By Eric Peters, Automotive Columnist
One of the first things I do when I acquire a new vehicle — new or used — is buy a small spiral-bound notebook that will fit easily into the glovebox. (Spiral-bound because a pen or pencil fits nicely in the binding.) On the cover I write the make/model/year of the vehicle and “Maintenance Log.” In the book will go information about all service and maintenance work done to the vehicle from that day forward, with date and mileage noted.
Keep such a log yourself and you’ll be able to tell, at a glance, when the oil was changed last, the brakes were serviced, the struts replaced and the transmission fluid and filter changed out.
This is helpful for both the home mechanic as well as the person who leaves it all to the dealer. While most dealerships do keep records of the work done to your vehicle, having a back-up is often handy, especially if the dealer’s records are lost or simply don’t agree with what you remember was done.
If, for example, a warranty-related problem develops it may be necessary to produce proof that certain service work was done according to the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule. (The “fine print” in some warranties allows the manufacturer/dealer to avoid paying for some repairs if the owner can’t prove the car was maintained per recommendations.)
The Maintenance Log will allow you to quickly reference the information you need and you can back that up with your receipts for things like oil and filter changes — which you should always keep at least as long as the vehicle remains under warranty. (Unwieldy receipts and paperwork can be stored separately, in a file cabinet or folder someplace in your home. Just be sure you do have them somewhere.)
The little notebook is also a good place to keep track of things you might otherwise lose track of – such as that the tires should be rotated this fall (you can jot down a reminder to yourself on a “reminders” page).
Another advantage of the Maintenance Log will show up come re-sale time. In particular, if you are going to sell the vehicle on your own. Being able to document the service history of the vehicle can be a be very strong selling point that will help you negotiate the best possible deal for yourself.
Even if your trade-in, being able to show the vehicle was meticulously taken care of should help secure the best-possible trade-in.
You could, of course, also use a PDA or similar electronic device, but I prefer the old-fashioned notepad because it’s simpler, cheaper and virtually foolproof. It won’t “crash” and can’t be attacked by a virus. It’s not hurt by heat (as in a glovebox) and even if it gets wet, you’ll probably still be able to use it after it dries out.
Having a pad and something to write on it with can also be very helpful if you need to leave a note for someone, such as the owner of another car you accidently bumped into in the parking lot.
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