Pundits and academic types have said for decades the "American's have a love affair with the automobile" because we devote so much time and resources to these four-wheeled transportation devices. But over and above that, there are those of us who feel actual affection for our own personal vehicles, much as if they were a mechanical pet or a trusted friend. It makes sense when you think about it, because like a pet your car is there to help you out without judging or asking questions when you need to make a late-night fast food run. Like a friend, when you need to get somewhere the car is always ready to go, without explanation or justifications.
If you really love your car, here are a few ideas for how to show the love on Valentine's Day.
Get a Full Detailing
Even if you don't live in an area where it snows a lot, or they heavily salt the roads, winter can be hell on a car. It tends to be cold and wet, so mud and dirt get underneath and stuck in the wheel wells. Unlike in the summer, most people don't wash their cars in winter either, because they don't want to be spraying the hose when the thermometer is stuck in the lower reaches of its range. But, besides looking good, washing the accumulated winter road grime off will do wonders for the longevity of your favorite motor vehicle.
The inside of the car can take a lot of wear and tear in the winter too. Everyone drives around with all the windows closed, leading to a hazy buildup you won't even notice is there until you wipe it off. The floor tends to collect dirt, sand, and trash in the winter too, from your dirty shoes, and an accumulation of hot coffee cups and dirty Kleenex.
Splurge and pay the professionals to clean, wax, and detail it, inside and out; this is like a spa day for your car and it will come out looking 10 years younger. Or, at the very least, find a coin-operated self-serve car wash and hose off the winter grime, then give the interior a good going over.
Catch Up On Maintenance
A detailing will make your car look new, but will do little for how it drives. When is the last time you checked the recommended service interval schedule? Chances are there are at least a handful of checks and inspections that need to be done. Check and top off the coolant, transmission, power steering, brakes and windshield washers. If it is an older model, adjust all the things that need periodic adjustments, like the ignition timing, and the tension on the accessory drive belt/s. Check how worn the brake pads or shoes are. If you haven't swapped on a dedicated set of winter rubber, this is a great time to rotate the tires.
Did you know a flush and fill of the brake fluid is recommended every other year for most cars to keep moisture in the system from corroding it from the inside out?
Modern automatic transmissions are considered "lifetime fill" by many OEMs, but that just means the factory fluid will keep everything functional for at least the length of the powertrain warranty. If you plan on keeping your car or truck past the 5 year/100,000 mile mark, you ought to change the transmission fluid and filter long before it gets to that point.
Your Haynes manual will have recommended service intervals based on our decades of experience, and the assumption that you might not want to buy a new car or truck every 100,000 miles.
Take It For a Long Hard Drive
If you are like most people, even if you love your car, most of the time you spend with it is misserable. This modern world is full of bumper to bumper traffic, and slow boring commutes. Engines need to be run hard to clear out carbon. Brakes need to be used hard to clean off the glaze. Get in your pride and joy early on Saturday or Sunday morning and take a little drive where the road gets twisty and traffic gets thin. Run it through the gears and let that engine sing in the upper rev band for a change. Bend it into a corner, and scrub off that ugly old top layer of tire rubber.
Spend some quality time in your car and remember why you fell in love in the first place.
Show It Off
There are fewer opportunities in the winter to be seen cruising in your baby, but they still exist. Do a little research and find a winter cruise-in, car show, or morning cars and coffee event. They do exist. There are also always informal gatherings happening around the country, at random donut shops and big box store parking lots if you dig into the events listed on Facebook.
If all else fails, just head to the upscale mall or downtown shopping district, and slip the valet a few bucks to get it parked right up front.