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What Women Need to Know About
Preventative Auto Maintenance

(Comment #9, February 7, 2005)

"All of these recurring tasks are easily within the capabilities of anyone who can brew coffee in a kitchen coffee maker."
   My daughter is a busy woman. A few days ago she asked me for some advice:
   "Daddy, I can't seem to keep on top of my car maintenance. I'm so busy at work that I forget to do routine things. Can you make up some sort of maintenance list that I could put on my calendar to remind me when it's time to check things?"
   My daughters don't usually ask me for advice. I was flattered and said yes. Maybe some of you who have the same problem will find this interesting.
   I know, it's not politically correct to emphasize car maintenance for women; but most of the women I know don't have time or inclination to become knowledgeable about their cars. As a result they get stranded occasionally, or they spend a lot of money for repairs they might avoid with a little knowledge.
   When I worked at a local community college I met a young lady who was enrolled in one of those self-esteem improvement programs for women. She was working on a truck engine in our auto shop. "I'm divorced. I probably couldn't even give my "***" away; but I can fix a car, and I love it!"
   She was doing maintenance for her family's cars, and she later got a job as a full-time mechanic. She was an attractive lady. I got the feeling that with the confidence in her new skills, the confidence in her femininity was coming back.
   To heck with politically correct!

Part 1 The Daily Walkaround
   You can do this very quickly on your way to work in the morning. Before you get in, take a walk around your car and check a few items:
Windows If they're fogged or frosted over you must clear them to drive safely. For the moisture I use a squeegee I bought at WalMart. It takes about a minute to clear all the windows and wipe the outside mirrors. In winter, when I'm dealing with frost or ice I use a plastic scraper. This takes a little longer.
   Don't scrimp on this step; you need good visibility–no excuses.
Tires Take a look at your tires. If you spot one that looks low, promise yourself you'll stop by a station and inflate all four to the recommended pressure on the sticker in the driver side door frame. See my article "What Women Need to Know About Tires," click "Library/Back Issues/Comment" to read the back issue.
Mirrors
women can adjust mirrors
When you get in, close the door and glance at the fender mirrors and the interior mirror. Be sure you can see behind you on all sides.

How to adjust fender mirrors: Driver side: roll window up and lean your head against it. Adjust mirror so you just barely skim the left side of the car. Right side: with feet on pedals, lean far right. Adjust mirror so you just barely skim the right side. Now, from normal driving position your blind spots are covered.

women can adjust fender mirrors
Interior Light Be sure the interior lamp lights. If it doesn't, check the lamp switch at the dome. If it's not off replace the lamp at any discount auto parts store. Just take the old lamp in with you. Snapping in a new one is easy.
Reverse Lamp One last thing, when you shift into reverse gear check that the reverse lamp is operating. It's a good warning for approaching drivers to use caution.

   These are the basic driving environment checks. They take very little skill and can save you a lot of trouble.
   Hey! Drive away!

Car smell funky? This is something I've become sensitive to in our muggy Florida climate. Get a spray can of carpet or upholstery deodorant (Renuzit is very good at a reasonable price) and give a light spritz to the carpet and seat backs (Hey! Use it on your furniture and bed and pillows, too!) Rub it in with your hand. Driving a few minutes with a window open will carry out the extra moisture.
   One other trick I use, because I'm a heavy sweater, is to cover the back of my seat and the folding arm rest with a clean T-shirt. It sounds silly, but it helps keep the car seat dry and clean. I use a shirt with a color that matches the seat–somewhat.
   If you've been noticing your air conditioner is smelling a little stale, run the AC for several miles in the plain "AC" position (not the "Max AC" position). This brings in fresh air and moisture from outside that quickly freshens the inside air. The "Max AC" position circulates interior air, which becomes stale very quickly. As you drive you can alternate switch positions as the air becomes stale, then fresh. A few minutes before you reach your destination switch to "vent" (AC off) to dry out the system and keep it smelling fresh.

signs of trouble causes
AC air smells like oil
AC evaporator leak. Fix it now!
AC air smells like maple syrup heater core leak. Fix it now!

   In the rest of this first article I'll discuss things that are important on a day-to-day, or week-by-week basis. In a future edition I'll mention maintenance on a calendar basis.

   If you have comments on this subject (or any other) email them to:

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women can keep AC clean
vent, AC, and max AC control
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