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August 13, 2015

Did You Read Your Owner’s Manual?

Operate_navigation-read_owners_manual-iStock_000042313526_SmallYou just purchased an automobile. New or used vehicles almost always come equipped with an owner's manual.  But most women – more even than men – tend to just glance through it and then put it in the glove compartment to gather dust, and eventually be hidden behind the collections of other paraphernalia that seems to accumulate there.

You are excited. I know you want to get in that new car, and just drive away and show it to all your friends. You really don’t want to take the time to read the manual, perhaps thinking you can read it later. But times have changed. In the ‘50’s all we had was AM radios to keep us entertained. In today’s vehicles, the technological accessories have taken over our once-clean dashboards, converting them into intricate space-age display units, comparable to those found in Star Wars Starship decks. Very few new vehicles today come in basic plain vanilla.

Operate_navigation-read_your_manual-iStock_000016569658_SmallThe demand for features such as those listed below continues to increase, and manufacturers seem to be interpreting this demand for more technology as a need for more complicated operation procedures. There is some evidence that much of the demand for sophisticated equipment is driven by men. I believe the manufacturers and designers assume the average consumer wants to immerse themselves into this. And unfortunately, you can’t ignore the technology on your dash and just drive, because you will invariably be forced to refer to any number of built-in electronics for information on operating your vehicle. Some of these devices will require a response from you to function correctly and safely.

Here are some of the technological devices and electronic connections that now make up our new cars. Many of these features are standard equipment on even the lower-end brand models. This collection of technology can overwhelm the driver who just wants a vehicle to enjoy without complications.

  •  Navigation systems, both manually and voice activated
  •  Vehicle avoidance systems
  •  LCD screens
  •  Lane changing signal devices
  •  Computer programmed stereo, CD, and iPhone coordinated programs
  •  Remote starting programs with implementation wands
  •  Programmable remote controls
  •  Electric stability systems
  •  Electronic components needed on hybrid vehicles to change power from standard engine to electric drives
  •  Theft monitoring systems and remote motor disabling
  •  Comprehensive maintenance programs with service appointment management
  •  Voice operated communication systems and iPhone integration
  •  Field programmable gate arrays
  •  Shopping and entertainment assists
  •  Mechanical and electronic system detection and management

Operate_touchscreen-read_owners_manual-iStock_000054012034_Small Recently, a computer system utilized by a moving Jeep was hacked,  and control of the vehicle was taken over by hackers at a different location. GM recently released a patch to an iPhone OnStar app that it was revealed could be hacked to track vehicles, unlock their doors, start their engines, and access the owner’s email and address. And in another instance, it's been said that hackers cut a Corvette's brakes via one of those devices used by insurance firms and trucking fleets to monitor vehicles’ location, speed, and efficiency.  This has obviously brought a new consideration in the installation and monitoring of electronic automotive equipment. Before long, driverless cars are going to be commonplace. It doesn’t require much imagination to soon find ourselves able to physically summon our vehicles to come to us. Since this involves computerized remote control, security concerns are significant.

Well, that may be another story.  What we now need to concern ourselves with is in how we can assimilate the processes of learning enough about our vehicles to operate them safely and efficiently, so we can optimize our driving enjoyment experiences.  That is one of the priority goals that electronic equipment designers have in mind anyway: Enjoyment, efficiency, and safety without distraction

Read_owners_manual-woman_reading_book-iStock_000043647164_SmallFirst, operating manuals need to be re-designed for ease of use. As early as 30 years ago, vehicle manuals from Asian vehicles went through a final process of translation from Japanese to English. The resulting manuals were amusing to read.

Now. We understand the reluctance of today’s woman to delve into the details of reading an automotive manual, but it is imperative that you get past this and make a real initial effort to learn about the features that will at least keep you safe.  

So, here is a list of tips to make this learning experience easy, and even enjoyable:

  •  At the time of purchase, have your salesperson go over the manual with you at his desk. This can be done either before you go into the finance office or after you come out.
  •  Make sure you let your salesperson know that you will need orientation not only to the manual, but also a demonstration of all the vehicle’s equipment while sitting in the vehicle. Do not allow him or her to just hand you the keys and wave goodbye.
  • While in the orientation, ask questions of any items or equipment that you do not fully understand.
  •  If you do not have time for this orientation at time of purchase, make an appointment with your salesperson for this to be done at a later time.
  •  If you purchase a vehicle with navigation, have your salesperson walk you through finding a destination. 
  •  Almost all new vehicles have phone integration and hands-free operation. Have your salesperson help you pair your phone. Make sure you know how the phone operates. This is very important in emergencies.
  •  After delivery, while you are learning about your new vehicle, call your salesperson with any questions that may arise.  If that person is not in, then ask for assistance from anyone with tech experience.
  •  A final fun suggestion: Call a few of your friends and have a new car party, where you can sit in your vehicle and show off the technology. Make calls. Have your friends operate the equipment. Have fun.

Congratulations on your purchase!  Now, find out details about your new car that will bring you enjoyment in your future driving. 



Tom Procter is a former California Public School Teacher, Businessman, published Author, and 18 years as Internet Manager with Saturn, Ford, GMC, Subaru, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, and Acura.



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