Five Things You're Responsible For In Your Car

October 24, 2010

With the purchase of any consumer product there comes some responsibilities--things like the proper use of the product, its impact on the environment, and how to dispose of it properly. But how about a consumer product that you are likely to keep for six years or more, is an integral part of your daily life, and whose use routinely puts you in harm’s way?

What responsibilities come with the ownership and use of your car?

Safety: It may seem like a no-brainer that everyone needs to keep their vehicle safe, but not everyone does. There is a state standard used when your car is inspected  and that is that every safety feature which your car had when it was driven out of the showroom must work. For example, the wipers must clean the windshield and the horn must blow and your lights must be able to guide your way.

Maintenance: There is an expected life to everything on your car. It is expected that, in your own interest and that of those sharing the road with you, wear items be periodically inspected. Your tires may be rated to provide 65,000 miles of service, but they may not last that long due to the failure of some other part. Your brakes may wear out long before there is any audible sound that signals that they have a problem. Periodic inspection by a knowledgeable person is the only way to be sure.

Emissions: This goes beyond the obvious signs that a vehicle’s emission system is underperforming, like seeing smoke billowing from the tail pipe. Is your vehicle leaking any fluids onto the pavement which ultimately are being carried by storm water into the water supply? Is your car damaging the environment by burning excessive fuel? Are you driving a car whose check engine light is illuminated? These may seem like automotive maintenance baby steps but collectively they can increase your environmental footprint.

Usage: If you bought a weedwhacker or a chain saw you would expect to see a page in the instructions that would caution you about the safe and proper use of the tool. I haven’t looked but there is probably such a section in your Buick Enclave’s owner’s manual. But everyone assumes that they know how to use a car or truck and doesn’t think that they may be stretching a vehicle beyond its intended limits of operation. Excessive idling, driving through standing water or using a car to tow an excessive weight are some examples.

Citizenship: If there was only one car that traveled on one road and that vehicle was ours, we could do anything on the road we pleased. Fortunately, there is a whole world of roads and destinations that we are free to explore in our cars. With that freedom, we assume the responsibility of treating our fellow travelers with respect and consideration as we comprise the automotive community.

The people at motor vehicle departments like to say that driving is a privilege, and not a right. That mindset might also be extended within limits to vehicle ownership.

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