Before you send your owner's manual to that black hole called the glovebox, there is some information in there that everyone must know. It doesn't matter if you are taking the car out of the showroom or purchasing it used from a private party, search the manual and get these five pieces of information:
Location of the fuse block - There are multiple reasons that you should know where to find your fuses. They have to do with safety, money and convenience. When a vital accessory refuses to work, your ability to change a fuse may make the difference between continuing your trip and calling a tow truck. For example, if your wipers or headlights go out, you cannot drive safely, both of these accessories have a fuse in their electrical circuit so determine where the fuses are housed and check there first before calling the hook.
Where the locking device for the wheels is stored - Nearly all cars equipped with custom wheels have a lock. It comes in the form of lug nut that is configured so that a special socket is needed to remove it, thus deterring theft. You must know where to find this socket or you will be stranded in the case of a flat tire. It is one of the first things you should locate when buying a used car. Otherwise, when experiencing a flat, your car will have to be towed and you will incur additional expense to remove the locks.
Fuel capacity and operation of the low fuel light - Your fuel storage system is something that you should know intimately. An industry goal is to have a range of 300 miles per tank full of gas. One respondent to an answer board said that when he buys a different vehicle, he basically allows himself to run out of fuel and in the process takes note of the point at which the low fuel light reacts. He carries some gas in a can to get himself to a station. This is an extreme approach since most owner's manuals will indicate the tank capacity and how the illumination of the low fuel light is programmed. Some experts advise against running on a very low tank since it could damage the catalytic converter as well as the fuel pump.
Type and location of the spare - It is important to know if your spare is a space saver, full sized or doesn't exist. Yes, some car manufacturers are replacing the fifth tire with a pump and goo arrangement. This was discussed in the ACA post Spareless Cars Are On The Rise. Knowing how you are going to resume your trip after losing inflation will definitely impact your arrival time and how dirty your hands will be when you get there. Also get to know the type and location of the tools provided as well as the recommended contact point under the car for the jack.
How to deactivate the ESC - Electronic Stability Control helps to keep your vehicle upright. The ACA article ESC Reduces Rollover Crashes dealt with its operation and history. In the model year 2012 all cars will have this safety feature, so it is important to understand its operation. The system is configured in such a way that if your vehicle is stuck on ice it will be extremely difficult to free the car while the ESC system is engaged. In that event you must know how to shut down your ESC or you may need a professional assist in the form of a tow truck's winch.