Editor’s note: This was provided to us by one of our top technicians. If cars could speak, they might yearn for their own Bill of Rights. Certainly, they were built by their manufacturers according to certain unalterable laws of physics. If you take care of your car, it will take care of you, providing you and 100s of 1000s of miles of safe and reliable transportation. This Vehicle Bill of Rights will guide you in caring for and preserving one of your most valuable investments.
A vehicle has the right to the proper fluids. All vehicles are not created equal and, as such, are built with certain fluid specifications in mind. Several modern car-makes require fluids that are engineered specifically for that brand alone, and using something in place of that can actually cause damage. Engine Oil, Transmission Fluid, Brake Fluid, Power Steering Fluid, Differential Fluid all vary depending on the make and model of the car or truck. Some fluids can even vary depending on the different options on the same model and year! There is no such thing as standard.
A vehicle has the right to maintenance. The manufacturers of your vehicle built it with maintenance in mind, meaning that the lifetime of your car or truck is wholly dependent upon what you put into it. The factory has set certain maintenance items to be performed at specific intervals throughout the vehicle’s life. These include fluid services, tune-up parts, replacing timing components and so on. These components are put under tremendous stress on a daily basis from normal commuter-type driving, as well as environmental factors such as heat or cold, weather, and the surface on which your vehicle is driving. Because of this stress, these parts and fluids become worn over time and so require replacement. When they are not replaced, your car or truck doesn’t perform as it should. Ignoring these maintenance items for extended periods of time can cause major problems throughout the vehicle’s systems and severely shorten its life. Many drivers eschew maintenance items, seeing them as a unnecessary, or simply as a ploy by car-makers to separate uninformed car-owners from their money. This is simply not the case. Maintenance is an integral part of your car or truck’s longevity, and the better you maintain it, the longer it will stay on the road.
A vehicle has the right to diagnostics and testing. When you’re sick, your doctor doesn’t guess. She doesn’t just take a cursory glance at you then write a prescription, or recommend replacing a limb. And you wouldn’t expect that for the amount of money you pay to have the appointment. The same goes for your car and your mechanic. A modern vehicle has several systems, with sometimes dozens of components in those systems, all running at the same time. When something goes wrong, it’s up to the mechanic to search among those systems to find the cause. This takes time, expertise, and experience to do at all, let alone do well, and this is exactly what it takes to keep your vehicle running correctly. Some customers will balk at the thought of testing fees. But just as your doctor can’t give a diagnosis over the phone, she wants you to make an appointment; the same goes with your mechanic: to find out what’s going on with your car or truck can take testing, research and, most of all, time. Your physician expects to be paid for her time in order to make you well. An automotive technician can only expect the same.
A vehicle has the right to quality parts. The automotive industry is one–among others–ruled by price. Parts stores, Corporate Chain Repair Garages, and Independent Repair Facilities are all competing for your business, and for most their biggest weapon is price. Parts stores offer sales and rebates on package deals and repair facilities offer incredibly cheap offers for repair work. A car-owner can expect on any given day to be offered a $19.95 oil change, or a $79 brake job, free check engine diagnostic, or even sizable discounts on large enough purchases. But the responsible vehicle owner must do some work to find out what they are getting for those prices. Is that $19.95 oil change at a garage using bulk oil in only one viscosity? Is that the correct viscosity for your car or truck? Is that $79 brake job offering quality brake pads, or an entry-level set? Does it include machining or replacing the rotors? Knowledge of these things is what makes the difference between repairing your vehicle and fixing it. Sure a $99 brake job will fix it. But a quality repair can and should make it as good as new (or as close to good as new as is possible). When drivers are given an estimate at a repair facility, a common question is if the price can be lowered by getting cheaper parts. Often times it’s doable. However, the best repair to a vehicle is one where the parts put on it are of a quality at least comparable if not equal to those put on by the factory. There are times and places where corners can be cut. But parts quality should not be one of them.
A vehicle has the right to be driven responsibly. Cars and trucks are machines, and as such they require input by an operator in order to function. The kind of input by the operator depends on the output of the machine–and also the wear on the machine and its parts. The more responsibly a vehicle is driven, the longer it is more is likely to last. Taking corners at high speeds, incessant slamming of brakes, constant hard acceleration all add to the wear of a vehicle, and take away from its longevity.
A vehicle has the right to care by its owner/driver. The primary driver is the person that handles a specific vehicle the most often. This person is responsible for the regular upkeep of their car or truck. Simple items like checking tire pressure, having the tires rotated, oil changes every 3000 to 5000 miles (depending on oil type) and checking fluids before long trips are all the responsibility of the driver/owner, and a schedule for these items should be made and adhered to. A well-cared-for vehicle is one that takes care of its owner, so a service done for it is, ultimately, a service done for oneself.