Drivers dabble with drive-time decisions


(BPT) - There are a lot of decisions to make when it comes to driving, and the list only grows once you’ve got your own set of wheels. Whether you’re facing a purchasing dilemma over which make and model is best for you, or simply wonder how much is too much to top off the gas, being a responsible driver comes with more options than there are gears on a manual car.

Tire time

You may think that the biggest choice you’ll face when it comes to cars is which one you’ll own. However, even after that primary purchase, there’s a plethora of other parts to ponder, too — like the tires! According to the latest installment of Hankook Tire’s Gauge Index Survey, Americans are more likely to consider the safety rating of their tires (26 percent) than the safety rating of their car (18 percent). And the decisions don’t stop there. Americans are split (50/50) on whether off-road tires are only meant for off-road cars. The truth is, while you can put them on vehicles for everyday driving, they are optimized for off-road use.

But no matter which type of tire you’re shopping for, one thing is for certain: Buying American-made products is in. The Gauge found that 92 percent of Americans prefer to buy products that are made in the U.S. That’s up from 87 percent this time last year. Luckily, with more and more automotive companies like Hankook manufacturing products in the U.S., there are plenty of options for consumers to consider.

Lights on, or lights off?

Apparently, we actually did listen to our parents when they told us to turn off the overhead light in the backseat. The Gauge found that more than half (58 percent) of Americans believe the “old dad’s tale” that driving with your interior lights on is illegal. Because it’s distracting to other drivers, experts recommend that you don’t drive with the interior lights on.

That said, your mom was right about using low lights in foggy or rainy conditions. While more than a third (38 percent) of drivers think that high beams are the right choice for fog or rain, it actually can create a harsh reflection against the water, making it more difficult to see.

Check the check list

Let’s add another decision to the mix — when to service your vehicle. How many miles are you really supposed to go between service appointments? That depends on the car, seasonal driving conditions, how much driving you do, and a whole plethora of other factors. However, many drivers use the change of seasons as a regular reminder to take the car in, and it’s a good schedule to keep by. For example, car and tire maintenance was on the back-to-school checklist for 45 percent of Americans, but winter weather may not have been top of mind at the time. As the leaves fall and temperatures drop, it may be time to talk about what’s necessary for the cooler coming months — whether that’s a new set of winter tires, or a fresh pair of windshield wipers.

To top it all off …

It can be terribly tempting to squeeze the handle once or twice more to get the most bang for your buck at the gas pump. In fact, 3 in 5 Americans (60 percent) don’t think that topping off your gas tank is bad for your car … but experts say it is, and can actually lead to further damage down the road! Topping off can overfill the tank and cause liquid gas to enter the charcoal canister or carbon filter, which in turn can damage your engine. Save yourself a potential maintenance headache, and let off the gas once the pump shuts off.

Many of the choices you make as a responsible driver go beyond figuring out which parking spot to snag in a grocery store lot (for the record, 43 percent of Americans will park as close to the entrance of a store as they can get). But the decisions don’t need to be daunting, so long as you stay informed about your vehicle’s maintenance schedule and needs, and know the options available to you to keep your ride smooth and your car well maintained.