Automotive Answers

5 More Questions You’re Afraid to Ask About Your Car


There’s no such thing as dumb questions, only dumb answers. Nonetheless, some questions seem so silly we keep them to ourselves and never end up getting an answer, dumb or not.

So we’re going to help you out.

Continuing our series of Questions You’re Afraid to Ask About Your Car (we’ve already answered 10 questions here), we’ve compiled five more answers for you.

Hopefully these can help shed some light on your car conundrums.

#1 How often should I change my oil?

So it turns out that messy dipstick isn’t a tiny toy sword. In fact, it serves a pretty crucial role in your vehicle maintenance routine. It indicates to you when your car is in need for an oil change. This ensures that your engine remains sufficiently lubricated and to aid in the absorption of the heat created by the friction of moving engine parts. Who knew?

How often should we change our oil? Well, the answer to this question depends on several factors that differ depending on where you live, your vehicle’s age, and the type of driver you are. For instance, if you’re someone who has a lead foot and an older vehicle, you should consider having your oil changed more frequently than does someone who drives a newer vehicle more cautiously.

Unfortunately, we can’t give you a definite answer to this question. The old 5,000 km (3,000 miles) benchmark is no longer relevant to newer models, and senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds recommends a better standard for intervals between oil changes to follow nowadays would be about 12,000 km (7,500 miles), and in some cases even up to 16,000 km (10,000 miles) or more. But again, it all depends on the car you drive, how you drive it, and the weather conditions of where you live.

What we can tell you with certainty, however, is that keeping up with your regular oil change appointments will help make sure you get the most of your vehicle because it maintains engine lubrication, keeps it cool, removes engine wear particles and sludge, and improves your gas mileage.

When in doubt, consult your owner’s manual, or your friendly neighbourhood Go Auto dealer.

#2 What’s that exclamation mark on my dashboard?

If you’ve wondered what that small symbol that looks like an exclamation mark is doing flashing on your dashboard, it isn’t because your car is excited about your driving skills.

That little symbol is what’s called a TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) light, and its purpose is to alert you when your tire pressure is too low, which could potentially be the source of hazardous driving conditions.

Why the symbol is so cryptic-looking is beyond me. But hey, that’s just the world we live in.

#3 Why do we measure engines in “horsepower”?

Why is it that almost every engine we encounter in our lives is measured in horsepower? Why not camel-power, or dog-power, or even moose-power for Canadian vehicles? Could you imagine how fun it would be to say that the Ford F-150 has a toddler-power of, say, 10,000?

The possibilities are endless. But, alas, it seems that the tides of history has left us stuck on the measurement of horsepower.

It all began in the late 18th century when the inventor and engineer James Watt made improvements to his Newcomen steam engine and had to come up with ways to market and sell his new version. Since the steam engine wasn’t yet universally used at that point in time, Watt couldn’t simply make a direct comparison between the older version of his engine to the improved version. He had to come up with a way that could be understood by everyone.

Watt drew his inspiration for the metric of horsepower by observing draft-horses work. He reasoned that a horse could do 33,000 foot-pounds of work in a minute, and then decided that that would equal one horsepower.

Time passed, and the unit of measurement remained.

#4 Why should I wax my car?

A lot of people don’t bother with it, but ultimately, your life will be made much easier if you take the extra time to wax your car. Aside from learning karate, there are added benefits for your vehicle if you keep putting the wax on, then taking the wax off.

First and foremost, there’s the vanity aspect. Waxing your car will help ensure that it keeps a shiny, glossy look. But in more practical terms, adds an extra barrier between the coat of paint and detrimental effects of the environment: UV rays, water, dirt, etc.

Regular waxing will give your vehicle a shiny, glossy appeal, helping keep that new-car look. It’ll also help prevent paint chips by keeping the paint surface smooth and reducing friction between it and any stray debris that may jump up and scratch your vehicle, say, when you’re driving at high speeds on the highway and the vehicle ahead of you kicks up loose stones on the road.

Furthermore, waxing your car on a regular basis will make washing your car much easier. The wax acts as an added layer of protection for your paint from the elements, so when things like bugs and dirt build up on your vehicle, they’ll be swept away without making contact with the paint when you wash your vehicle.

 “You trust the quality of what you know, not quantity.”
– Mr. Miyagi 

#5 When do I rotate my tires?

Tire rotation is one of the most important car maintenance tasks. Don’t ignore it. For those of you who don’t already know, tire rotation is the act of moving the tires and wheels of your vehicle from one position to another in order that they wear evenly. So this means moving, say, your front left tire to the back right position, and so on.

This preventative maintenance must-do extends the life of your tires, betters your gas mileage, and keeps your vehicle’s handling sharp. Many of us go years without rotating our tires, and our vehicle pays the price for it. Accordingly, it’ll be useful for you to become acquainted with a few indicators for when you should get it done.

Check to see what your owner’s manual has to recommend on the matter (or consult your local Go Auto dealer). Distances between suggested tire rotation appointments will vary depending on manufacturers and car makes. We recommend you do it every 8,000 km to 13,0000 km. To make matters simpler, make a mental note to have your tires rotated every time you have your oil changed.

Don’t accept a deteriorating performance level on your vehicle. Have your tires regularly rotated, even if they aren’t showing obvious signs of wear.

Want to Learn More?

We’ve already answered 10 other questions you’re afraid to ask. Click here to learn more.