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Owning up

I recently spent several consecutive weekends helping a friend shop for a used car, a frustrating experience fraught with pitfalls. The experience, a long and colourful one to be sure, is a column unto itself.

I recently spent several consecutive weekends helping a friend shop for a used car, a frustrating experience fraught with pitfalls. The experience, a long and colourful one to be sure, is a column unto itself.

But there is a happy ending: a ‘new’ used car was purchased for less than the asking price. And after getting it checked and double-checked, it doesn’t appear to be a lemon. Mission accomplished.

After arriving home and congratulating ourselves on a job well done, we sat down, put our feet up and relaxed. I read the newspaper. My friend read his owner’s manual — cover to cover.

At first I chalked it up to pride of ownership and expected it to wear off after a few pages. After all, I have owned a few vehicles and I cannot recall reading the manual page by page. If I was unsure of a feature or didn’t know how to operate something, I would look it up. But I rarely cracked open the manual, doing so only out of necessity.

It is a daunting task for some, since the relatively straightforward manual of yesteryear has ballooned into a weighty tome with more pages than some novels. Many cars today include several different guides that explain everything from the sound system to the navigation system and other in-car electronics. The more high-tech features a vehicle has, the scarier the owner’s manual. It could literally take days to get through it all. BMW owners that want to know the intricacies of their iDrive system should find a really comfortable chair …

When I asked about his reading selection, my friend simply replied: “Why wouldn’t I want to know about the vehicle I’m going to drive everyday?” I thought he was being cheeky.

But over the course of the weekend, each time we got into his new SUV, he would point out its different features, ones that would take those who hadn’t read the manual months to figure out or even realize they had. We learned how to set the speed volume control by pressing and holding the stereo on/off button. We would never have known it existed had he not read about it. He located and tested the overdrive button and read up on his towing capacity. In only a day or two, he became an expert on his vehicle.

We could all follow this example. With the myriad of electronics and safety features on cars today, it’s especially important to know how they work in order to use them effectively. Knowing your car has stability control won’t keep you out of a ditch. Learning how to use it before you get behind the wheel gives you much better odds.

So, if you find yourself short of something to read this weekend, why not reach for your owner’s manual to learn about your car or truck. You might even discover a feature you didn’t even know you had.

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