For Auto Lang Syne
It’s almost that time once again . . . New Year’s . . the holiday of conviviality, resolutions and the best intentions for new beginnings. According to online surveys, the most common resolutions in recent years have been either body-image or money-related. It’s also a well-known fact that most New Year’s resolutions are broken within the first couple months of the year, but perhaps we can better those odds if our commitments are more vehicular-based rather than economic- or bodily-focused. Let’s look at some great resolutions related to our cars; ones that will save money, time, sanity and — perhaps — lives.
Change Your Oil On Time
Changing your vehicle’s motor oil at the proper manufacturer intervals not only increases the life of your car, it saves money on wear and tear, and by extrapolation it saves towing and other related breakdown costs. To locate your vehicle’s oil change intervals, consult the owner’s manual; some late-model vehicles indicate next service intervals on information screens at startup. If you cannot locate your manual, search online for a copy. Many manufacturers provide online access to manuals.
Stop Driving Like a Maniac
It’s a tough resolution to keep, especially when you are pressed for time, but speeding during a typical daily car trip does not typically get you to your destination faster. Road conditions and the ebb and flow of traffic will usually thwart the best intentions of arriving early via speeding. Studies have shown that no matter how fast you speed to reach your destination, in reality the time saved can be counted in mere seconds, not minutes. Traveling the speed limit means great savings — in gas, money, sanity and lives.
Take Better Cosmetic Care
Wash your vehicle’s exterior more, and clean the windows for better visibility. Clean the interior too. If you can take time to do it yourself, washing your car by hand can be fun and therapeutic. If you don’t have the time, find a touchless car wash to preserve the car’s paint from brush swirls. When you don’t use a hose and bucket to wash your car you are also doing the environment a favor, since many professional car washes recycle their used water for less waste.
Give Someone Else a Lift
No, we’re not talking about picking up hitchhikers. Daily carpooling instead of riding alone to school or work not only saves gas and money, it helps the environment and keeps you connected with people you care about — or at least have an affinity with.
Perform Regular Checks for Optimum Safety and Operation
The beginning of every month is a good time to check all tires, belts, hoses, light bulbs and wiper blades to ensure none are worn or burned out. These items keep your car running safely and efficiently, and making sure they are operational will keep you from losing more money when a police officer stops you for speeding (see above) and cites you for burned-out bulbs to boot.
Plan Trips To Be More Fuel Efficient
Running around after work every night instead of planning one or two effective shopping trips during the week is a gas and time waster. Planning your trips in the car more carefully will save time, money, aggravation and overall be good for your karma.
Replace Critical High-Wear Items BEFORE You Are Stranded
Have a qualified technician check your tires, brakes and battery to make sure they have plenty of life left in them. There’s no telling when those items will let you down miles from nowhere, so be prepared with a little proactive preventive care and upgrading for peace of mind.
Make Sure You Have Proper Auto Insurance
After an accident is the wrong time to discover your insurance is woefully inadequate and in need of policy revisions. As cars and drivers age (and new drivers get added to your family policy), take the time to make sure you have enough insurance coverage for basic vehicular incidents that might occur. Purchase extra liability coverage if you have young drivers or are worried about the litigious society in which we live.
Buy a More Efficient Vehicle
If your car is more than 10 years old, chances are you could be driving a much more fuel efficient, safer vehicle. Upgrading your vehicle when possible keeps you rolling in good stead under the best conditions — besides, whose overall attitude doesn’t get better when slipping behind the wheel of a new ride?
Resolve To Be Courteous
Driving with a friendlier attitude is not only good for your health and safety, it is good for drivers and pedestrians around you. Giving someone some extra space when merging on the freeway, allowing another driver to turn in front of you instead of trying to force them out of your lane for no reason makes for a calmer, safer driving experience for all involved.
Stop Texting While Driving
Obviously this is a tough one, given the number of people we see every day texting from behind the wheel. Texting while driving is as dangerous as drunken driving, and can really ruin someone’s day — and life. Just STOP. If what you need to say is so important that it cannot wait, do everyone a favor and pull off the road to text or call. Another alternative: Buy a car with telematics capabilities or purchase a Bluetooth device that include hands-free communication.
Avoid Buying Premium Gas
Why wear a tux when all you need is a suit? Don’t waste your money buying premium fuel if your car can use regular unleaded gas. The performance difference between regular unleaded and premium unleaded gasoline is indistinguishable to all but the most discerning drivers. Unless your vehicle’s owner’s manual says to use premium gasoline in your car, save yourself some money and just buy regular gas.
Get the Junk Out Your Trunk
Clearing out your trunk and rear seat not only cleans up your car’s immediate environment, it saves gas if you are hauling around extraneous stuff that weighs a lot. Old sports equipment, items meant for donation and beach chairs from last summer all add up to decreased fuel economy and a cluttered environment. Do yourself a favor and clear out any extra junk from your vehicle.
Catch Up on Scheduled Maintenance
Maybe you skipped a 60,000- or 100,000-mile scheduled maintenance this past summer since you did not want to put a kink in your beach plans. Take time during winter months to catch up on any manufacturer-recommended maintenance for your vehicle, so when warm weather comes and you are ready to go cruising again you are truly ready.
Spring for Roadside Assistance
A good resolution especially if you drive an older vehicle. Purchasing a roadside assistance plan gives you some peace of mind just knowing that there’s someone to call in case of a vehicular breakdown. Talk about a lifesaver on a cold, dark roadway. If your budget won’t allow for an annual plan, at least keep phone numbers of a couple reputable towing companies in your phone’s contact list or your wallet.
Take a Road Trip
Once your vehicle has been checked out so you know it is in good shape, and you’ve enrolled in a roadside assistance plan, take a road trip. Seeking new destinations is a great way to expand your horizons (literally and figuratively) as well as a great way to spend some quality time with friends or family. Don’t think “National Lampoon’s Vacation” or “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” — think of it more as a time to set yourself free and reconnect with the basic joys of your driven life.
Attend a Driving School
Whether you are a new driver or a seasoned veteran, attending a driving school can fix bad habits, create good new ones, and be a lot of fun. Many types of driving schools exist across the country, from Sears Driving Schools to the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. An added bonus: Some insurance companies offer discounts to those who attend and graduate from defensive driving schools. Check with your state’s DMV or your current insurance carrier to see if discounts are available.