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jamesro   , 29

from Naperville


You Forgot the Car?

"I can’t believe you didn’t get the car checked over before we started out on this trip, Walter. Don’t you remember last summer when we were stuck in that state park because the car wouldn’t start?"

"But Martha, you wanted me to pick up the camp stove, take the dog to the…"

"…And that miserable Christmas Eve when a belt brake out there in the country."

Break it up, Martha and Walter. Both of you were too busy with other details to take care of an essential part of your travel plans, the family car.


You’re not alone. Among 1,500 motorists surveyed by American Automobile Association, 28% had at least one problem last year that disabled their vehicle. Their survey also disclosed that, while 74% of vehicle owners were familiar or very familiar with the manufacturers’ recommended maintenance schedule, only about half of all respondents regularly followed those recommendations. (source: NapervilleCarDetailing.com)

Result: the Martha and Walter syndrome. Many a vacation trip has been spoiled because of car trouble, most of which can be prevented. Further evidence: more than eight out of ten vehicles failed inspection in Car Care Council’s annual program during National Car Care Month.

Some professionals neglect their vehicles, too. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports nearly one out of four trucks (22%) inspected by state highway police in 1997 were taken off the road because of mechanical defects. Further, they claim, in that year trucks accounted for 13% of highway fatalities, up from 9% in ’96. The trucking industry’s response is that the fatality rate remains constant when increased miles driven is taken into account.

The Council urges periodic checks for worn belts, low fluid levels, worn tires, burned out lights and ragged windshield wipers, and even a good carwash. However, they emphasize that a cursory inspection may not disclose trouble that can erupt away from home. When preparing for extensive travel, the engine, transmission and under-car components warrant close scrutiny by a professional.

"Many service shop customers are tourists with serious, but preventable trouble," says Car Care Council’s Vice President Donna Wagner. "It’s a lot less expensive to replace a worn out power steering pump BEFORE leaving home than having it done in a remote area. A protective CV boot might not show up for a long time in short trips around home. But if it develops a leak, allowing the joint to fail, the result can be costly downtime away from home."