By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
I will never be in a NASCAR pit crew, mainly because my automotive skills are the pits, but I do know that when it comes to car care, it’s never too late to be oily.
That’s what I learned recently when I went to Mid-Island Hyundai in Centereach, N.Y., so a certified mechanic could show me how to change the oil in my car.
As a certified cheapskate, I knew I could save money if I learned how to do it.
“In a tough economy, every little bit helps,” technician Naresh Ramjet said as we stood under my car, which was on a lift in the dealership’s garage. “Besides,” he added, “it’s not that difficult, even for an amateur.”
That, of course, would be me.
“You can’t be any worse than the guy who hacked off the end of a spark plug and put it in the oil pan to hold the oil,” said Ramjet. “Rule No. 1: Don’t do that!”
As Ramjet showed me how to remove the splash shield and the filter, and how to drain the oil into an oil catch, service adviser Rich Heins gave me another piece of advice: If you’re going to pull a robbery, make sure your getaway car starts.
“This guy with a Corvette came in complaining that his car wouldn’t start after he shut it off,” Heins recalled. “So we left the car idling. Somebody came along, saw this nice car running, jumped in and took off. He drove to a hospital, parked the car, went inside and robbed the place. He ran back outside and jumped in the ’Vette. It wouldn’t start. It was just going, ‘Click, click.’ There was a cop standing next to the door, tapping on the window. This idiot had the ultimate getaway car and he couldn’t get away.”
Service adviser Mary Husson remembered the time an older gentleman came in and said his car was making noises. “Nobody else could hear these noises,” Husson said. “It turned out the guy had a hearing aid and he was getting feedback.”
“Then there was the time a woman came in to say that her car smelled,” Heins said. “It really did. The smell was awful. This was in the middle of a heat wave in August. The woman said the smell started about a month before. Apparently she had gone food shopping in July and forgot to take the groceries out of the trunk. We couldn’t do much about the smell, but we did take the groceries out. It’s all part of the service.”
Heins also recalled the man who complained that there were holes in the interior roof over the backseat. “I asked him who drove the car besides him. He said, ‘My daughter.’ We figured out the holes were made by pump heels,” Heins said. “His daughter was doing more in the car than just driving. The guy’s face turned beet red. He never came back.”
I was getting quite an education in car care. Learning how to change the oil wasn’t the most exciting part, but it was the most useful, thanks to Ramjet, a class A technician -- the highest grade -- who keeps up on technology by going back to school twice a year.
After he showed me how to replace the filter and put the splash shield back on, he lowered the car and showed me how to put in new oil and measure it with a dipstick.
“You may not qualify for a NASCAR pit crew,” Ramjet said, “but now you can change your own oil.”
And I’ll save money. Because an oil change is $36, and should be done every 3,000 miles, and I drive about 15,000 miles a year, it’ll amount to $180 annually.
“You’ll keep your car running well,” Heins said. “Just make sure some stupid crook doesn’t try to steal it.”
Copyright 2010 by Jerry Zezima