Car Ownership: Make your vehicle last longer by doing things right

I got my new insurance today. It made me smile that I have been with the same company, USAA, since 1977. They are just great.

One more look at my policy and I realized I’ve owned 32 vehicles since 1977. In that time I’ve had a vehicle stolen, a vehicle driven into a parking lot, another vehicle broken into, wheels ripped off, hail damage and more. I even damaged one of my own cars while it was in the garage. I learned something with each incident, and I’d like to share some of my best tips.

Do you need an indoor car cover for your vehicle?

I’ve always been a sports car fanatic. As a young man I had visions of a bright red Ferrari in the garage. That never happened, but I did buy a two-year-old Fiat X/19 and custom-made it with custom bodies, a beautiful interior with Recaro seats and a Borg Warner K27 turbo to spice things up. I painted the car Attract-a-COP red in the style of the old Ferrari 512bb with satin black from the beltline down.

It was perfect!

Well, that is, it was perfect until a box of junk fell out of my overhead storage compartment and scratched all the way out. I wanted to scream. Actually, I think I yelled.

Anyway, that was the event that led me to buy and use an indoor car cover. Since then my go-fast mobiles have all had car covers and have saved the day more than once. Not even from me or my stuff. The main danger for any beautiful car at home is children and pets.

How to prevent car theft

This is a subject I wish I had no experience with, but I do. In 1987, after realizing that my given career path did not make me a likely candidate to ever own a Ferrari, I bought my first Porsche. It was a brand new Guards Red Porsche 944 Turbo. It was an exciting car, and over the six-year period I’ve owned it, I’ve made it even more exciting. I’m sure I spent as much or more than the purchase price on performance upgrades and accessories. It went like a scaly cat!

Unfortunately, all my hard work and hard-earned money came to an abrupt change of fortune one morning in November. I stayed overnight at a local hotel to avoid the long journey home between San Diego and Irvine, California, and when I woke up the next morning, it was GONE!

It’s a gloomy feeling that comes over you. First your brain goes to, “I’m sure I parked it here.” Well, you did, and that’s exactly where the thief took it.

Lesson learned. Locking your car won’t stop a thief. A standard car alarm will not stop a thief. It takes a much bigger deterrent. Then I installed car alarms that immobilized the car and used mechanical devices that blocked the steering wheel, handbrake, or both. There are whole lists of things you can do, but I found these to be the most effective.

How to prevent car damage

Let’s be honest; taking your car out of the garage is dangerous. Once your rubber hits the road, you’re at the mercy of other drivers, the sun, the environment and more. Trust me, I know!

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I got over losing my 944 Turbo with a 1989 Silver Anniversary Edition 911 Carrera. She lacked the power and handling I was used to, but what a beauty! That is, until some Creaton backed into me—parked, no less—in a mall parking lot. Ah yes, another lesson learned. Be special where you park.

A while ago I attended Sneak Preview Night at the Los Angeles Car Show. I drove to the top of the parking garage to look for an open space on a corner, because these spots reduce the chance of a doorbell ringing by fifty percent. In addition, I also find that the corner and end points are a bit wider. I found an end spot and parked as far as possible.

After parking, locking and walking away, I got a strange feeling and returned to my car to move it. A stunned BMW driver stopped me to ask why I was moving. I explained that I didn’t want to get hit if someone came around the corner too close. My point is this: think about how people can get you and don’t give them the chance.

To drive defensively

In 1995, on one of my weekly trips to Los Angeles, I was pulled over by California’s best for my careless use of forward speed. After a brief chat with the judge a few weeks later, we agreed that a little levity was in order, so I went to comedy driving school. I must admit, it was worth it.

The comedy driving school instructor had a whole shtick about avoiding traffic fines by “watching COPS.” It was hilarious!

Watch out for COPS! Such a simple thing, right? Yeah, well, if it’s that easy, why do you have your last ticket? It’s really not that easy unless you practice…a lot! Most of us have somehow learned to check our mirrors often, but we get lazy and after a while it goes straight out the window.

Watch out for COPS! It’s not so much about avoiding quotes as about paying attention to what’s going on around you. It’s actually quite simple. You look forward, look back, and look to your side, and do it often. Your mirrors are your friend, so use them.

Most people use their mirrors when changing lanes. If you use your mirrors like this, I’m afraid you’re missing the point and you’re well on your way to being a traffic casualty again. Your mirrors are your main defensive driving aid and they will save you from the idiots on the road as well as the COPS. Use them.