Treat your car like you (should) treat your body

features@beaufortgazette.comOctober 31, 2011 

In the last month, my wife has had to replace her clutch and later her transmission and later her car. I've had both headlights go out at the same time, a battery die and a tire explode on the highway. Last year, we lost a third car because a tree fell on it.

This is proof of either, A. The Car Gods hate my family or, B. My wife and I are really, really hard on our vehicles. Of course, they could both be true, which would explain the tree.

It struck me during my latest trip to the local garage that a mechanic is sort of like a doctor, in that people hate to visit them, and when they speak, we don't know what they're talking about, but we agree with what they say because they're carrying a clipboard.

I know how to put gas in a car, and I know how to change a flat tire and (now) how to change a headlight in a Mazda 3, but beyond that, I am clueless. My mechanic could tell me he has to replace my Flux Capacitor and I'd say, "Any way we can get a used one?"

The doctor, the vet and the mechanic are where we feel the most vulnerable, the most in need of a friend. Ignorance and fear make us weak. Embarrassed. Ashamed. The threat of financial damage looms with every checkup.

No wonder people put off getting that "ding" in the engine checked out. It's the same as the doctor: The truth might be more painful to live with than the lie you tell yourself.

A car is a mystery to me. I open the hood and stare at all the shiny parts. I assume they all serve a function, but I can't say for sure what they do.

And I don't think I am alone. I think most people know less about cars than they pretend to. Do you change your own oil? Do you know you are supposed to change your oil? I went through four years of college and I swear I never changed the oil in my car once.

(Random connected thought: These days, I get my oil changed at a national chain with a garage in Beaufort, and they are awesome. The last time I went in, one guy started scanning my car with a sensor gun, the other was under the engine, a third was checking the computer and grabbing oil. Technically, I didn't even say I wanted the oil changed -- in fact, I didn't say anything except "thank you" when I paid. The whole thing took five minutes. Every errand in life should be done without speaking and take only five minutes.)

Finding a mechanic you trust might be the single most important thing you do in your adult life -- especially if you are like me, and you are as gentle to your vehicles as you are to the bumper cars at the county fair.

The lesson? Treat your car like you treat your body, and take it in for a tuneup often. But if you have to choose between the two, pay more attention to your body. Because, really, what good is a well-tuned car if you are dead?

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