Articles

THE CARE AND FEEDING OF YOUR CAR

That touchy creature out in your garage is the hungriest and most sensitive member of your family. Now that the good driving weather is here, you may save enough to buy shoes for your other children by studying these down-to-earth tips from an expert on

SIDNEY MARGOLIUS May 15 1954
Articles

THE CARE AND FEEDING OF YOUR CAR

That touchy creature out in your garage is the hungriest and most sensitive member of your family. Now that the good driving weather is here, you may save enough to buy shoes for your other children by studying these down-to-earth tips from an expert on

SIDNEY MARGOLIUS May 15 1954

THE CARE AND FEEDING OF YOUR CAR

That touchy creature out in your garage is the hungriest and most sensitive member of your family. Now that the good driving weather is here, you may save enough to buy shoes for your other children by studying these down-to-earth tips from an expert on

SIDNEY MARGOLIUS

YOU DON’T have to look at the statistics. Just look at the streets of Winnipeg, Montreal, Edmonton, Toronto or any other large city. In the past few years the automobile has become an outstanding feature of Canadian life.

Just before World War II only one out of three Canadian families owned a car. Now close to three out of five own at least one car and the rate is still growing.

If you’re one of them, your car is not only a handy passport to glamour and psychological release and an aid to getting to work and shopping in these days of living in the suburbs it’s also a heavy eater at your table. If you’re at all typical you spend almost as much on your car as for rent or other housing expense and much more than for your family’s clothes or household furnishings. A small family may even find its car costs as much as its food.

A typical owner spends an estimated $800 a year $15 a week on the care and feeding of his car, although he doesn’t always realize the bill is this big. Besides paying for the car itself, he pays out three dollars for gas each week, twenty or so for a new tire now and then, or for a battery, or his license fee, and several dollars occasionally for parking too long in the cities he is helping to crowd.

Canada’s population increased 21.75 percent between 1941 and 1951, but the increase in cars was even more spectacular. With about 2,750,000 now registered, it is possible for the first time for all fourteen million Canadians to get on the road

at the same time on a sunny holiday, which sometimes seems to happen. From ’46 to ’51 Canada stepped up consumption of gasoline 64 percent. If present production rates hold up, late this year there will be one-fifth of a car for every Canadian compared with one-tenth in 1939 and one-seventh in 1950. That doesn’t include the lengthening lines of trucks and buses. There are fewer houses per family in Canada these days, but more cars equipped with heat and light at that.

A car is no longer a sign of affluence. Two out of three owners manage it on pay envelopes of $60

or less a week. More often now it’s a sign of debí About half of all new cars and two out of three use ones are bought on the pay-you-later arrangemeni

Canadians have increased their use of cars eve more than Americans although t he latter st ill ow more one-third of a car for each.

Even if you don’t yet own your one-fifth of car, the national interest in autos keenly affect your pockefhook and other nerve centres. Beside your chance of participating as a pedestrian in on of the reported 215,000 auto accidents each yea! cars are a vital prop under the nation’s economy especially since some other industries like textile have slumped. Car manufacturing has becom Canada’s third biggest industry, surpassed only b; pulp and paper, and food processing. Auto fat lories, their suppliers and dealers employ one o every fourteen non-farm wage earners besides aj the petroleum and rubber-industry workers wH keep your chariot fueled and shod.

Cars also produce big tax revenues. The federa government in 1952 rang up $140 millions in salí and excise taxes while the provinces and towns co lected $300 millions in gasoline taxes and assorte fees and fines.

Not every car owner spends $800 a year on ¡¡ keep. This would be a typical or frequent cc* if you buy a new car of one of the popular-pric full-size makes and keep it three years while rollirup yearly the 6,200 miles the Canadian Automobi Chamber of Commerce found was average in a 195 survey. For a family that buys costlier cars or trades sooner, the expense rises because depreciation is heaviest in the first two years of a car’s life. A family that buys used cars, generally over three years old, has lower costs but will still spend $500 to $700 a year if it does the average mileage.

The Car Owner Must Be a Father, Nurse and Psychiatrist

My estimate of average yearly upkeep costs works out this way:

Annual depreciation, average of three years $400

Gasoline and oil for 6,200 miles.......... 150

Maintenance and tires................... 90

Miscellaneous (parking, minor body

work, etc.)......................... 60

Liability, fire, theft insurance............. 60

License fees............................ 20

$780

The depreciation cost is based on average prices in Winnipeg, Montreal and Toronto for the three most popular full-size sedans in the $2,300-$2,400 price class. Such a car loses about $1,000 of its original value in the first three years of life, judging from average prices of used cars in this group in these cities last March.

The gasoline cost is based on an average of almost 44 cents in Ontario. It can be considered typical, not only because almost half the country’s cars are berthed there but because Ontario’s eleven-cent tax on gas hits close to the average provincial rate of 11.9 cents. The gasoline estimate is based on getting 19 to 20 miles a gallon.

The insurance figure permits $15,000 to $30,000 coverage for bodily injury and $5,000 propertydamage protection. It will vary among classes of drivers and in different, communities. The license fees are average for t he country.

Your own costs may vary from our budget according to prices in your region, your personal driving habits and other factors. People in Quebec, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and P. E. I. have to pay higher gas taxes. Drivers in Manitoba, Alberta, and B. G. get a bit of a break on the gas tax but

have to pay higher delivery charges on cars. A city dweller generally needs more gas to cover the same ground than a country man.

One Toronto driver, a machinery expert, recently complained that any realistic car budget ought to include an allowance for parking tickets and driving fines. Nor has our budget included costs of owning or renting a garage, nor the innumerable accessories sold for cars, from seat covers to fake port holes.

But any way you look at it, owning a car in Canada is expensive, especially when compared with the U. S. There, for the same cars and mileage, the owner’s average cost would be about $680 a year, or eleven cents a mile compared with the Canadian’s tab of twelve and a half cents. A man who does more than 6,200 miles a year will have a lower cost per mile although of course a higher annual expense. A Windsor, Ont., professional man who records his car costs for business reasons told me it costs him ten cents a mile for all expenses—buying one of the three most widely sold makes, driving about 9,000 miles a year and trading in every two years.

Whether a Canadian wants a car mainly to get to work and shop, or to get to one of the drive-in theatres that have sprung up in the past few years, he still uses it comparatively frugally. His 6,200

miles a year compares with 9,000 for the average U. S. driver.

A car-wise family can reduce the cost of ownership in several ways: in the initial selection of a

car, on depreciation, even on gasoline, oil, insurance, tires and other equipment. The place not to try to save is on service, exactly where many owners do skimp. Maintenance affects the two biggest costs depreciation and fuel consumption —but itself is relatively not a big cost, as our breakdown shows. Even failure to get a lubrication job when it’s needed means the engine has to supply more power to turn the wheels, t hus consuming extra gas and causing engine wear. Too, the Canadian Automobile Association considers condition a major factor in resille value, affecting depreciation as much as twenty percent. The main chance to save is on depreciation, rather than fuel, even though gas costs some fifteen percent more than in the U. S., chiefly because of higher provincial taxes. The big three cars in Canada cost about $500 more than they do in the States and some higher-priced makes, a third more.

You really liegin to save on a car when it’s three years old whether yours or one you want to buy. The average car depreciates $500 to $700 t he first year, even if driven very lit t ie. The second year, on the basis of our survey of resale prices, depreciation runs $250 to $400, and $200 to $300 the third year. Fourth and fifth-year depreciation slows down to about $150, and in later years depreciation may In* as little as $50. (Of course, a high-mileage man finds it’s wiser to switch cars frequently. A canny salesman 1 know who runs a car 25,000 miles a year trades it in yearly.)

In used cars, another money-saver is to look for a make that has medium resale value rather than the highest. On a new car, resale value is important. But if you buy a used car to keep some time, an initial saving may l>e more worth while.

For the same outlay it’s generally more economical to buy a later-model small car (any relatively smaller car) than Continued on next page an older big one, which will require repairs sooner, and costlier ones at that.

The traditional risk in a used car is that “you inherit somebody else’s headache.” Hut it need be no more than a normal automotive migraine if you inspect it carefully. Repair costs do increase as a car ages but rarely to the extent of depreciation on a new car, which is affected by pure snob and novelty appeal as well as actual deterioration. It’s generally when a car hits forty thousand miles that major repair needs appear.

You ought to know when to unload a car. There can be no rule for all cars, even of the same vintage. Hut as a rough measure, a car owner reaches the “point of no return” when his annual cost of repairs plus depreciation on his present car approaches the annual depreciation on a later model. The knack of judging when the point of no return is reached is this: when

you are faced with an expensive repair or replacement, have the mechanic test thi> other important components of your car and estimate what further repairs you will probably need soon. Consider not only the engine, but the rest of the running gear.

Among the more costly parts to check are shock absorbers, springs, steering gear, king pins and bushings, wheel bearings, universal joints, clutch, transmission and rear-end gears. These have a varying life expectancy, but if they all coilapsed within a short time you could have a total repair bill running up to $300. Among less costly components, but worth checking, are generator, starter, voltage regulator, master cylinder, wheel cylinders, windshield-wiper motor and headlights. These too could add up to a bill of close to $200.

Selecting the right make and model for your needs, and only as large a car as you actually need, helps keep down costs. A family that drives mostly in the city, and makes only occasional long trips, will find a heavy highpowered car a constant extra expense for gas, costlier tires, repairs, insurance and higher depreciation. Rome late high-powered models boast average top speeds of over a hundred miles an hour, and accelerate into high speed in ten seconds. Hut if you don t need that don’t buy it.

Rix-cylinder cars drink less gas and are generally a shade more economical to maintain than eight-cylinder cars of the same make. Advantages of the eights are smoother flow of power and better torque (thrust). Which is better for you depends on whether you use a car chiefly for short-distance city and suburban driving, and thus would find the six more economical, or make longer trips and could benefit from an eight’s greater power.

If smallness means less expense as well as easier manoeuvrability in traffic, why don’t more people buy the smaller English cars? When Canadian cars were still in short supply and Hritain was making a pitch to export cars in her drive for postwar financial stability, many small English cars poured in. Hut imports declined as more Canadian cars came off the assembly lines.

There are always many criticisms that the modern American-style car produced in Canada is more puffed-up, ornamental, cumbersome and costly than is necessary for many drivers’ true needs. Hut the Canadian Automobile Chamber of Commerce, the manufacturers’ association, argues that “while many people say they would be satisfied with smaller cars, what they really want is a big car with all the trimmings.”

Besides that undeniable ambivalence of car buyers, or perhaps human beings,

drivers sometimes do fear small ca are not as safe and are too light long-distance travel. A fellow I knol went out for a trial drive in a snu^ English car and came home th night with a big Canadian one. got bounced around too much, explained. Then again, an Ont family toured the Maritimes fori month in an English car with thf^ nine - months - old daughter happiK playing in the back seat.

Not all the fears about small ca may be justified. A U. R. testdriver told me that actually smallj car bodies may have more tens strength than larger ones, since the is less steel distributed over a small area. Too, the more weight, as ini large car, the more force with whi& it strikes an object. A smaller cfc could be safer if you hit something Hut there is much inconclusive debat about its relative safety in collisi® with a larger vehicle.

Nor is the longer wheel base of larj^. cars itself assurance of roadability. Itf the way the car is engineered tk| counts. Some comparatively light eæj ride well because of good balance an suspension and low centre of gravit The smaller imported cars general! don’t have the power of the full-sn makes but can cruise satisfactorily« 55 to 60 mph. Rome are capable« average speeds of 75 mph.

These days even after you’ve settltf on the make and model you’re face! with an array of optional features thi* can pyramid your cost.

Overdrive Can Pay For Itself

Automatic (clutchless) transmisski is generally most useful for city drive« who continually stop and go. Rervifl costs are low for the first 25,000 milfp (in some cases much more) but aut» matic transmission can add to repajl costs in later years.

On a new car the additional costil about $200 is not too steep becauA of the added resale value. Hut befori buying a used car with automata transmission have a mechanic checj it. If it needs a complete overhaul yog may have a steep bill.

On the other hand an overdrive 1 more useful for long-distance drivicj on fairly flat terrain, especially if yol ring up much mileage each year, is really a fourth forward speed ar it reduces engine wear and saves g» Initial cost of an overdrive unit is aboi $100. Overdrive usually gives a moto ist up to t wo and a half miles extra p* Imperial gallon on the open road an will therefore pay for itself on gas save after about forty t housand miles. Mo: important is the saving on engine we: and tear because, with overdrive, tl engine operates at fewer revolution

Power steering is most useful for cit drivers who have to park in sms spaces, while power brakes are an aí to high-speed drivers of high-powerf cars.

After depreciation, the next bigge chance to save is on gasoline. The cot of fuel has given birth to many idei and gadgets for reducing gas consumi tion, like dual exhaust systems, uno: thodox idling needles for carburetor water-injection units to humidify tb gas mixture, the list1 of larger tires o the rear wheels, and others.

None of these gadgets is universal: useful, hut for certain makes of ca: and under certain driving circuí stances they do save gas. The uno: thodox idling needles, for examp! work on some carburetors but not <* others and should only be purchase on a money-back guarantee. Lari tires on rear wheels are generally go° on open roads—where they give » overdrive effect—but not too good in the city where they reduce acceleration.

According to the Automobile Association of America, on a thousandmile trip an average car will drink fifty gallons of gas (Imperial size) if driven at 35 mph, but about 85 gallons at 65 mph. An economical cruising speed on long trips is 45. By driving 45 to 50 instead of 65 to 70 you save one gallon in every four. A steady pace saves gas by taking advantage of momentum.

Particularly wasteful of gas—tires and brakes too—are jack-rabbit starts; quick, tire-dragging stops and reluctance to stop the engine during halts of uncertain duration.

Prompt upshifting saves money. Continuing to drive in second at 20 mph uses 15 percent more gas than high. Low gear at 20 consumes 35 percent more. Let the other fellow break away first; let him be poor.

Many motorists wonder whether it’s worth paying extra for premium gas. The answer is that many older cars with comparatively low-compression ratios don’t need high-octane premium gas and can’t use it effectively. In later models it’s compressed seven or more times. Thus the fuel gives more power when ignited by the spark if highoctane gas is used, and such high-compression engines do need the premium fuel for best performance.

But if your own compression ratio is less than 7 to 1 your engine probably won’t be able to get full benefit from high-octane gas, except possibly in hilly country when an engine needs all possible help when it’s straining to make a grade.

Significantly, purchasing officials for the U. S. government not long ago ordered that no government vehicle shall use premium gas unless its engine is “specifically designed for higheroctane fuel.”

First thing is to learn your own compression ratio. Your dealer can look it up for your make, model and year. In very old cars, of course, carbon buildup will alter the compression ratio.

Car owners are equally mystified about oil, because of the conflicting advice about how often to change and what grade to use. More and more impartial experts now consider it unnecessary to change every thousand miles, as was once believed, unless your engine has accumulated much dirt and doesn’t have a filter, or you do much stop-and-go driving or traveling over dusty rural roads. But otherwise and under conditions of moderate use, more motorists now change only every two thousand miles. Generally speaking —go by the manufacturer’s advice and change oil offener as the car gets older. It is also necessary to change more frequently in winter because coldweather driving conditions add more sludge and grit to the oil. For this reason too it’s important, to replace your oil filter cartridge every spring and fall.

If you drive much or at high speeds, or have a comparatively new car, premium oil is worth the extra cost.

Biggest saving on oil almost half its cost is to buy it in bulk and add it yourself when needed, or even change it yourself.

Habitual tire underinflation is a gas waster and also robs the average motorist of twenty percent of his tire life, according to AAA experts. Many motorists check pressure after they have ridden a bit. By then pressure has built up and they think t hey have enough. You need to check while tires art* still cool. A little overinflation of front tires at least—but not much in hot weather saves gas and rubber although your ride isn’t as soft.

tires as well as gas. A study at loi State College showed that tires w®. out nearly three times as quickly fifty mph as at thirty. It also pato rotate tires at least every fi“ thousand miles, including the spa; When all tires share the heavy re^ wheel work, you increase tire life i to twenty percent. And why n retread tires when smooth if the casi» is sound? The body represents abo: 75 percent of your investment in a tir

You have a big investment in t! body of your car too, and good ca there can slow down your annuj depreciation cost noticeably. “Got care” means primarily washing at waxing as needed (the wax also pn teets the chrome). But it also meaij protecting the underbody with an u; dercoating, especially for a new ca and especially if you live in areas whe: salts are used on the highways winter, or if you travel over grav roads much. The protective underco; seals the undersurface against rust an also deadens noise. Or you can bti the asphalt-base undercoat materi and apply it yourself to such strateg spots as the body nuts and bolts, aí the underside of fenders, body pane and gas tank. But be sure you fir carefully clean off the parts you co; and don’t coat components that dis pate heat, like; the exhaust assemb and oil pan.

How Much Does Money Cost?

You can save on insurance and othf needs by smart shopping. Insurant is cheap enough in rural areas. 1 Saskatchewan, for example by addin voluntary extensions to the province compulsory policy, you can get a $2 “package” giving you fifty-dollar-dt ductible collision insurance protecti® the owner’s car, and up to $1 20,000 o public liability insurance.

But in crowded cities like Montre; and 'Toronto the cost rises sharply. Fi drivers under 25 and for business us the rate often doubles. Where it î steep, it is more practical to concer trate your expenditure on adéquat! liability protection rather than o; insuring your own car, especially i your car is an older one. You can sho; for rates too.

One of the biggest savings an aul owner can make is on financing. 1 can cost you as much as a new engine Suppose you buy a car and owe s balance of $1,000. Your interest cos could run from $100 to $360 de pen din,1 on the finance rate and how long yot take to pay.

A neighbor of mine drove his old cal extra long, determined to first save u[ the cash for a now one. ’The day h bought his new car lu* started a ne» savings account to pay in the depreciation as it accumulates, just as 1« pays cash for other car costs. He wai determined to save the finance cost In the long run he’ll be able tc buy more cars than the habitual time buyers.

if that isn’t feasible, and it isn’t always, next best bet is to shop carefully for the different possible lowercost sources for a loan, like commercial banks and credit unions, and the lowerrate finance companies, to see which will part with t he money at the lowest interest cost. The Better Business Bureaus in Canada have reported that complaints from aggrieved buyers ol used cars are one of their chief troubli spots. It’s particularly vital to avo« a lump-sum charge for car, interest fee insurance and other charges, a practici some used-car dealers use*. You neec an itemized bill to know what you a® being charged for each item in order k compare costs elsewhere.

Cars cost enough as it is withou asking for trouble. ★