Love your car like your body

Cars are just like bodies. When people take proper care of their cars, their cars will inevitably take care of them.

“If you don’t drink and you don’t smoke, your body will keep up with you. The same is true for your car,” said Bob Sullivan, the owner of Bob’s Auto Repair at 939 W. Gaines St.

Sullivan said that apathy is the biggest problem for car owners, especially students. “Maintenance is very important. Most students will hear a little noise and turn up the radio,” Sullivan said. When car owners put maintenance on hold, little problems evolve into very big and expensive ones. From gas prices to auto repair, making a commitment to suitable car maintenance nearly insures lowered repair costs.

Consumer Reports Online exposes some popular misconceptions about car maintenance in its April 2001 report, Myths vs. Reality. One such belief is that tires should be inflated to the pressure marked on the sidewall of the tire. The tire pressure shown is the maximum pressure and not the manufacturer’s recommendation for inflation.

The manufacturer’s recommended pressure is usually printed on a sticker and attached to a door jamb, glove box or fuel-filler door. The Better Business Bureau reports that keeping tires inflated at the proper levels provides less road resistance and can improve fuel efficiency.

“Filling up with a higher grade is usually a waste of money,” Consumer Reports Online reported. Owners should use the grade of octane recommended in their vehicle’s owner’s manual. Most cars are designed to operate on regular-grade fuel and a higher octane number does not necessarily mean that the vehicle will perform better.

Regardless of quick-lube car shop advertisements, it is usually not necessary that engine oil be changed every 3,000 miles.

Consumer Reports Online suggests that car owners maintain the oil change schedule recommended in vehicle’s owner’s manuals.

Consumer Reports Online also advises car owners not to adhere to the belief that the time to worry about replacing tires is when they are worn down to the minimum tread depth. Jason Tucker, the assistant manager of Big 10 Tires located at 1425 W. Tennessee St., said many car owners do not focus their attention on the age of the tire as much as the tread.

“Some warning signs of dry rot are cracking and wrinkling on the tire. Sometimes the weather can make the rubber go bad and that is dangerous for drivers,” said Tucker. A tire’s grip can be compromised in rain, slush or snow well before it reaches this point. Tucker said tires should be replaced every three years at the most.

When car maintenance goes beyond the boundaries of day-to-day upkeep, it is time to venture into the realm of auto repair and

services. This can be an intimidating endeavor, but singing the auto repair bill blues can be a thing of the past with the help of some useful tips administered by the bureau’s Web site.

If the car is under a warranty, the site suggests that owners follow the manufacturer’s requirements to see where they may take their car for repairs and keep the warranty in effect. If the warranty no longer exists, then consumers should locate a reliable shop with qualified mechanics. BBB online reports, “Look for shops that display certification – like an Automotive Service Excellence Seal.” This ASE certification indicates that technicians have met basic standards of competence and knowledge in mechanical areas.

Finally, the bureau’s Web site suggests that consumers always ask for an estimate for parts and labors. “Make sure the estimate states that the shop will contact you for approval before performing any work exceeding a specified amount of time or money,” reported the BBB Web site.

Before car owners blissfully drive their seemingly healthy vehicles off into the sunset, they should ask the service manager to explain all work completed and replacements made. If the repair shop guarantees its work, ask for a copy. Also be certain that the repair bill itemizes the repairs so that if a problem occurs later, the item will be covered by the guarantee.

Consumers can investigate the reputation of a particular repair shop by browsing the BBB Web site at or contacting its Jacksonville office at (904) 721-2288.