Car Care


Lately, I’ve carved out the time to go car shopping after hours and on a weekend. For whatever reason, I want to continue to minimize my use of the truck. It will be five years old in July and I’ve just turned over 19,000 miles. I’ve worked hard to keep it in like-new condition. Actually, I haven’t done anything to keep it in like-new condition other than mostly keep it in the garage, drive it sparingly and get the oil changed at specified intervals.


I guess I could also say that I sprang for some weather-tech floor liners to ensure the carpet stayed unmarred by wear and tear. I also added a sprayed in bed-liner and a hard surface cover over the cargo space. My son would say, “Dad, it’s a truck. If it gets scratched, it is no big deal.”


Of course, that was in response to the issue of damaged paint from an overly zealous horse or two that couldn’t pass up the chance to taste a Tough Ford Truck. Once I noticed the scratches, I opted to call State Farm. Like a good neighbor, they opted to cover the damage. I’m not driving anything with scratches.


Actually, my son has enough OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) in him that his verbalization of “it’s no big deal” is mostly hype. He was more than a little disturbed when he came out of church one Sunday to discover that an anonymous parishioner had backed their vehicle into the side of his truck. They then opted to leave the premises without leaving a note on his truck claiming their identity and contact information. That certainly didn’t fall under the category of amazing grace on the driver of the get-away car. I’d call it a hit-and-run even if no one saw it happen.


You’d think that if my son were either Baptist or Catholic, the fellow parishioner would have difficulty sleeping at night since they, too, would have fallen in one of those categories. Isn’t it true that feelings of guilt come easily for folks in both of those settings? I’d be tempted to step out of church a little early one Sunday and inventory the other vehicles in the church parking lot. I’d be looking for a bumper that was coated with paint the color of my truck.


We’re not talking about a door ding here. We’re talking about enough damage that I’d have already taken out a second mortgage on my home if need be to get it repaired. Of course, when it comes to vehicles, I’m a little more OCD than my son. My son is Baptist, but he is the kind that practices the lost art of forgiveness rather than harboring resentment. He also either has been too busy or doesn’t have my level of insurance coverage on his truck to get the damage fixed. Knowing I’d let something like that drive me crazy, my deductible is only $50. Like I said, I’m not willfully going to drive a vehicle with a major dent. Actually, that’s understated. I’m not going to drive a vehicle with any kind of dent.


I know people, who from the appearance of their car obviously have a hobby of driving in collision derby events. Their vehicle looks like they purposefully modified their car to make it look worse for ware. Did I mention that is not a good look?


Many years ago when I was supervising residential child care licensing staff in Houston, an employee who lived in Orange came to town for a meeting. She was driving a new Mercedes. Obviously she married well or had just won the lottery. She didn’t make that kind of money working for the state. A group of us were engaged in a parking lot, after-the-meeting, conversation. One employee, who predictably would have been “the one”, opted to set her briefcase down on the hood of the new Mercedes. I may have made an audible sound when I saw that happen, I’m not sure. I was speechless.


I could tell from her body language that the owner of the car was also concerned. When the careless employee subsequently removed her expensive leather brief case from the hood of the car, there was a small scratch. I noticed the owner of the vehicle licked her finger and subtly tired to rub aware the marred spot, but it only made it shine. It didn’t go away.


With the finesse of a lady of character, the owner of the Mercedes didn’t say a word. She simply opted to let it go. Had it been my new Mercedes or even the old Oldsmobile Cutlass I was driving, I’d have been responsible for a ruckus that might have resulted in riot control being called. It would not have been pretty.


Maybe I’m old school. Doing damage to someone’s vehicle seems like a fairly serious offense to me. I guess that is kind of like stealing home plate. If you don’t get tagged out, you are good for the run. I don’t think so.


During my growing up years my dad taught me two things about automobiles. For beginners, maintaining the vehicle is important. During my growing up years, my dad was a shade tree mechanic. He never bothered taking his car back to the dealership for anything. Even in his later years, he didn’t believe in extended warranties. He operated on the notion: “If they can make money by selling the extended warranty, I can save money by not buying it”. Of course, it was of interest to me that whenever he was close to the timeline for his factory warranty to expire, he always purchased a new vehicle.


My dad also did his own oil changes. I don’t recall what he did with the leftover oil, but the thought of going to a quick-stop oil change place was never a consideration. Even in his late 70s, he had no aversion to crawling under a car and changing the oil in his vehicle.


Earlier on, I tried to follow his example. If you think being inside a MRI machine can provide an experience of claustrophobia, try crawling under you car to change the oil. Even with one row of tires on the sidewalk, it is way too close for comfort.


If you missed the two things my dad taught me, it was (1) keep you car maintained and (2) don’t buy the extended warranty. I guess I could add a third. He always said “New tires are good insurance. Don’t let the ones on your car get worn. It’s not safe.”


I have a friend in Irving that is a zealot for the care of his cars. He owns a fleet of vehicles. They, too, mostly never get driven. He and his wife together have two or three houses and an apartment that comes with a garage. For the most part, it is simply to accommodate my friend’s need for garage space. He wants to protect his investment by ensuring his cars are always in the vault. He is a policeman. I’ve always wondered how he affords the insurance, much less the purchase price of the vehicles.  He drives a pickup for everyday, but his Mustang convertible, his Camaro convertible and four other vehicles are safely stored out of sight and only driven on rare occasion.  I’m not sure what his wife drives, but can you imagine their car insurance premium?


At any rate, I was talking to a car dealer and learned you have lots of options for add-ons to the price of the car. For $700 you can have a new vehicle clear coated. Reportedly, that is important because bugs or bird droppings can damage paint. I mean the list went on and on. I looked at the guy and said, “The more you’ve talked, the more I’m convinced I shouldn’t buy you car. If it doesn’t come from the factory with everything you need, then why would I want it?” Long story-short, ours proved to be a quick conversation.


Let me simply say this, “If you want to know if I made a purchase, you’ll have to look in the vault.”


All My Best!



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