Rob Kinnan
Rob Kinnan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
January 27, 2015

We no longer write letters, preferring to email. Phone calls have been replaced with texts. The easier it becomes to work from home, the less frequently we have actual human interaction. When there is interaction, the attention paid to others is far less than it used to be. Don’t believe me? Go to any restaurant, bar, wherever and notice how at least half of the people in any given group are staring at their phones and madly typing with their thumbs as opposed to carrying on real conversations. When it comes to shopping, say for Christmas gifts, do you go to a brick and mortar store or are you more likely to go to your computer and log onto Amazon.com or Summit Racing, and have stuff delivered to your home without ever having to pick your butt up off the couch?

The technology explosion of even the last 10 years has truly made life easier, more convenient, and in some cases less expensive for all of us, but it has also changed how we interact with others and the outside world, and has added immensely to the pool of the things we take for granted. It is no more obvious than when it comes to new cars and trucks. No matter how much we love our vintage Mustangs and, given the choice, would most likely prefer a cherry ’67 fastback over a 2015 model, nobody can deny that the new car is better in every way except for sentimentality and looks (depending on personal opinion of course). A new EcoBoost V-6 Mustang will outrun even the vaunted Boss 429 cars, stop and handle far better, get vastly better fuel mileage, and easily cruise at well over 100 mph all day long with the air conditioning blasting and the stereo cranked to 11. And it’ll do it without a single consideration in the driver’s brain of a breakdown.

How many new car buyers even know what the oil pressure and water temperature gauges are really for—if their car even has those gauges and not just warning lights? We have become so accustomed to late-model cars doing everything right with a minimum of fuss that we take them for granted. And if there is a problem, AAA is only a quick cell phone call away and will send help. It didn’t used to be that way. I’m not a geezer but I recall a time not that long ago when there were no such things as cell phones, and if you were driving a car, especially something from the ’70s or earlier, there was a better than average chance there would eventually be an issue, and you needed to know how to deal with at least the small stuff—like changing a tire. The manufacturers can make a car as bulletproof as possible, but they can’t do much about a nail puncturing a tire and leaving you on the side of the road with a flat. How many people do you know who can’t change a tire? What about basic maintenance?

I had always suspected that as cars got better, the general public’s interest in knowing how to fix or even maintain them would vanish, and that was just recently confirmed for me in an email. Flexed.co.uk, a British vehicle leasing company, recently did a survey that discovered that millions of U.S. drivers have no idea about basic car maintenance. “Millions of us drive every day, but it turns out that huge numbers know very little about the machine they’re operating,” Flexed.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall said. The survey asked over 3,000 drivers if they knew how to carry out basic maintenance tasks, and you’re going to be shocked at the results:

Basic Maintenance Task Results
49% didn’t know how to change a tire
31% didn’t know how to check their tire pressure
63% were unable to check the oil level
58% didn’t know where to top off the oil
29% were unable to fill the windshield washer bottle
1% didn’t know how to fill up with gas!

I’m sorry but that’s just pathetic. There’s a TV commercial airing while I write this for Subaru and it shows a young woman struggling to change a tire in the rain. She finished tightening the lug nuts as the camera pulls back to show her father standing there watching, saying, “I told you you could do it.” The message I took was that it gave him the confidence he needed to let her drive. As lovers of vintage Mustangs, I’ll bet that 99 percent of Mustang Monthly’s readers can at least change a tire, while a significant percentage can go as far as completely building a car from the ground up and have hopefully passed this knowledge onto their kids before it’s time to take the driving test. But what about the neighbor down the street? I’m not just talking about the 16-year-old next door, but his parents probably don’t know the basics either. If there is a new BMW or Lexus in the driveway, I can pretty much promise you they don’t have any idea how to change a tire or check the oil.

If you’re ever in the mood to pay it forward, throw some knowledge on the younger generation and teach that neighbor kid the basics. Just take his attention-sucking cell phone away from him or her during the lesson.