• car maintenance

How to learn more about your car

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Updated 25 Mar 2021

Jonathan Nash

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Whether it be getting to work, going on a weekend away, towing the caravan or jet ski, or taking the kids to school, a car is a fantastically useful tool that helps us to do the other important things in our lives.

Like many hi-tech tools, we don’t necessarily understand how they do what they do.

Take the computer or smartphone upon which you’re reading these words. You may be an expert in using it but if the screen goes blank or freezes, will you know what’s gone wrong or will you just turn it off and on again and hope for the best?

Yep. Me too.

Same with a car. You may be a great driver, an expert who’s never had a bingle, never gone over the speed limit, and doesn’t have a ticket or a demerit point to your name. But when an unusual noise starts gurgling from under the bonnet, or when you spot clouds of smoke billowing from the exhaust, the chances are you’ll be in the same position as when the computer goes on the blink.

If you get to this point, then it won’t be long until you’re looking for the number of your local workshop – or using AutoGuru to do the booking work for you.

When you think about it, knowing next to nothing about the workings of one of the most expensive and important tools you’ll ever buy doesn’t make sense. So, what can you do about it?

Spending the next four years completing a light vehicle mechanical apprenticeship is probably not an option, but there are other, simpler ways to start developing your vehicular knowledge.

You could take a good look around this site for starters as there’s plenty of informative stuff on AutoGuru. Another option is to talk to your mechanic.

If you don’t ask, you won’t know

When you take your car in for a service or for that much-needed repair, take the time to ask a few questions. Any mechanic worthy of the name will be happy to explain what has gone wrong with your car and what they had to do to make it safe for you once more.

If a part has been replaced, ask to see it. Do you actually know what a brake pad, worn or new, looks like? Or a rotor? Or a shock absorber? Or any of the other myriad components you’ve heard about?

Seeing the part and getting an explanation from an expert as to why it was replaced is a solid gold learning opportunity.

You could also ask why they chose to replace that part with one from a particular manufacturer. You’ll likely discover the workshop has a ‘go-to’ parts supplier – a manufacturer they have experience of dealing with and whom they trust to deliver the goods on quality components.

No workshop wants to see customers returning because duff parts have been installed. That’s not a scenario that serves their interest or yours. After all, they want you to keep coming back for future services and repairs.

So, if your trusted mechanic tells you they fitted Bendix brake pads, or a Century battery, or an NGK spark plug, ask them why. Chances are you’ll get a reassuring reply about quality and reliability.

Finally, why not ask how the job was done? A mechanic’s trade is a tough gig and one that takes years of hard graft in which to excel. They may well be quite pleased to share just what it takes to do what they do. And even if it turns out the repair job was a relatively short and simple task, these are the types of conversations with which you build a relationship. And getting to know and trust the person who is making sure your car safe is on the road . . . well, that’s gold too.

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Written By

Jonathan Nash

Jonathan has been writing about the auto industry for years and is particularly interested in the high-tech innovations sweeping the industry.

He’d love to own a Tesla Model S, but also adores anything with a V8 under the bonnet. 

He has yet to decide between an EV or a Mustang for his next ride.