Anyone who has spent time with me knows I love nothing more than spending time working on my cars in the garage.
Getting greasy lying under one of my pride and joys, skinning knuckles and cursing that bolt some flamin’ galah had over-tightened might not sound like fun, but it ensures my cars are kept in tip-top mechanical condition.
I trust my cars, but I have to admit I no longer trust most other cars out there on Aussie roads, because there is an increasing number of people who don’t maintain their cars and don’t even know they need to.
Watch a busy street for any extended period of time and you’ll see more than a few poorly maintained vehicles drive past. Any mechanic will tell you the horror stories of badly maintained cars they’ve seen: belts hanging out of the tyres, brake pads and rotors worn to nothing at all, and engines that have never had an oil-change. And these people, who are symptomatic of our increasingly disposable society, are on the roads with you.
We hear about the perils of driving 2km/h over the speed limit, of using your phone, or even modifying your car from factory specifications. But there is almost no attention paid to educating people on how to live with this potentially lethal piece of equipment.
To me, giving people a rundown on basic vehicle maintenance goes hand-in-hand with teaching them how to drive. It doesn’t need to involve delving into compression ratios and quench heights; just cover the basics, like why it is important to check tyre pressure and fluid levels weekly, and knowing when to take the car to the mechanic for new brakes, a service or even a wheel alignment.
Car enthusiasts often take this mechanical aptitude for granted, as we normally have someone teach us when we’re starting out. So what happens if you come from a family of people who don’t drive, or who don’t know a spanner from a piece of smoked salmon?
Drivers should not only have a basic understanding of how to check their vehicle is in good mechanical condition, but also why it is so important to keep on top of it. Speed may well kill, but so could a tyre worn down to the canvas bursting at freeway speeds.
Additionally, and in a concerning trend, the number of people killed on the side of the freeway has risen of late. Part of driving on our roads, especially in a country as large and remote as Australia, should be knowing what to do if you have a mechanical problem. Knowing how to get your car off the side of the freeway might save your life.
This is also the case if you need to help a fellow motorist. Unfortunately, the trend for good Samaritans being killed going to rescue stranded vehicles is also on the rise. We need widespread dialogue educating people on how to safely get off a busy road if your ‘widget’ goes ‘bang’, , because it’s obvious that people aren’t thinking about this stuff when it happens.
A bit of basic knowledge and some public focus on this topic could save senseless deaths from happening, which is really what we all want. Who knows, maybe they’ll even start to love skinning their knuckles, getting covered in grease and learning new curse words.