Lift­ing the lid on car care

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Car News - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER paul.gover@cars­guide.com.au

IF auto en­gi­neers had their way then ev­ery car would have its bon­net welded shut at the end of the pro­duc­tion line. They don’t want us to med­dle.

In fact, Mercedes-Benz once built a con­cept sports car— called the Vi­sion SLA and nick­named the ‘‘ sneaker’’— that didn’t have a bon­net. It even­tu­ally mor­phed into the cute lit­tle SLK road­ster but grew a bon­net be­fore it went into pro­duc­tion.

It was prob­a­bly for the me­chan­ics— or tech­ni­cians, as most car­mak­ers pre­fer to call them in 2012.

Af­ter all, when did you last open the bon­net on your car?

‘‘ The day I took de­liv­ery. I wanted to see the engine. That was enough,’’ one Cars­guide mate says with a laugh. But think about it. There are lots of very com­pli­cated and costly bits and pieces un­der the bon­net, yet we mostly ig­nore them un­less there is a red warn­ing light or some sort of nasty noise.

We’re spoilt. Rot­ten.

In re­cent years I’ve heard plenty of sto­ries about peo­ple who have ig­nored the early warn­ing signs and been hit by a nasty re­pair bill. One was a leaky ra­di­a­tor that meant an engine re­place­ment and an­other was an oil leak that turned into a fire that burned the car to the road.

They are ex­treme cases but daily there are peo­ple who miss the early signs of a bad bat­tery or an oil leak or a fan belt on the way out. And don’t get me started on flat tyres.

I blame it on the death of the old-style ser­vice sta­tion.

These days, most of us get our fuel from a dough­nut shop that has some pumps out the front. There is no one to check the tyres, clean the win­dows or lift the bon­net for a quick dip of the oil and a check on the bat­tery leads.

I re­mem­ber this rit­ual since my first af­ter-school job was pump­ing petrol at Bruno Rossi’s Cal­tex sta­tion. There were good tips if you got the win­dows squeaky clean and added wa­ter to the ra­di­a­tor.

I ad­mit that I’ve be­come lazy and spoilt by cars that typ­i­cally run 10,000 or 15,000km be­tween ser­vice calls— in­stead of de­mand­ing a sur­vival pack with spare oil, fuses, belts and a tool­kit in the boot.

‘‘ Some peo­ple think that ser­vic­ing a car is putting petrol into it,’’ says Jerry, an­other of my mates. But it’s not, and ig­nor­ing a car for 10,000km is just ask­ing for trou­ble.

Even the en­gi­neers have recog­nised that cars need a bit of TLC, which is why all the im­por­tant bits— such as the dip­stick for the engine oil— now have bright yel­low tabs to make them eas­ier to find in the engine bay.

So, why not lift the bon­net some­time? You might get a sur­prise, one way or an­other.

When­did you last open the bon­net on your car? Never, if you drove Merc’s Vi­sion SLA

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