Car Maintenance Made Easier

It’s not a pretty picture—a broken down car on the side of the road—weary travelers waiting for help to come. Although any automobile can break down at any time, neglecting regularly scheduled maintenance is a proven way to drive your car to an early rendezvous with the tow truck. Fortunately, with the advent of new technologies—along with renewed efforts by car dealerships to gain and maintain customer loyalty, keeping your car properly serviced just got easier. Here are some tips and tools you can take advantage of to better maintain both your car and your peace of mind.

Dealer Perks and Programs

A direct result of the depressed economy is that car dealerships are offering reward programs to attract new customers to the showroom and keep them coming back to the service department. Many brand new cars come with free maintenance programs that are good up to several months and or several thousand miles. Customers who choose these programs can expect to receive e-mail reminders to assist them in scheduling their cars for needed servicing. As further incentives for both new and used car owners, most dealers offer reward points that can be redeemed as cash back for future services, along with other promotions such as getting your 4th oil change free. And don’t forget the free carwash. As an added benefit for multi-taskers, many dealers are trending toward service department waiting rooms equipped—not with yesterday’s paper and last month’s People Magazine – but with free WiFi and big screen TVs featuring current news programs. Some of the more aggressive dealerships are offering more novel add-on services, such as gourmet coffee stands, sandwich shops, and even hair and nail salons.

Smartphone Car Apps

Let’s face it. Smartphone technology is changing nearly every aspect of our lives, from how we communicate, to how we work, to how we navigate and maintain our cars. Thanks to the Smartphone, an abundance of apps can now remind us when we’re due for oil changes and other needed maintenance. GPS apps, although created primarily for navigational purposes, also help with maintenance by enabling us to find the most direct routes to our destinations—saving us gas and wear and tear on our cars. Should an accident occur, car apps are available to help us record the details, images and information that are often critical for the proper filing of reports and insurance claims. Members of the Canadian Automobile Association have access to a great app for roadside assistance, which gives responders their exact GPS location to insure faster service without the added frustration of being put on hold.

OBD2 Error Code Readers

When you take your car to be serviced or repaired, the mechanic will check the cars On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) system for error codes. These codes are your car’s way of communicating—via an on-board computer—any problems that may or may not need to be addressed. Thanks to developments in technology, error code readers are now readily available to the general public for cars primarily made after 1996. Ranging from as little as $27.00 for a basic device to around $200.00 for a more advanced model, OBD2 code readers can save you time and money by detecting potential car problems before they become major headaches. Although these devices are not intended to replace a mechanic, using an OBD2 error code reader to pre-diagnose problems and turn off warning lights can help you determine if the problem warrants professional attention. By providing you with an accurate diagnosis before you pay a visit to the mechanic, OBD2 devices can also save you money by helping to insure that the estimate does not go above and beyond the repairs your car actually needs.

Don’t Ignore the Dashboard

As good as dealer programs and external technologies can be in helping you properly maintain your car, paying attention to the instrumentation built into the dashboard should be your first step. Although the dash was designed to be aesthetically pleasing, it pays to remember that each of those lights, bells and whistles was put there for a reason. Before driving any car that’s new to you, it’s a good idea to consult the owner’s manual to clarify the functions of any dashboard instruments you’re not sure about. Although most drivers pay close attention to the acute instruments, such as the speedometer, the gas gauge, and the oil pressure light, failing to heed the warnings of the check engine light, the temperature gauge, the tire pressure light, or any other indicators of potentially critical malfunctions could prove both costly and dangerous to you and those around you.

Bio: Alex James is a freelance writer for Zonar. Zonar provides rfid chips as well as electricity meter reading products.