Care and Feeding of a New Car

Nearly everyone comes to the point where it is necessary to acquire a car, whether it be new or used.

Once all the formalities of insurance and the legalities of motor vehicle licensing are discharged, there are a couple more steps frequently ignored by many people. On those occasions when a used car has come into our household, we have the oil changed, and professional servicing of everything which can be serviced. This gives us a known and identifiable clean starting point.

New cars conventionally come with at least two keys, and used cars may come with multiple keys or sometimes just a single one. I always try to have three or four keys for anything which I drive. A trip to the hardware store is an inexpensive means of acquiring an extra key for an older car, but new high tech vehicles often require a trip to the dealership for an additional electronic key which can be priced at as much as $400 each. Faced with such a dilemma a more economical remedy was sought and an independent locksmith was found who provided me with access to two additional electronic keys for a total of about $360.

As an electronic key can be cloned remotely when out in public. We located “Faraday pouches” in which an electronic key can be kept safe from remote electronic tampering. Of course, this requires that the key be momentarily removed for the car to recognize it, but today we’re dealing with a new car which cost more than my first house, so it is worth protecting.

From here on in, the used car or a dealer fresh new car are treated the same. A file folder is dedicated for receipt of all paperwork concerning that specific vehicle. Into this goes both ownership and maintenance records. An additional document is the establishment of a “log book” into which all future maintenance is recorded together with date and mileage; this includes each addition of fuel, oil and even air in the tires. A maintenance log allows the operator to quickly refer back to determine when a particular item was accomplished. More importantly, a recurring problem can be easily spotted and given remedial attention.

As an example: a fuel tank ravaged by hidden rust was identified by excessive fuel use. Fuel would disappear from the tank even when the car was not used for several days. The log book identified excessive fuel, and we started looking for a cause. As a result, both the fuel tank and some fuel lines were replaced, and the problem was resolved. Without record in hand, we might have gone far longer before even identifying the presence of a problem.

In a similar fashion, a rusted wheel rim resulted in a slow air leak in one specific tire. Over a period of two weeks that tire would need air, then again two weeks later. Again the logbook provided us with a record indicating a recurring problem.

At the other end of the car’s life cycle, the logbook(s) and file of maintenance records make selling the vehicle much easier as the buyer has details of what had taken place in the past. A number of our family’s cars have been sold this way.

A vintage Jeep Cherokee was passed to me by my wife, together with several logbooks. In just a moment we can determine when the battery was replaced, last time the air conditioning was serviced or any other maintenance issue concerning our car(s).

A logbook need not be a very formal document; ours show date, miles, fuel added, and a brief notation of services performed. Also, the covers of our logbooks specify the number of quarts and type of oil required for the engine. Doing my own oil changes, the size of the wrench necessary oil pan plug wrench is noted for convenience.

Consider it, if you will, the log book is like a detailed health record for your car. Knowing what has gone before can be extremely useful in determining what comes next. Everything driven by any member of this household has its own logbook, which assists us in keeping up on maintenance. When picking up a new car at the dealership, my wife had a fresh logbook in hand to record the VIN, date, and mileage.

It does sound a bit obsessive, but on occasion when your neighborhood mechanic asks when the air conditioner was last recharged, his job is made simpler and cheaper if he can be told the date, mileage and that a new drier was installed at that time.

A few minutes now and then can result in savings of time and money and lessen anxiety by documenting the history of the car. Same procedure for one factory fresh or acquired well used. The logbook is partly responsible for the reason why our vehicles last a long time.

Steve Sevits spent a portion of his career as a retail dealership automobile salesman for one of the Big Three automobile manufacturers.

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