How to become a grown-up in 468 easy(ish) steps.

Step 110: Get familiar with your car and its needs


This step is so, so important that this is the third guest entry I’ve received on the subject (Dad and Ben, I PROMISE I will print other parts of yours as their own steps). 

It would be extra hypocritical for me to write about this, far beyond the garden-variety hypocrisy that I employ to be able to write this blog at all. So Stephanie of How Does She Do It? fame stepped into the void with a wonderfully instructive entry. (Sidenote: you should absolutely go read Stephanie’s blog, because it’s hilarious AND informative AND its tagline is “A wine-soaked slumber party on the Internet.” I had never seen the video to Wham!’s Last Christmas. Thanks to Stephanie, now I have and I’m so glad.) Stephanie?

So you’ve written some awesome thank-you notes and told the office creeper to back off with extreme civility. Adulthood, it’s happening! And then.

Nothing can knock your composed, adult self down a peg quite like standing at the counter in CarX and realizing that while you are extremely adept at putting on mittens or unwrapping cheeseburgers while driving, you don’t know a whole lot about this machine that carries you around from A to B every day and quite likely makes your employment situation possible. But that is easy to fix.

First and foremost: Oil

As my uncles told my mom, and as she practically tattooed across my forehead, engine oil is like a car’s blood. If it gets low, or is dirty, your car will suffer and eventually die a premature death. Engines are made up of about eleventy billion moving parts, which need to stay lubricated and clean to prevent friction and corrosion.

Or put another way: they’re called “internal combustion engines” because they do in fact create miniature explosions four feet from your face while you drive, propelling you forward. Respect. 

So at least once between your oil changes (which you already get like clockwork, so I won’t go on about that), pop the hood and check the level of oil in your engine. Like so:
  1. Remove dipstick from engine block.
  2. Wipe clean.
  3. Insert dipstick and remove again. The bottom of your dipstick is marked to show the minimum and maximum range of your car’s ideal oil level. See where the brown (ideally, light or medium brown, which means clean) oil hits on the stick? If it’s in that normal range, you’re good to go!  

But if not, that brings us to…

Keep a quart of oil, a paper funnel, and some paper towels in your car at all times. 

To find out what oil you need, check your owner’s manual or look at your last Jiffy Lube invoice to see what they put in. A quart of motor oil is maybe $3.76 at any gas station, and the paper funnels are free! So take a small stack. You really can never have too many. And if you’re like me and you hoard fast food napkins in your car like a thrifty squirrel, you’ll always have something on hand to wipe your dipstick when checking your oil. So if you’re running low, just grab what you need from your trunk, unscrew the oil cap from your engine block, pop a paper funnel in there, and pour in half a quart. Then wait a minute for the oil to settle, and check again. So simple!

There’s something very empowering about being able to take care of this stuff yourself, and nothing says adulthood quite like becoming a whirling dervish of self-sufficiency. Own it!

Bonus Tip:
 Are you driving an older car that was passed down to you and you value above all other possessions because FREE CAR? Check your oil every few weeks and use your odometer to track when you’ll need a top-off. (My post-college ride both leaked and burned oil, and needed a quart of oil every 500 miles.) 

Bonus Bonus Tip, from a former owner of a really needy car with a Blue Book value equivalent to 100 quarts of oil: Jiffy Lube will give you unlimited top-offs between oil changes. Take them up on that offer like whoa.

1st Dec 2011 32 notes , Comments
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