Posts Tagged ‘car care’

Who will encourage young people to drive well maintained cars?

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

A local tragedy (the death of Allison Faulk) has brought this to my mind. She died after suddenly and inexplicably losing control of her Ford Expedition on a major highway (3 other passengers survived). SUVs are known to have tread separation problems when vehicles are fully loaded and tire pressure is low, even on “good” tires.

Last year in quick succession I was visited by a college-student relative of my wife whose rusted-out brake lines leaked in my driveway and resulted in a scramble to find a mechanic on Thanksgiving (she also had balding, separating tires and was low on automatic transmission fluid), and just a couple of days later, a young woman in our church was killed in her boyfriend’s car when a rear tire disintegrated.

I realize that kids have other things on their minds and that cars are getting better and better about communicating all sorts of glitches to whoever is in the driver’s seat, but I wish that at every roadside cross there might be placed among the flowers and teddy bears a plastic-laminated card with a description of what went wrong and how to avoid it…

They don’t need to know what a ball joint is to know that wobbles and clunks aren’t things you should feel in your steering wheel, they don’t need to know exactly what tread separation is to know that “whop whop whop” isn’t a good thing to hear when you’re driving along, they don’t need to what that fluid is on the ground to know that the car shouldn’t pull to the right or left when you brake, etc… I’ve seen situations where kids died because they parked to make out in a car with a bad exhaust system.

When I went through driver’s ed in the late ’70s service stations still had pump jockeys who eyeballed every car for opportunities to sell a maintenance item and the educational focus was on speed and drunk driving. The only things I learned about car care came from the occasional Shell Oil commercial or free booklet that took a “Public Service Announcement” approach. That campaign ended long ago, and without the pump jockeys we’re at the mercy of some very long maintenance intervals and quickie lube places. When a kid gets ahold of a car that’s not making trips to the dealer anymore it can be a recipe for trouble. I have found very little on the net that is of any help, other than Click and Clack’s maintenance reminder over on the Car Talk Section of, and that was a free e-mail service that they don’t appear to offer anymore.

In many cases, parents may not know much more than the kids … what can be done?