2018 is here and you're looking at a fresh new year with roughly 261 work days, give or take a few holidays, which is also the same number of days you'll be spending in the car commuting to the office.
UP's National Center for Transportation Studies reported that the average Metro Manila resident uses up about 1,000 hours travelling to and from work. That was in 2016.
Even with that two-year old figure, the stats are still overwhelming. Your trusty steed pushing, pulling, grinding and rolling 120 minutes every day in the heat and humidity of Metro Manila.
As a motorist, owner or driver, it's about time you did right by your vehicle and others you share the road with. If you don't know where to start, here's my list of resolutions you should make, and keep, for 2018.
Learn to inspect your vehicle
Give it a once-over on a regular basis. That way, you get intimate (not in a 'Christine' sort of way – a 'Tito' reference) with your vehicle inside and out.
Check all the lights – headlamps, turn-signal lights, taillights, fog lamps (if any) and even the cabin dome and map lights.
Replace the wiper blades. This should be done every six months or when you hear it squeaking or see it skipping over the windshield when you turn it on.
When driving, listen for unusual sounds that could portend a forthcoming major issue so that you can avoid an embarrassing breakdown on EDSA or worse, a hefty repair bill.
Pop the hood and even if you don't know how to replace or top-up fluids, change hoses, find the ones that need attention and have your trusty mechanic do all the dirty work.
Have the belts checked while you're at the shop because even if only one snaps, that's a problem if you're on the road.
Follow maintenance schedule
Keep to your vehicle's maintenance schedule as religiously as possible.
You can find this in the owner's manual, although some automakers provide a separate sheet for this so that it's easy to find and refer to.
Have it done at the shop where you bought the vehicle because this ensures that best practices are maintained. This is all the more important if your vehicle is new because having it serviced at Mang Boy's Auto Shop or missing a schedule may actually void the warranty.
Engineers who designed and developed your vehicle spent millions of hours testing it under various conditions. So it has to go without saying that they absolutely know best. Don't waste their effort by ignoring the maintenance schedule.
But don't overdo it as well. Stick as close to the mileage or time indicated on the manual, whichever comes first. Going too early or too often is a total waste of money. Going late or not at all will increase the wear and tear on your vehicle faster than you know.
Check your tires regularly
Know the proper inflation pressure of your tire and stick to it. These numbers are usually found on the vehicle's door post.
Don't let it stay underinflated because this will decrease tire lifespan by 25% and fuel consumption by 5%.
Never overinflate it also as this will round out the overall shape of the tire, which reduces the contact surface it has on the road. This will lessen traction, braking performance and wear down suspension components much faster.
Rotate front and rear tires as suggested by the manual to even out wear patterns and extend lifespan.
Balance tires when you do so in order to prevent vibrations and wiggling and have it aligned. These prevent your vehicle from drifting involuntarily and also prevent uneven tire wear.
Get a good dash cam and auto insurance
In today's traffic congestion, an accident is simply an aggressive and stupid decision away.
A dashcam provides video evidence and also gives the driver a layer of protection from abusive motorists and/or police, traffic enforcers.
A good quality dashcam would feature a wide-angle lens, an aperture of f/2.8 or better, a photo function and high memory capacity (32GB or better).
Get a model with an accelerometer as this feature triggers the dashcam if the vehicle gets hit even if it's parked.
Auto insurance is actually more for your peace of mind than anything else and, depending on the insurance company, may not apply if you own an old vehicle.
Insurance offers financial security so that when you get into a vehicular accident, you won't have to worry about costly repair bills.
A very close second benefit, the paper- and legwork to get the vehicle repaired is all taken care of. No need to take leaves from work and standing in line for hours to get docs in order or pleading with guilty party to pay for the damages.
Even standard vehicle insurance has that covered.
Kindness and common sense
Let's be honest, most Filipinos (if not all) are aggressive drivers. Fortunately for us, this is not entirely habitual.
Hostile demeanor behind the wheel comes mostly as a negative reaction to the first unfriendly road encounter you receive while merging into city traffic at the start of the (your) day.
Sadly, most quickly give up on reason and give in to the rage with our go-to move of tailgating to shut out everyone else trying to politely merge. Just because if you got f*cked on the road, you're hell-bent on dishing out that very same brand of street justice to everyone else.
Next, you're screaming at everyone on the road, counterflowing, cutting into lanes, being just a total jerk and a walking, talking accident waiting to happen.
If there's one thing you need to know to become a defensive driver, learn the 3-second rule. No matter what speed you're in, pick a marker ahead and count three seconds from the time the tail of the car ahead passes it. You should only reach it by the time you get to 3.
This measure lets you keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead and allows you to maintain a cool head because you're not constantly trying to battle for position against other cars on the road.
You also get to see and allow other vehicles signaling to merge in, while giving drivers around you a pleasant experience on the road.
If that's their first friendly encounter merging onto city traffic for that day, that's one less angry driver on the road.
While we're on the topic of merging, never forget to use your turn signals. Doesn't matter if the driver behind you is 10 or a 100 meters away, make it a habit because it will prevent an accident in the future or even save your life.
Extend road courtesy to pedestrians. Remember that under on R.A. 4136, pedestrians on a crosswalk always have the 'right of way,' except when such crosswalk happens to be in an intersection manned by a traffic officer or a signal light.
Keep crosswalks/pedestrian lanes open even when traffic is bumper-to-bumper or yield when people have already gathered on the curb waiting to cross the street.
On the highway, don't hog the passing lane. It is called as such for a reason so if you're not passing or overtaking, stay away from the leftmost lane.
Happy driving in the New Year
If you've skipped any or all of these in the years past, turn over a new leaf in 2018 and be the responsible motorist you should have been the day you got your first car.
Keeping with these resolutions will ensure that one, your vehicle stays in tip-top shape; two, you'll encounter less if not zero breakdowns on the road this year; and three, the daily drive and your vehicle will be one less thing to worry about this 2018.
I know resolutions, like promises, are meant to be broken or totally ignored but for your sake and the motorists you share the road with, this is one you should definitely see through.
Happy New Year from all of us at AutoIndustriya!