Happy New Year!
Yep, it’s already 2019. With the turn of midnight, you might be inspired to set some resolutions for the coming year.
The most common New Year’s resolutions in the US are to lose weight, learn new skills, get more exercise and manage money better. These are definitely great ideas to improve our lives, but when our cars are a big part of our lives, shouldn’t we also give them some attention?
Here are some resolutions for driving and car care you can try on for size. We can make 2019 the best year yet for drivers.
1. Make your car shine
Start 2019 with a fresh, clean slate. Is your car still carrying around a bunch of old papers, wrappers, lost gloves and dirt from the dog park? This sort of stuff can make getting in the car more of an “ugh” and less “ahhh”.
Dedicate an afternoon to making your car something you can really enjoy sitting in. Clear out all the junk, vacuum the floors and give everything a good scrub.
Don’t forget the outside of your car! Take your car to the car wash, or better yet, if there’s a warm afternoon wash it at home.
Bring it into the shop for a full detailing job to clean up any scratches and dents from last year. For car lovers with the right equipment, this is also a fun DIY project.
2. Maintenance and servicing
You may resolve to go to the gym to get fit, but is your car in good shape?
Old tires are less efficient, handle with less stability and predictability, and pose the risk of a sudden blowout. A new set improves your driving experience and safety. This is especially critical in winter months when tough conditions on the road demand top performance from your car.
There’s no simple rule for when to replace your tires, so if you haven’t done so in a while, do the penny test to check their tread depth or take your car to a mechanic.
If your tires don’t need replacing yet, have them rotated so they wear evenly. (As a rule of thumb, this should be done at every other oil change.)
Speaking of oil changes, when was the last time you had this done?
Cars need clean oil to lubricate the engine and absorb heat. Otherwise, the force of friction would cause the whole system to overheat and break down.
As a rule, you should get a full oil change every 5,000 to 7,000 miles. It’s a simple procedure that only takes 20 minutes at any mechanic shop, so stop putting it off and give your engine a fresh start for 2019.
In general, just as you go to the doctor for a routine check-up every so often, your car should be checked regularly by a professional mechanic. Good milestones are at 30,000 miles, 60,000 miles and 90,000 miles. A thorough examination of all your car’s systems will ensure that everything is working at its peak, and help prevent serious problems before they develop.
3. Improve your driving
A great New Year’s resolution, that will make you, your car and everyone else on the road happy, is to set better driving habits overall.
Always follow the speed limit or even slower in case of bad weather.
If you find yourself constantly pushing the limit because you’re running late, make a commitment to leave 10 minutes earlier than you think you need to. If the problem is more from impatience, try to find ways to calm down in the car. Make a playlist of relaxing music for the road, and when your foot is itching for the gas pedal, take a few deep breaths.
Are you prone to road rage? When you start to boil in the driver’s seat, defuse the situation by giving the other driver the right of way. You’ll be amazed that life actually goes on even when you allow someone else to go ahead!
Keep the horn for emergencies. Remember that in a traffic jam, everyone else on the road is in the same frustrating situation as you.
Always stay focused on the road. Let the passengers fiddle with the music or the GPS. If you really need to fix something, pull over. And never text while driving. Really, never! It’s as dangerous as driving drunk.
You may also have some habits that you’re not aware are damaging to your car.
For example, dragging the brakes on a downhill causes them to wear out faster. Instead, apply light pressure and release.
Late braking is also tough on the system, so brake early and gently.
Shifting from drive to reverse without stopping puts pressure on the transmission band, rather than the more easily serviceable brake disc and pads. Always come to a full stop before shifting in an automatic transmission vehicle.
Finally, do your best to avoid potholes in the road. These cause an estimated one-third of all reported vehicle damage!
4. Set some fuel-efficient driving habits
Cleaning and maintaining your car is great, but the beginning of the year is an opportunity to clean up your driving, too. Let’s go green into the New Year.
Aggressive driving isn’t only hard on your blood pressure, it wastes a lot of fuel. Slow down and drive gently to minimize your car’s emissions.
City driving, with all that stopping, starting and sitting in red lights, is the worst for fuel efficiency. If you go into the city center, consider parking farther out and taking public transit in the most congested areas. (This also saves the hassle of trying to find a downtown parking spot.)
Most of all, break the idling habit!
Idling burns on average a quarter tank of gas for every fifteen minutes, while you go nowhere. You may think you’re doing your car a favor by warming it up on a frosty morning, but today’s electronically controlled engines have no problem driving away after thirty seconds, even on the coldest day.
In fact, the engine warms up best with moderate use, not idling. Excessive idling actually causes damage to the car, as the fuel isn’t fully combusted and fuel residue builds up on the cylinder walls.
Some experts even recommend that if you’re stuck in traffic or at a light for more than thirty seconds, turn the engine off and restart it when you’re ready to move.
5. Take an advanced driving class
Driver’s Ed is a thing of the past, just like braces, yearbooks and prom dates, right?
Think again! Advanced driving classes are a great way for adults to become better, safer drivers, no matter how many years they’ve already been on the road.
The basic driver’s ed course that you did as a teenager to get your license probably didn’t give you hands-on experience in driving over black ice or stabilizing a car that’s skidding out of control.
In an advanced driver training class, you go behind the wheel in challenging conditions and practice emergency maneuvers, all on a track and with an instructor guiding from the passenger seat.
These courses refresh your skills, break bad habits and familiarize you with new technology that may not have been available when you first got your driver’s license. You learn essential (but often overlooked) skills such as finding the safest place for your seat, the best way to hold the steering wheel and how to effectively scan the road.
Courses generally range from a half-day to a full weekend. Prices depend on whether you bring your own car or use one from the school. (I’d recommend the latter, since the track practice can give a beating to the average vehicle.)
6. Buy or lease a new car
Sometimes a new year calls for a real fresh start. Maybe it’s time to treat yourself to a brand new car, ready to drive full speed ahead into whatever 2019 has to offer.
The most exciting models of 2019 are already available to lease through Capital Motor Cars. Whether you’re looking for a family vehicle or a sporty joyride, a powerful pickup truck or SUV to carry you and all your stuff on your next adventure or just a sweet little sedan to get you to and from the office, we can connect you with the perfect vehicle for your needs.
A dedicated auto brokerage is usually the best choice for getting the best deals and the highest level of service. When you’re in the market for a new car, set yourself up for success by clarifying what you want and need, and by working with an experienced professional.