Resolutions twisted for auto fans

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, you’ve probably made your share. Stop smoking. Stop eating. Stop being lazy and start exercising.

I don’t bother with absolutes like those, they’re just not for me. I’m all about improving and reducing, not shutting off, eliminating and other ridiculous absolutes that we’ll inevitably fail at.

Besides, this year I’m going to lavish my attention — and goal-setting – on my car.

Why not? I mean, all those other resolutions are things we deal with every day the rest of the year. But when do we ever sit down and evaluate how we use our vehicles? From how we drive, to how we maintain them, to how much pollution we create? For me, the coming of the new year seems like a perfect time to stop and think about it. After all, driving is one of the few activities we perform at speeds fast enough to kill us; the car is one of the few things that puts most of us into lifelong debt; and our engines are one of the primary sources for the pollution that each of us releases into the world each year.

So for all those reasons, I think the car is a good place to focus my energy and reflect.

1. This year, I resolve that for the next 12 months, when men try to dazzle me with their boundless knowledge of cars, engines, lawn mowers, wristwatches, toasters or anything else they think runs on gasoline, I will go out of my way not to ignore them and politely explain that they shouldn’t assume that women know nothing about vehicles.

2. Straight on the heels of No. 1, I resolve to change the oil before it becomes a turbid, black sludge that threatens to stop my engine in its tracks. In fact, I resolve to change it before it turns black at all, possibly even at the three-month intervals recommended in my trusty owner’s manual … wherever it is.

3. I resolve to stop complaining that I don’t know who offers a defensive driving course near me, and get off my sofa, go find out and take one every couple of years.

4. I resolve to use my window scraper more instead of pouring on the windshield washer fluid and tearing the wiper blades to shreds removing the ice. Further to that, I better get a new scraper.

5. I resolve to take more right-hand turns than left-hand turns. Hey, if less waiting at intersections to turn left saves UPS millions of dollars a year in fuel, maybe it can save me a few bucks, too. Think about it.

6. I resolve to find out, for real, exactly how much air my tires are supposed to have in them, and to find a neighborhood gas station whose air hose actually works.

7. I resolve to use technology for driving when I’m driving. Today’s new cars are laced with distracting “infotainment” buttons and touchscreens that take attention away from the road. More hands on the wheel and eyes forward for 2012.

8. I resolve to stop leaving nasty little notes on people’s windshields when they park too close to me. Instead, this year, I will come up with some good, pointed material well in advance (perhaps I could have it professionally printed), and have it at the ready so I can provide proper notes expressing my displeasure. (I hate writing something like ‘Hey! You! Hey! Too close!’ and spending the next half hour thinking of all the stuff I should have written. Better to be prepared.)

9. I resolve to become better at preventing people from drinking and driving. That might mean making a few enemies out of friends, or playing cabbie from time to time, but I think their lives are worth it.

10. And finally, after resolving to do all this good stuff with the car … I hereby resolve to use the car less this year, and instead walk. The Earth will thank me and, frankly, so will my thighs.

And one last thing, dear readers: I’d like to say thank you to everyone who took the trouble to write to me over the past year. Whether you agreed with me, there’s nothing I like better than hearing from (and often arguing with) people all over the continent. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to get back to everyone, but I resolve to keep trying to reply to as many letters as I can.

Rhonda Wheeler is a journalist with Wheelbase Media, a worldwide supplier of automotive news, features and reviews. You can email her by logging on to www.wheelbasemedia.com and clicking the contact link.

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