's engine and critical systems. Most of the recommended maintenance procedures are simple and affordable. Even though advanced diagnostic equipment is required to diagnose modern car problems, do-it-yourself car owners can still do basic maintenance themselves.
The obvious upkeep is a schedule of regular oil changes and filter changes, including the oil filter, fuel filter and air filter. Most new cars have the ability to travel extended miles between oil changes, as compared to just a few years ago. My new SUV, for example, has a 15,000 oil change interval. This is a minimum requirement to meet warranty requirements, but most mechanics will tell you more often is better. I have set a schedule of every 6 months or 8,000 miles for my vehicles.
Don't forget cleaning the inside of the engine, too. Many car experts recommend cleaning the inside of your engine every 25,000 to 30,000 miles with a motor flush. While you can't see it, varnishes and sludge accumulate inside your engine. Changing your oil does little to remove this harmful contamination. A motor flush product will break down internal contamination build-up, so it can be flushed away when the oil is drained.
It is also important to keep what’s under the hood clean, and not just for appearance’s sake. Dirt and grease build-up can be harmful to your car’s engine. A build-up of grease and grime can contaminate your engine, binding linkages, clogging vital passages and inhibiting heat transfer.
Theft prevention, parking lot damage, UV radiation damage and excessive wear and tear are all within your control. If you have a nice vehicle and want to keep it nice through a long, serviceable life, you must provide it with the proper care. Keep your vehicle secure, out of harm's way and do the basic maintenance in regular intervals, and it will remain yours, hold value longer, and cost less to maintain.