CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Complete Ignorance

Judging from the threads posted on this board, the biggest problem facing motorists today is their complete ignorance, their total lack of understanding, about the vehicles they are driving…The simplest tasks, like checking the fluid levels and the air pressure in the tires turns into a major maintenance event, requiring the services of a professional mechanic or someone posing as a professional mechanic…

It seems to me most car-owners could save thousands of dollars over the life of the car they are driving if they would take the time to learn just a little more about the maintenance it requires and how to perform that maintenance…I just thought it would be fun to kick this around a little…

It may be time for someone to start the business - car care made simple. You hold 2-3 hour seminars & run through the basics. Give it a big fat price but get all of the dealers to hand out a 50% off coupon. Print another once a week in the newspaper.

It wouldn’t work b/c I think most people don’t WANT to know and you’d probably never be able charge enough to make anything. But it should work - for their own benefit.

I totally agree with you and from my experience almost every major problem that a car suffers has been due to a self-inflicted wound, and I’m also in agreement that many people simply don’t want to know.

If people would just turn off the TV for 15 minutes every other weekend and devote that 15 minutes to raising the hood for a fluid check along with checking tire pressure, etc. they could save themselves a ton of grief.

When I was in high school I worked in a full serve gas station part time and every car that entered the lot got a fluid and tire pressure check no matter if the customer only bought 2 gallons of gasoline. Fast forward to the present and the proliferation of self-serve stations and the question arises as to who is doing that now?
No one, because I never see a hood open on any vehicle although I do see people standing there spending their time sending text messages and so on while the tank fills. :frowning:

I agree. I’ve tried to educate my family to check the fluids and tires every couple of weeks. My one daughter at school out of state checks tire pressure and oil life (OLM) and we discuss it when she’s home. She has not been checking oil level, and I just reminded her of how important it is to do it, even though the car doesn’t use oil. I stopped reminding my wife and another daughter and just do it myself. They live at home and it isn’t a big deal. So, education goes just so far. The student has to be willing to apply what they’ve heard.

What everyone has stated so far is–of course–correct, and I especially agree with what ok4450 had to say. There are people who have convinced themselves that the mysteries lying beneath the hood of their car are…impenetrable…except to a skilled mechanic or perhaps an engineer. Against all reasoning, it seems they have convinced themselves that they simply cannot learn the tasks necessary. I call this willful ignorance.

On a similar note, years ago I worked with a woman who refused to share the coffee-making chores with the other members of the office. She would loudly exclaim, “I just don’t understand how to make coffee”!

One day, I responded by saying, “Dora, since you are fluent in three languages, managed to graduate from Syracuse University, and hold a Masters’ degree, I really think that learning how to make coffee is not beyond your abilities. I will teach you if you will follow me to the kitchen.” Then, sheepishly, she admitted that she was really just too lazy to do such menial work, although I believe that she used a term other than “lazy” to describe herself. Once again–willful ignorance, coupled with extreme laziness.

But, to return to cars and such, it even goes beyond just simple fluid and pressure checks. A few years ago, when I and some others pointed out to a woman on this board that she really needed to read her Owner’s Manual for the specifics regarding some feature on her car, her response was something along the lines of…those are written so that nobody except an engineer can understand them!

Since, in reality, Owner’s Manuals are written on an 8th grade reading level, so that any licensed driver should be able to understand them, the only two possible conclusions that I was able to come to regarding that woman were that either–she had very poor reading ability (effectively disproved, however, by her fairly literate writing style), or–much more likely–that she had never actually bothered to open the manual, and thus needed to rationalize this negligence on her part by telling herself that the manual was too technical for her to understand.

Yup! Willful ignorance strikes again.

Add THAT to the curriculum durring the ‘‘intensive driver training’’ which all drivers should be required to have.
Not just learning to operate the machine in traffic conditions but learning to care for the machine as well.

In flying school we did not just learn to how to fly the plane…we learned WHY the plane flys. From the basics of an internal combustion engine to the physics of a wing was all part of flight school…for every body.

It’s not just cars. Not many people seem to know how most of the technology they take for granted on a daily basis works. Being a person that has wanted to understand how everything from a light switch to the universe itself works, from an early age, I just don’t understand this attitude.

I think we’re in danger of becoming the society that many sci-fi authors have predicted over the years: People that use technology and a different class of people that maintain it-- until even that’s mostly forgotten and other machines do diagnosis of problems… for those things that aren’t entirely disposable.

How many of us “car guys” don’t take the best care of our bodies?
Sludge in the engine is fixable, but sludge in the liver or lungs?

I feel sure that in the long run many would be safer and wealthier if they bought there gas at a full service station, paying the additional 15c-20c increase in price.

I agree that ignorance, many times by pure choice, is to play in many a repair headache and often contributes heavily to the early death of many a car. Some people genuinely seem to prefer to shell out for the occasional two grand repair bill than have the inconvenience of raising their hood every week or two to inspect fluid levels and add as needed. Some people seem to think that, as long as the radio will play loudly enough to drown out that strange noise, it’s nothing to worry about. Others regard their cars in much the same way they regard their toaster. When it breaks, throw it out and get a new one and do nothing but use it in between purchases.

Some cases are really sad, though. One of the most intelligent, articulate, well-educated people I know recently asked me to show her how to add washer fluid to her car, since it had run out and she did not know how to do that. I asked her to pop the hood since that is where you add the fluid, and she asked me how to do that because she had never done that and had no idea how to do that. I showed her how to do a few other things as well, emphasizing how important they were, especially since, two years prior, I was considering purchasing that exact car and knew that it had an oil habit (which may be gone now since she had recently overheated the car to death and may have had the engine replaced to correct the damages).

I have a good friend who might fall into that category…but I’m not going to be too judgmental. He depends on an excellent independent to do his car thinking for him along with my advice and work and just stays away from the mechanical side of it. He is smart enough to know his limitations with all he has going on in his very busy life and we are valued non judgemental friends. I fall into the same ignorant category when it comes to things he considers more important. I provide the mechanical side advice and work of our relationship, he provides advice when asked on almost everything else…

Then, we have a mutual third friend, a retired electrical engineer who seems to know everything mechanical…we both rely on him too. We are all friends with each filling the voids we have. Otherwise, we might feel of less value in eachother’s life. I’m the most physically adventursome and drag these guys into things they sometimes would never do on their own, much to the dismay of all our wives. That’s really my only unique feature and of least value to the three of us. So I say, THANK YOU for a little mechanical ignorance.

As a software engineer most of the people I’ve worked with over the 30+ years fall into this category. Most wouldn’t know how to change their own oil. Extremely ignorance about even the simplest things. It’s this type of person who invented the tire pressure monitor system. They know that tires should be at a certain pressure for safety…but felt it was easier to just design something on the car to let you know. They WANT to be notified that service is required…And just take it to a mechanic (90% of the time the dealer) to have the service done. Have no problem just handing over $300+ every time they go to the dealer. ALWAYS pay for the fuel injection system cleaning…and can’t argue with them that it’s NOT worth it. Years ago I gave up trying.

Many people have no problem spending money on things like this because they would rather be out the money than risk getting their hands dirty or be inconvenienced in some way. I personally am not opposed to learning new things, probably because I like nice things and cannot afford them (by the time the IRS and my ex wife’s attorney get done with my paycheck, I make well under 20 grand a year and have a child to raise). Example: I have a very nice big screen TV that I could never afford through normal means. Somebody was throwing it away because it no longer worked properly, so I took it off their hands, took it home, and started learning everything I could about it since I knew nothing about big screen TVs. I ended up spending just over $10 on parts and a couple hours with a soldering iron to see if I could fix it. Now I know how to work on these things and have a nice $1300 TV in my living room. I use the same tactics to get decent cars: buy repairable vehicles for little more than scrap value (sometimes less), fix them, and drive them for several more years.

I have seen many stories, one of my fav a tech support call for a computer not working. It turned out after 15 minutes of troubleshooting, “I can’t tell, our power is out!” :). There are so many warnings on everything I think people have become desensitized to paying attention to warnings. I may be guilty, my work 03 liberty on occasional start the oil symbol lights. Oil is fine and if I turn off the engine and restart, no light. Of course the manual says if you see the light stop driving and tow to a dealer for repair. I restart the light goes out, some intermittent sensor that will not show up at the shop, so why waste my time and money? Hey Mark, saved my tv by replacing capacitors, thinking of making it a business.

Do you know what the real problem is? It’s man’s work! Oh, I know, you say that’s a sexist remark. But around my house it really is man’s work. We divide chores along traditional lines, and mine involve taking care of 3 or 4 cars (depends who’s home). Still, I’d like them to know what to do in case they are away from home for an extended period. The second thing I did yesterday when my daughter drove in from SC was to check the oil level.

Yes, my wife has several friends and I have several relatives who are clueless about car care. One of my relatives, an engineer did not know how to open the hood of his Toyota. These same women. all with university degrees, have state of the art kitchens, make complex recipes, and are computer literate. They somehow figure car care is “guys work”.

I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that we’re good for something; at least they can find us handy!

It’s just that we, as a culture, depend on our cars so much, we as a culture would be a lot better off if we had a rudimentary understanding about how they worked and how to perform simple maintenance on them…

Most teenagers today must take some form of Driver Training in order to get a driver’s license…This training should include how to open the hood and check all the fluids and maybe even change the air-filter…Every driver should be able to change a flat tire without a big fuss…Relying on service providers to handle these tasks can easily double the cost of operating an automobile…

I don’t imagine that all driver’s ed programs are like the one I took, perhaps because I went to school in a small, rural community. Part of driver’s ed at my high school was the instructor taking the class out to the bus garage where the driver’s ed car was stored, showing us where the owner’s manual was located, how to read and understand it, how to check all fluids, and lastly, how to pull back the trunk carpet to get to the jack, lug wrench, and spare tire, how to remove them, and how to jack up the car and install the spare. This seems to be a vast improvement over most driver’s ed programs, but I would have liked it more if driving a manual transmission had been included at least as an option. I kept getting chastised by the instructor for my inability to keep both hands on the wheel at all times because the driver’s ed car was the first automatic transmission car I had driven. By the way, this isn’t ancient history, either. My driver’s ed car was a 2001 Buick Century.

I’m pessimistic and think that the too busy to be bothered with it attitude is too engrained for the majority of drivers so I don’t see much hope for things improving in this area.
It doesn’t help that car makers push the idea of little maintenance required either; a practice they really seemed to have started with back in the mid 80s.

Even if everyone was coached in driver training odds are that most would brush aside what they were taught in the not distant future; much like safe driving habits. :slight_smile: