Two auto companies are bolstering dealer service departments with extra advertising during October to get customers into the shop to prepare their vehicles for winter.

American Honda Motor Co. Inc. and Subaru of America Inc. chose October because they could get more bang for their bucks. The auto industry recognizes October as National Car CareMonth, a time when businesses and civic groups promote vehicle maintenance and repair.

For example, independent garages in Minnesota and Washington state have promoted “Lights On” days, when they will change burned-out bulbs on customers’ cars for free.



“We want to fly on the coattails” of a national event, said Ginny Newkirk, fixed operations advertising and communications manager for Subaru. “I don’t know why other manufacturers don’t participate in National Car Care Month.”

Manufacturers also increase promotion because they want to boost customer loyalty to dealer service departments. Dealers lose many service customers after the new-vehicle warranty expires. But if they promote free inspections every October, dealers pick up business that would have gone to independents.

About 70 percent of Honda owners return to dealer service departments in the first year of ownership; 60 percent return in the second and third years after purchase. After four years, however, only 40 percent of Honda owners come to dealerships for service.

“We are trying to get customer retention up in the next three years to 45 or 46 percent,” said Jim Roach, vice president of service operations for Honda.


Honda promoted free 45-point vehicle inspections on Saturday, Oct. 2, at 758 dealerships on its Web site and through a direct-mail campaign to 2 million Honda owners. The campaign, which is called “Customer Appreciation Day,” is a first for Honda, but the automaker wants to make the campaign an annual event. The theme is “welcoming old friends” and the mailers say that “old friends get in free.” About 80 percent of Honda’s dealers are participating in the event.

The company expected the invitations to generate a 4 to 7 percent response rate based on similar promotions Honda has done.


Honda also expects dealers to pick up some business. Based on previous promotions, about 30 percent of customers who come to the dealership for free vehicle inspections wind up purchasing service work.

Honda also provided dealers with free-oil-change coupons to distribute to customers. “We help dealers on that by covering the cost of the oil filter,” said Suzan Fairchild, assistant manager of service marketing for Honda. Other point-of-purchase materials such as banners, posters, hats and children’s coloring books are available for a nominal fee, Fairchild said.


Subaru has been promoting National Car Care Month for the past six years. Though it does not track response rates, the company measures success by growing dealer participation. “More than 50 percent of our dealers (about 300) are participating,” said Newkirk. “In the first year, only a couple dozen dealers participated.”

Subaru encourages dealers to host free car-care clinics for Subaru owners from October through December. Subaru owners are invited to visit the dealerships for a free inspection that includes a checkup of all major operating systems and a written report of the vehicle’s condition.


Subaru is promoting the clinics on its Web site, press releases and a toll-free number. The company also discounts the direct-mail program it provides for dealers by 10 percent from September through November and pays 50 percent of the cost of the event, including refreshments and small giveaways.

Dealers also pay a nominal amount for a merchandising kit that includes point-of-purchase displays, posters and signs.

To prepare for the fall promotion, Subaru gave dealers the chance to stock up on parts during the summer, offering discounts up to 10 percent on the fastest-moving parts.

Car care for a carefree season

SUMMERTIME may be travels carefree time. But for those motorists who fail to properly maintain their automobiles, the season will be anything but cheap or easy.

Heat can wreak havoc on an automobiles vital parts and an owners wallet. To ensure a fun-filled summer, take time now to service your ear to prevent any unforeseen mechanical difficulties.

One of the best maintenance tips, according to automotive specialists, is to keep your ear “cool.”

“Overhearing generally is the biggest problem, and its due to improper maintenance,” says David Van Sickle, a director with the American Automobile Association. “It manifests itself typically in engine overheating and boiling at low speeds when the air conditioner is on. Thats when the biggest strain is put on the cooling system.”


A visit to a qualified mechanic can go a long way toward preventing roadside mishaps and possible accidents. But automotive experts suggest that summertime pleasure seekers remember the following car maintenance tips to keep their season happy and trouble-free.

  • Change the winter antifreeze and replace it with the proper amount of mixture of coolant solution. Most ears take a 50-50 mixture of coolant and water, but check your manual. Never add plain water to your cooling system unless it is an emergency.
  • Check the oil since antifreeze and circulating oil help cool the engine. The cars owner manual will spell out the recommended grade and service classification. Make sure the oil level is at “full” to maintain maximum cooling effect and lubrication.
  • Inspect all tires. Make sure they are properly inflated since a combination of heat and underinflated tires is a major cause of blowouts. Uneven wear could indicate alignment, suspension or wheel balance problems that should be corrected before any trip. Remember to check tire pressure when the tires are “cold,” before driving three or more miles.
  • Check to make sure your car’s air conditioning is working properly. Make sure the unit has the correct amount of freon.
  • Replace any cracked or worn hoses and drive belts. Also check air and oil filters and replace them if they are clogged or dirty.
  • Periodically inspect the water level of your battery, even if its “maintenance free.” Before traveling long distances, check the alternator and fuses to prevent electrical difficulties.
  • Take your car in for a tune-up if its an older model. New car owners should consult their owners manual for scheduled maintenance and tune-ups.
  • Consider buying a cardboard sunscreen. The screen, placed over the front and back windshields, keeps your cars interior cool and protects the finish on your automobiles dashboard.
  • Inspect all exterior lights—brakelights, headlights, hazard lights and taillights–for alignment and brightness. Also make sure the car’s windshield wiper fluid system is working properly, and replace worn blades.
  • Keep an emergency tool kit in your trunk. The kit should include battery cables, blankets, flashlight with fresh batteries, first-aid kit, spare fuses, jack, tire iron, tire gauge and an empty gasoline can. Never carry gasoline or other flammable liquids in your trunk.
  • Join a full-service motor club. These organizations offer invaluable route planning and roadside assistance services.


Through planning and proper maintenance, motorists can prevent the hassles and mishaps that can ruin a summer vacation. By following the preceding tips, you can make sure that driving will be a pleasant, worry-free and enjoyable part of your summer vacation.


Summer weather can create unforeseen car problems when an automobile is not properly maintained. Maintenance tips discussed include changing antifreeze, checking fluid levels, tire and light inspections and replacing worn hoses.

Car care in the ’90s

Even in those first few moments after you get your newly painted car back from the body shop, the anxiety of owning a cool car sets in. You’re afraid to drive it because it’ll get dirty. You can’t take it to the grocery store because inevitably some moron will bash the paint while flinging open the doors of his rusty Gremlin, or some old lady will use your bumper as an indicator that her parking experience is now over.

But what’s a hot rodder to do? Putting the car in storage and never driving it defeats the whole purpose of building it. Plain and simple, you have to take care of it with a regular car-careroutine, and car care involves more than just hosing the car off and an occasional vacuuming. A thorough detailing will consume the better part of a day, but real hot rodders enjoy lavishing attention on their babies. If it’s done right, the car will be able to withstand most of the world’s harsh elements (old ladies and uninsured lowlifes not included) and will look great for years. So crank up the stereo, fill the wash bucket, and let’s get wet!


  • When washing the car, do the wheels and tires first, using a separate sponge, wash mitt or brush from the one used on the paint. The wheels and tires are usually the hardest to clean, and washing them first (while you’re still enthusiastic about washing the car) is easiest. Also, do only one wheel at a time, and make sure that the wheels are cool before spraying them with cleaner. High heat does funny things to some wheel cleaners and can cause problems.
  • Mothers has two different spray-on wheel cleaners–one for wire, chrome or rough cast-aluminum wheels and one for all other types. Together they cleaned the author’s seriously neglected, brake dust-encrusted wheel effortlessly. Making the wheel and tire cleaning job easier were the brushes from CleanTools and a can of No Touch tire cleaner.
  • The wheel brush from CleanTools takes the pain out of wheel cleaning. It has soft bristles that won’t scratch the wheel, and the handle is angled to keep you from bashing your knuckles on the rim. CleanTools also has an effective tire brush.

STP’s one-step Son Of A Gun Tire Care foams on and doesn’t require any wiping. It just vaporizes and leaves a clean tire.

Armor All’s Quick-Silver Wheel Cleaner comes in conventional spray bottles or as a foam, and it’s safe for all wheels.


For years, many of us have used liquid dish soap mixed in water to wash our cars, but dish soap has ingredients meant to clean the grease and goo off of dinner plates, which means it also strips all the wax off a car and leaves it unprotected. There are many good car-wash products on the market, and they won’t strip the wax. Some experts we’ve talked to suggest using a smaller dosage of soap than what the manufacturer recommends, even if the recommended dosage is only a capful of soap in five gallons of water. All you need is a noticeable amount of suds. And you’ve heard it before, but wash the car in the shade and give the sheetmetal enough time to cool down before starting.

These car-wash concentrates are from Mothers and Blue Coral. Use a capful in five gallons of water, and get a good sponge or wash mitt such as this one from CleanTools.

The Wax Shop and Armor All also have car-wash solutions that are kind to wax and designed to rinse clean without streaking.

Once the car is rinsed off, dry it immediately. If water is left on the car, it will form water spots, which can be a bear to get rid of and can hurt the paint if left on long enough. A soft bath towel works well but gets soaked fairly quickly. Don’t use a leather chamois, as it will strip off wax. A synthetic chamois, such as The Absorber, is a better choice. We’ve been using the same one for four years now and swear by it. Another tip is to use air, either from an air compressor or, believe it or not, a leaf blower. Compressed air is very good for getting water out of doorjambs and out from under chrome trim.


Oxidation is probably the biggest enemy of paint. It’s that dull, hazy appearance seen on unprotected paint after a few months of neglect, and it’s caused by the paint’s natural gases escaping. Leaving the car in direct sunlight speeds up the oxidation process, but it will still happen if the car is kept in a dark garage or under a cover. There’s no way to completely prevent it, but keeping the car waxed and giving it an occasional rubbing will slow down the process dramatically. It’s still a good idea to keep the car out of the sun as much as possible. Most of all, if it gets dirty, wash it. Don’t let it stay grungy for a month before cleaning it. The longer dirt and road grime stay on the paint, the more the paint can be damaged. Daily washes aren’t necessary, but once a week is great if you have the time.


A good wax will last three to four months, but a car should be waxed about every four to six weeks just to make sure it doesn’t go unprotected. The hardest part is choosing a wax, since the market is flooded with all types of waxes, sealants, glazes and similar compounds.

Many believe that the best type of wax to use is one that’s carnauba-based. Carnauba is a hard wax, but it allows the paint to breathe, unlike some sealants. Most name-brand waxes are carnauba-based, and usually the only difference between them is how they’re applied. Basically, the right wax is the one that works best for you, meaning you’ll have to experiment a little.

Different paint types also require different waxing schedules. Lacquer paint oxidizes, quickly, meaning that it needs to be polished and waxed more frequently–waxing once a week is not unheard of. The more modern urethane paints are much more durable and hence need less frequent waxing–every two months is fine. Clearcoats greatly reduce the rate of oxidation but show more imperfections, so for the best appearance, they should be waxed about once a month.

Nearly every company in the source box at the end of this story has a quality wax. Shown here are several of the wax products from Mothers and Meguiar’s as well as Foam ‘n Shine from Turtle Wax, a spray-on car polish.

Aero Cosmetics has been supplying cleaners and waxes to the aviation industry for some time, and now it’s branching out into our area of expertise with the WashWax line. WashWax 777 is for painted areas and windows, and 787 HP is for greasy parts such as under the hood or to remove stubborn road crud from rocker panels. Aero also has a full line of interior and rubber cleaners and protectants.

The liquid Glass Total Appearance System includes Liquid Glass polish/finish (not a wax), a precleaner used before the polish, a wash concentrate and cleaners and protectants for the interior.

The Wax Shop’s Super Glaze is an easy-to-use, nonabrasive carnauba wax that contains no sealants or plastic resin-type materials. The company also claims that it’s great for cold climates.


The interior should be cleaned before the exterior of the car. Otherwise, you’ll be dragging an electrical vacuum cord through standing water (can you say “electrocution”?) and getting wet shoe prints all over the carpet. Frist up is vacuuming the carpet and cleaning the glass. Vacuuming can blow dirt around, and overspray from glass cleaner will get on the dash and door panels. Even if you live in a sunny climate, it’s a good idea to shampoo the carpet every six months or at least once a year. As for cleaning the upholstery, different materials often require different cleaners, so make sure to get the right product and read the instructions!

Mothers has a line of interior products such as the Preserves protectant, leather cleaner and leather conditioner shown here.

In addition to its popular waxes, Turtle Wax also has Upholstery Cleaner and Protector, Carpet Cleaner and Protector and Velour Cleaner and Protector

First Brands Corporation has worked with Eagle Ottawa to bring the two-step Tanner’s Preserve leather cleaner and conditioner to market. The first step cleans the leather, and the second step conditions and protects it.

All of the effort you’ve just put into your car will be ruined by the first kamikaze bird or sappy free unless you protect the car with a quality cover. California Car Cover has soft, breathable covers for most cars–even our ’67 Fairlane–and they go a long way in keeping your car nice. Writing your name and address on the cover in large letters and using a cable lock are good ideas, too, if you plan on keeping the cover.


Since it’s usually the little things that make the difference, don’t forget them when cleaning the car. Taillight lenses, rubber bumpers or rub strips and chrome trim all need attention, too.

We used Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze plastic polish on the taillights and front turn signals of our cover Ford, and it did wonders on the 27-year-old lenses. Meguiar’s also has a full line of products to clean your car from top to bottom.

Meguiar’s Personal Car Care Prescription tells you everything you’ll need to know to take care of your car. Call 800/545-3321, and the operator will ask specific questions about your car and your personal habits and goals. And then you’ll get a complete outline of what to do, when to do it and what products to use. It’s cool.

The Wax Shop’s Bumper Black cleans, restores and protects not just black rubber bumpers but many types of exterior trim.


Aero Cosmetics, Inc. Dept. HR05 P.O. Box 460025 San Antonio, TX 78246 800/927-4929 210/525-0707

Armor All Products Corporation Dept. HR05 6 Liberty Aliso Viejo, CA 92656 714/362-0600

Blue Coral, Inc. Dept. HR05 1215 Valley Belt Rd. Cleveland, OH 44131-1451 800/321-8577 216/351-3000

California Car Cover Company Dept. HR05 21125 Superior St. Chatsworth, CA 91311 818/998-2100

Emgee Marketing (CleanTools, The Absorber) Dept. HR05 648 Blackhawk Dr. Westmont, IL 60559 800/654-3933

First Brands Corporation (STP, Simoniz, Tanner’s Preserve) Dept. HR05 P.O. Box 1911 Danbury, CT 06813-1911 203/731-2300

Liquid Glass Enterprises, Inc. Dept. HR05 P.O. Box 1170 Teaneck, NJ 07666-1170 800/548-5307 201/387-6755

Meguiar’s, Inc. Dept. HR05 17991 Mitchell S. Irvine, CA 92714 800/854-8073 714/752-8000

Mothers Dept. HR05 5456 Industrial Dr. Huntington Beach, CA 92649 800/221-8257 741/891-3364

No Touch North America Dept. HR05 8001 Irvine Center Dr., Ste. 450 Irvine, CA 92718 800/348-5999 714/753-0760

RAD Autosport Dept. HR05 310 W. Maple Ave., Ste. 217 Vienna, VA 22180 703/255-3512

Turtle Wax, Inc. Dept. HR05 5655 W. 73rd St. Chicago, IL 60638-6211 708/563-3600

The Wax Shop Dept. HR05 P.O. Box 10226 Bakersfield, CA 93389-0226 805/397-5274


Hot rods and muscle cars demand much care if their impressive paint jobs and interiors are to command onlookers’ attentions. Tips on washing car bodies, tires and interiors are presented and discussed.