I know very little about cars, but because I drive one I decided this year that I should learn about car maintenance. A friend gave some helpful tips and suggested that I read the manual.
“I’m not the manual kind of person,” I replied. Even so, I searched for it in the glove compartment then read it through.
I retained very little though. And some important things aren’t even written there. For example, the manual does not tell you how to use the air pump at the gas station. The first time I had a soft tire, I used the pump at the gas station and totally deflated my tire within seconds. Fortunately, a kindhearted hunk assisted me. What a pleasure! I mean, his kindness not his hunk-ness.
And have you ever seen anyone overfill his gas tank? Again, the manual doesn’t say that if the gas spout makes a noise, it means FULL. The driver on the other pump had to tell me, “Your gas is overflowing” because I wasn’t looking. I kept pressing the lever waiting for the $ counter to reach my prepaid amount of $30. Why should it stop at $27?
I didn’t particularly enjoy lifting the hood, and even today, I don’t always get it right on the first try. The engine intimidated me, but I had to learn how to add coolant, motor oil and wiper fluid. I have not gotten around to the brake fluid.
Don’t open the radiator cap while the radiator is hot or steam can burn your face. …Make sure you have wiper fluid in case mud splatters on your windshield and blocks your view. …Make sure you have enough motor oil. Use the dipstick to check the level.…
I have added these fluids a few times. For checking the motor oil, I even used the dipstick.
Last Saturday, I was taking my boys and our Korean guest for a picnic at Cultus Lake. Ever the cautious driver, I went on the Internet to get directions. 90 kilometres from Vancouver. Quite a ways off. I checked my tires and checked my oil. Hmm, I think it’s time to refill the motor oil. After doing this, we headed to the nearest gas station to get enough gas. Just then, I glanced at my rear view mirror, and to my horror, my car was emitting so much smoke. I had never seen that happen to my car or to any car here for that matter. I immediately stopped at a parkway and called BCAA for roadside assistance.
“Hello,” I said, “there’s a lot of smoke coming out of that thing at the back of my car.”
“Do you mean the muffler?” the person on the other line asked.
“Is that the muffler? Yeah, the muffler,” I said. Ladies, at least know the basic car parts.
In a few minutes, a BCAA serviceman came and I told him what I had done before leaving the house that morning.
“You poured four litres of oil? You poured too much.” He then showed me two dots at the end of the dipstick that tell you the minimum and maximum levels for motor oil. I never knew about that. So what was I looking at every time I used the dipstick? Your guess is as good as mine.
The BCAA man suggested that I have my oil drained and refilled to the right level. Fortunately, Budget Brake and Muffler was just across the street. I drove the car, belching smoke like crazy, to that shop.
As soon as I approached the man at the front desk, he said, “I can tell just by looking at your car that you blew up your engine gasket.” He said I should not drive the car at all or I might destroy my engine completely, and that his shop couldn’t do anything for it.
“Are you hearing me?” he asked when I stared at him blankly. I thought I just poured too much motor oil. Now he was telling me about gasket and engine and hundreds, even thousands of dollars for repair and replacement. My goodness, he had not even checked inside my car. I thought he was very snooty.
I called BCAA again to have my car towed to Honda along Fraser Highway. At least there, I have a regular customer service person, Malcolm, who attends to me and my car very well.
I sent my kids home, which was just around the corner, with our picnic food. “Mom, that’s why you shouldn’t be putting motor oil. The last time you did that, we had another problem,” Mickey said.
“I should have helped you, Mom,” Gabriel said. He was supposed to be my “oil assistant” that morning but he was busy with other things. Markus did it previously. I try to involve them in car maintenance so they will not grow up as ignorant about cars as I am.
At the Honda shop, Malcolm was very accommodating unlike that guy from Budget Brake and Muffler. However, it would not be until after lunch when my regular mechanic could see my car. I asked to be driven home by Honda service. On the way, I recounted what just happened to my car to Terry, the Honda driver.
“Oh, at least you poured it in the right hole. Otherwise that would have been disastrous. Are you sure you did not use vegetable oil?” he teased me. He gave me very useful car care tips to avoid costly mistakes.
“Why do they sell motor oil in 4-litre containers if you’re not supposed to pour it all?” I complained.
During the next two hours, I nervously waited for a call from Malcolm. Oh God, I hope it’s not the gasket nor the engine. Just please make it be the least expensive trouble.
True enough, the problem was too much oil which was drained and replaced. I had other things checked and serviced too. Honda even washed my dusty car.
I would love to have a brand new or slightly used car in the future. My boys each have a favourite – a convertible for Gino, a VW beetle for Mickey, Hummer! for Gabriel, and vintage!! for Markus.
Me, I just want something that won’t give me a headache!!!