So, you're bored in quarantine. Well take a number, and get in line.
If you're like us, you've probably washed your car numerous times, detailed the interior, vacuumed all the nooks and crannies and polished up the wheels. Heck, we're not surprised if you've applied a generous layer of tire black for that spic and span look while your pride and joy sits in the garage, waiting out the lockdown with you. Don't worry, car enthusiasts all over the world (mostly) are probably doing the same thing.
We're only halfway into our lockdown, or even just a few days depending on where in the world you may be, but there's a good chance that car guys have already run out of things to do. You can consult YouTube for more complex do-it-yourself projects if you're into that kind of thing, but we'd like to suggest something a bit simpler. All you have to do is open the glove compartment and pick up that fairly thick book that has been probably gathering dust since you bought your car.
It's the tome of wisdom called the owner's manual. And boy, there's a lot you can learn (or re-learn) now that we've all been given the gift of idle time to read it. To keep it short, here are 10 (just 10) things you can pick up if you choose to read that book rather than asking random people on a dozen Facebook groups dedicated to your car.
1. You may learn about uncommon features and how to use them
When a customer buys a new car, standard industry practice involves having the salesperson explain the basic features of the vehicle for about 30 minutes, more or less. On that, I speak from personal experience.
But no matter how great a salesperson (sales associate, sales executive, marketing professional or any other equivalent term for the position) is, there's only so much a customer can pick up from a fairly quick briefing. Sometimes the customer is in a rush or excited to bring the new car home, sometimes the salesperson needs to attend to another pressing matter, or perhaps the car is loaded with so many features (as is the case now) that 30 minute or even an hour isn't enough to cover all the important ones. Typically, it's about making sure you, the customer, know how to operate the vehicle safely.
For anything else, that's where the manual comes in.
If you pick it up and read the part about the vehicle's features, you'll probably learn about something you may not have noticed. Sometimes it's as simple as a slot for a parking card on the dashboard or a hidden storage tray under a seat. Sometimes it could be a hidden vent that would allow your A/C system to cool drinks in the glove compartment or even what that shift lock is at the base of your automatic gear lever. Sometimes its about how to use more complex technology features like cruise control with a certain degree of autonomous driving functions.
It's different for every make and for every model, and the only real guide you have is the manual.
2. The correct fuel grade
It's one of the most common questions we get at AutoIndustriya.com, and it's also a fairly common question on the many vehicle forums and groups around: what is the correct fuel grade for my car? Should I load up on premium or regular unleaded? What RON should I get?
Asking online presents a problem. While you could get correct information, you could also get a lot of misinformation. Most of the time people will refer to their personal experiences, and some will be right, while some will be wrong. You also get non-engineering terms to refer to engine knock like pinging, clanging, or the odd “tope”. That's just the way it is online.
So before you even type your question in Facebook, just read the manual of your car. The reason is simple: the information will never be wrong. Car manufacturers will print the specifications -including the correct fuel grade- on a table towards the back. That's the advice you should follow when you fill up.
Also if you do, you'll not only save yourself from a headache, but you might safe money as well. We say that because unless your car's petrol engine is special in some way (i.e. high compression), you're just burning extra money -literally- on premium high octane gas.
3. The correct oil and fluids
There are so many types of oil available on the market, and it really can be more confusing than picking the right grade of fuel.
You have to pick whether your engine should use synthetic or mineral, but more importantly, you also have to choose the oil based on viscosity, and it's printed as XW-XX; X being a number. The XW is the winter rating (hence, W) and the number represents the flow rate of the oil at zero Fahrenheit (about -17.8 degrees Celsius). The XX is the thickness of the oil at the boiling point of water, or 100 degrees Celsius.
In places where temperatures drop dramatically during the -ber months, you can opt for oil grades like 0W-20 or 5W-30. In warmer climates (as is more common in the Philippines) then you're likely better off with a 20W-50, thereabouts.
But, again, it all depends on your engine, and no one knows it better than the manufacturer. So when it comes to lubrication you don't have to bother asking online either or even search Google for the right keywords; your manual has all the information you need for your car and your engine, especially the correct fuel grade for the weather in the region the vehicle was sold in. Like with fuel, you could also learn that you may not need to spend so much on synthetic motor oil, but that's really your choice.
The manual will also specify the correct fluids for other parts of your car like the transmission (be it CVT, AT, dual clutch, or manual) and the brakes. Follow these instructions, and you'll avoid getting a sales pitch for a more expensive or unnecessary product.
4. The code to understanding your dashboard warning lights
Did you get an unusual indicator light on your gauge cluster before your car sputtered to a halt? A light that you can't decode or can't seem to find the right keywords for to punch into a search engine?
For that, your manual will be the savior as it will always have a printed guide to understanding what your car is telling you with those lights. OK maybe always is a bit too sure, but we're quite certain at least 99.99% of them will have it, just like what the bottle of isopropyl alcohol next to my computer says about killing germs.
Modern cars have all kinds of sensors all over it, and their purpose is two fold: one is to ensure the vehicle is running well by adjusting certain parameters (i.e. fuel injection levels) and the other is to tell the driver if there's something wrong. Knowing what indicator light came on will be very useful when you talk to your dealer service advisor when you bring your car in as it will tell them where to look, inspect, and fix, saving you a lot of time. It'll be useful for problems that are intermittent; you know, the kind that only shows up when it wants to, and miraculously disappears when the car is being inspected.
Knowing what the light means will also prevent you from being taken for a ride. Think about it this way: why would they recommend you pay for a new radiator without an explanation when the dashboard indicator said that the problem is probably with the anti-lock brakes? If there's a connection, they should be able to explain it, but knowing your dashboard lights would give you a check against potential BS.
5. The correct tire pressure and rotation order
One aspect of vehicles that car makers spend quite a bit of time explaining in the manual is with regards to tires. That's very logical as tires are the only things that are supposed to contact the road, and that means much of a vehicle's performance and safety relies on making sure the tires are in proper working order.
Your manual will tell you the exact pressure you should inflate your tires to, and that varies depending on the passenger load. This info you can also find on a sticker mounted on the doorframe of your vehicle. You'll also learn about the correct tire rotation order so you can make sure your tires wear out in an even manner. The manual could even indicate the proper torque (or tightness) setting for the wheel nuts, but you'll need a torque wrench to meet it.
The manual will also explain how to tell if your tire is worn out by checking the indicators, and not by pulling out coins.
6. How to change a flat tire
More importantly, the vehicle manual will teach you how to properly change a flat tire.
There are some universal procedures like how to properly use your early warning devices (the red and orange triangles), how to use the tire wrench, and putting your flat tire under the frame/chassis in case the jack slips, but there are going to be important pieces of info that will be specific to your vehicle.
For instance, not all vehicles will have the same type of jack; sometimes it's an ordinary scissor-type jack, sometimes it's a pesky screw-type bottle jack. There are different procedures for getting a spare tire out from its storage spot. Sometimes you don't have a spare because your car has special run flat tires; in this case, you either have a tire repair kit, or they give you a list of numbers to call for help.
There are also specific spots that car manufacturers engineered specifically as jack points (where your jack should make contact) to avoid damaging the chassis or bodywork. These are also the spots where the chances of a jack slipping are low; or perhaps it even locks into place. Some even have a special device you insert into the body to serve as a jack point to avoid damaging the paintwork.
All this information is ready and waiting in your manual so you don't end up stuck on the side or middle of the road.
7. Child safety information
The salesman will, of course, tell you all about how many airbags a car has, how to use the seatbelts, and other features like crumple zones, anti lock brakes and stability control. That's pretty standard, but he/she will probably not be able to explain the important safety reminders with regards to youngsters unless you ask outright. That's where the manual comes in.
If you do take the time to read it, your owner's manual will explain some very important reminders with child safety in vehicles. Of course there's the don't leave your child unattended and other similar reminders, but it'll also explain the proper procedures and orientation for mounting a child seat if it has a set of LATCH/ISOFIX anchors or using seatbelts on child seats.
It'll explain why kids below a certain age shouldn't sit in front, and why there's an switch to deactivate the front passenger airbag. It'll also explain why a shift lock mechanism is important.
Reading the manual will give you all that information and then some, all to protect your kids.
8. What you shouldn't do when driving
And then you have the reminders of what you can and cannot do when you're driving your vehicle.
These reminders are not really in list form, but are usually highlighted with graphics or borders on every page of the manual, and often in bold or block letters. You can't miss these, and these can range from simple things like why you shouldn't overload your car (it's based on the tire's rating, mostly), what kind of terrain you can tackle (for crossovers and SUVs), or the obvious don't-text-or-call-while-driving.
Your manual will explain the potential adverse effects of common errors like mis-fueling (putting petrol in a diesel vehicle or vice versa), wading through floods, or using incorrect grades of oil and fluids.
Pay attention to these reminders so you can avoid headaches in the future.
9. How to change fuses and busted bulbs
Believe it or not, one of the more common calls or messages we get from friends who are new to cars goes along the lines of "My lights went out, what do I do?"
Well, don't panic. If you have a busted light, more often than not it's easier and so much cheaper to just inspect and replace the bulb yourself. And you don't need to consult YouTube's many DIY videos to do it because all you need to know is in the manual.
Flip through the pages and you'll see that your manual has diagrams, instructions and the right bulb specifications to get the job done. It'll even show you exactly where the screws are to remove any covers in the way, and how to work any plugs or clips.
The same goes for replacing any fuse; the manual will show you the exact location of every fusebox in your car, and what correct rating of fuse to get.
There's no need to panic and race to a nearby dealer or service station for something you can do in an hour or less at home.
10. Basic troubleshooting and maintenance specific to your car
The manual will have all kinds of information related to making sure you get back on the road. We've covered the basics like changing tires and bulbs, but the manual will also have instructions with regards to troubleshooting your engine, jump starting using leads, and all other basic diagnostics and troubleshooting procedures you can do in your garage or on the road.
The manual will also have instructions on some specific situations like if the automatic shifter doesn't want to move even if the driver is stepping on the brake, how to manage an overheating engine, what to do if the low oil pressure light comes on or if the battery indicator light comes on. Some manuals even have instructions on what to do if you have a runaway engine. In some vehicle models, for instance, if the driver -for whatever reason- needs to deliberately cut off the engine even while moving, the push-button ignition can be pressed for two seconds to kill it. This method is called an emergency engine stop.
Some may seem trivial, but when the need does arise (especially in emergency situations) you'll know exactly what to do if you take the time and read your owner's manual.
We have all the time in the world right now.