By Don Elfrink
The Importance of Understanding Cars

Whether you bought a new car or a used car, that vehicle represents a significant
investment. However, unlike other investments (stocks, bonds, time-shares, etc.),
most people don’t understand much more than the basics about their cars. You know
that it needs oil to run, that there’s antifreeze somewhere under the hood and that you
have to keep gas in the tank to stay on the road. When you consider that the average
investment in an automobile is about five years (and that’s just to pay off the loan, not to
actually get your money’s worth out of the car), it makes sense to know as much about
your vehicle as you can.

Gain an Understanding of How Things Work

The number of people who understand almost nothing about their cars is actually rather
surprising. While you’d think they’d know at least the basics, a considerable number of
drivers know nothing more than that they need to take their car to the mechanic every
few thousand miles for an oil change. This is the most basic type of maintenance, and
your automobile needs more TLC than that, especially if you want to make it actually
last you. The most basic things that you should know include the main components
under the hood, how to check oil, transmission fluid, antifreeze, tire pressure and
change the air filter in your car. Each of these is simple but important for overall
automotive health.

Go Beyond The Basics

While learning the basics is vital, it’s important that you go a bit beyond the basics if
you really want to ensure that you make the most out of your investment. For instance,
you’d never buy into an investment without knowing what kind of interest rate you’d get
on your money and how that interest was calculated. The same thing applies to your
vehicle – you need to know as much about how every system works as possible. That
doesn’t mean you need to get your ASE certification, but it does mean that you need a
working knowledge of most systems and components on your car.

For instance, you need to know which radiator hoses are which (in and out, for
instance). You need to know where your oil pan is, and how to check for a leaking
gasket. You need to know how to check your brake pads and how to ensure that brake
lines aren’t leaking. If this sounds like a lot, don’t let it dissuade you from learning and
then putting your knowledge to work. There are plenty of resources where you can find
information about your car and how it works, including the following:•

How Stuff Works – This is a great website for learning how almost anything
works, including your vehicle. The automotive section is comprehensive and
easy to understand.

Jiffy Lube – One of the leading “quick oil change” chains in the country, Jiffy
Lube also offers a good resource for learning more about your car. http:// – is one of the leading websites for anything
automotive, though it’s really geared more for buying or selling a car. However,
they do have a good bit of information about how vehicles work and getting the
most use out of them.

Chilton – If you want something a bit more in-depth, then a repair manual from
Chilton might just do the trick. You’ll find a broad range of information in these
manuals, as well as their online resources.

Haynes – When it comes to repair and service information, few resources
compete with Haynes. You can buy a book that details pretty much every
part of your vehicle, or use their online resources.
Don Elfrink is the owner and operator of AutoMatStore, an auto flooring company based
out Columbia, Missouri. Before AutoMatStore, Elfrink was the operator of an automotive
production site. AutoMatStore floor mats come for most makes in models with plenty of styles to choose from.