One of the toughest lessons I have learned being in the country is the necessity of good car maintenance. Living in a rural area can be similar to a double-edge sword.
On one side, it is a blessing to live on acreage where there is plenty of space around you. The drive to ‘town’ is a fifteen minute journey through mostly wooded areas, broken up only by pastures.
On the flip side, the drive to ‘town’ is…a fifteen minute journey through mostly wooded areas, broken up only by pastures.
As you can see, there is a blessing to those peaceful surroundings. At the risk of sounding poetic, there is beauty in the dappled sunlight, the soothing aroma of cut grass and fresh air, and watching young calves prance and dance in the pastures brings laughter to my soul.
But that only counts if it is a beautiful, early spring morning. If it is pitch dark outside, then everything changes.
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With rain pouring down so thick you can’t see your headlights in front of you, much less any creature that may be crossing the road to find a dry place to sleep, then the other side of that sword cuts hard, deep and painful.
It’s even worse if your car decides to stall out, you run out of gas, have a flat tire, or have other mechanical issues.
If you are fortunate enough to get a signal to call for help, you may still have to wait for help. If you can’t get a signal, then you have fewer options:
1) wait for another car to stop and help (which can be very dangerous if it isn’t a police officer); 2) walk home (which can be wet and miserable); or 3) locate the problem yourself. You may still be wet, but at least there is a chance you can fix the problem and drive home.
Take a Class
If the only ‘repairs’ you know how to do on your vehicle is where to put the gas in, then maybe it is time for you to extend your knowledge.
Many local colleges have what they consider Community Enrichment classes. These are non-credit classes that usually last anywhere from one day to eight Saturdays.
Some of the classes offer range from cooking, sewing, and oil painting, to cooking, computer basics and yoga. Occasionally, there are classes offered in Small Engine Repair, or Car Maintenance.
If classes aren’t available, find a friend or family member who can teach you. You don’t have to know how to take the engine out, break it down and rebuild it.
Knowing basic car maintenance, such as how to charge a battery, check fluid levels and what and how to add them if they are low, change a flat tire, and a bit about the wiring may help you get your car back on the road.
A Few Tips for Car Maintenance
A Supply Kit
Keep a few supplies for car maintenance in the back of your car. I have a milk-type crate that holds a gallon of antifreeze; an old antifreeze container filled with water; two quarts of oil; and a small tool chest (this is one of the smartest things to have in your vehicle. Buy one for each car, especially if your young teen is driving!).
Add a roll of paper towels; an old bath towel and old hand towel; a package of handi-wipes and a blanket (for the winter months).
A spare fan belt and can of Fix-A-Flat wouldn’t hurt, either. When I leave home, I usually carry a small ice chest filled with water, and in the summer it holds an orange, a small bag of trail mix and/or a protein bar.
Considering that at least two thirds of my drive home is in isolated areas, it makes sense to take something healthy to snack on – getting rescued may mean an hour or better wait.
Using What is in your Crate
Know how to use all the car maintenance tools that are in your crate. Do you know how to check your oil and add some if it’s low? If you don’t, it’s time to learn.
The antifreeze is for the radiator, to keep the engine at a regulated temperature. Your radiator also needs water in it to keep the engine cool. In our summer heat, it’s nothing for your engine to get too hot, and if that happens, you could destroy your engine altogether.
The most important thing to remember is never, ever, ever, open the radiator cap while the engine is still hot. Wait at least twenty minutes before gently loosening the cap. Use that hand towel (folded) to open it.
Before you completely loosen it, make sure the water isn’t trying to spew out. If it is, back away quickly and wait a little longer.
The water in a hot radiator is not only boiling hot, but also contains the chemicals from antifreeze. It can cause severe burns, and if it gets in your eyes, it can blind you. Always approach a radiator with caution.
Keep a Car Maintenance Tool Kit
In your car maintenance tool chest, keep a selection of screwdrivers, pliers, and wrenches – preferably rubber-handled. A Leatherman-type tool is also very handy.
I once had to call one of my kids who was a mechanic to come rescue me when my car wouldn’t start.
Greg had to loosen the battery cables and clean off the metal terminal post with a pocket knife in order to get a good connection.
Had I known what to check for, I could have done it and no one would ever have been the wiser. Although my battery is one of the ‘maintenance free’ types, some of the old ones have water vessels in them.
If your battery quits on you, first check the connections. Next, see if you have several round pieces across the front with an indentation in them. If you do, your battery may be out of water.
That’s where your distilled water comes in. Loosen those caps with a screwdriver and fill the vessels with water. Replace and tighten the caps, and see if that doesn’t fix what is ailing your car.
Other Handy Items for Car Maintenance
The rest of the items should be self-explanatory. Use the bath towel to lay on the car where you’ll be working, to keep your clothes from getting dirty. The paper towels are to wipe off the dipstick and area where you’ll be working, as well as to wipe the sweat out of your eyes.
The handi-wipes are there to wash off your hands – remember, a car engine if full of oil and dirt, and you don’t want that on your steering wheel or upholstery.
Just a Few Precautions Go a Long Way
Inclement weather – whether rain, snow, or the heat and humidity of August, is not the time you want to be out on the road and have car problems.
What do you carry in your car? Do you know how to do simple maintenance, or fix a flat tire? If you don’t it may be time to find a knowledgeable person that can teach you.
Trust me – just the comfort of knowing you can do at least something will make you feel better about traveling. Especially if you live in the country.
Take at least a tiny bit of sting out of break down by being prepared for the worst. And at best, just smile, drive and enjoy the poetry of a beautiful day.
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