You’ve done the hard part, but before you drive home in your new car, do these six things.
Once you have done the research, shopped for pricing, test driven cars, and then bought one after a hard afternoon of haggling, it is tempting to drive the car directly off the lot and home. However, if you do so, your chances of enjoying the car are diminished and the chances you will have some annoyances increased. Take half an hour and put the dealer’s vehicle experts to work for you. The time you invest will be repaid many times over.
Pair Your Phone
Before you are even home your cell phone is going to ring. Your significant other is going to call and say “Did you get it?!” Rather than fumble for your phone and take that call holding the handset, wouldn’t it make sense to simply tap the “call accept” button on the steering wheel and speak hands-free? Or decline the call just as easily? Take time at the dealership to have the sales associate pair your phone for you. Watch closely and you can then pair your family members’ phones when you get back. It’s not rocket science, but when you are fatigued from a long day of car buying, it makes sense to have this done before you drive off the lot. One little tip. When the car and your phone ask you if you want to download contacts, alway say “Yes” and also check the box that says “Don’t ask again.” Say “No” in some cars (Hyundai for example) and every single time you enter that car you will get a message saying “contact download failed.” Downloading your contacts also has the upside of allowing hands-free dialing by name if you go to that level with your technology, and will also allow you to use the in-car phone book when not moving.
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Relearn How to Shift
Even if you’ve purchased a car with an automatic transmission, you’re probably going to be surprised at how gear selectors have changed in the last few years. Some are good designs. Some are dumb. What many are for sure is different.
From pushbutton shifters like Lincoln’s to weird stalks like the Toyota Prius’s, the simple act of just selecting “drive” has gotten a little more complicated. Jaguar and Land Rover, for example, use a shifter that pushes forward for Reverse and back for Drive, with a Neutral position between and a Park position selected by a button. We’ll guarantee you this: If you’re quickly shifting from Reverse to Drive when pulling out of a parking spot, you’re going to sit impotently as traffic backs up behind you while you figure out the sequence to get the vehicle moving forward. The JLR shifter automatically selects Neutral whether that’s the gear you want or not.
It’s good to try this out a few times in a safe area before you head out into the real stuff.
Locate Your Gas Cap
Not all gas caps are on the same side of the car. Most are on the driver’s side since this makes it easier to exit your vehicle next to the pump and not risk getting hit by another car when stepping out to pump fuel at a gas station. Some cars have it on the passenger side. Subaru, for example, puts the “gas side on the grass side.” Every car shows a little arrow on the fuel gauge that points to the side the filler nozzle is on.
Next, find out how to open the fuel door. Some cars have an interior button you must hit. It can be on the floor, on the dash to the left and under the steering wheel, or even on the driver’s door panel. Last, don’t be surprised if your new car has no gas cap. Many brands are adopting cap-less systems.
Car Wash Plan
This may seem silly, but many cars sold today cannot go through an automatic car wash without help. There are two main reasons and two separate technologies that may give you fits. First, is a technology called Brake Hold. This prevents your car from rolling when in neutral, which is exactly what your car needs to do to go through any car wash. Check out this spotlight on the subject of Brake Hold for more info, but find out if your car has it and how to temporarily disable it.
Next is forward collision prevention, also called automatic emergency braking. This technology is the most important piece of safety gear available today and we hope you got it. It will prevent your car from hitting things like children, bicyclists, the car in front of you, but also that rotating car wash brush that just swung out of nowhere to wash your bumper and grill. There is always a way to temporarily disable this system. It is either a button someplace in the vehicle or buried in your infotainment menus. In Subarus, it is on the roof (ceiling) of the vehicle. Know where that button is and be sure you turn it back on when you leave. Here’s why.
Finally, if your car has automatic wipers, those too should be shut off when entering a wash or they can get caught up in the felt wash fingers. Know how to turn that off, and if you want to go the Full Monty, turn off your parking sensors too, or listen to them go nuts the whole time you are in the machine.
We strongly suggest you take the time to learn how to operate all of your new vehicle’s gadgets as efficiently as Forest Gump could field strip his rifle. However, in reality, that takes time. Do yourself a favor, ask the dealer to show you how to pre-set your audio stations. No other single technology is more random based on our testing of modern vehicles.
Set Your Door Locks and Lights
Many new vehicles, and pretty much every one from any premium brand, can be told how to open your doors. Do you like them to all unlock when you press the fob once or are you a double tap fobber? Do you like it when the car unlocks all the doors when you shift to Park, or do you like to be trapped inside until you personally hit the open button? These types of settings can be changed in the infotainment screens Settings Menu. So too can the lights. Do you like the headlights to stay on when you exit the car, or does that bother you? Whatever you want is usually an option. Have the sales associate show you these menus and set them to your liking. Better yet, find out before you buy if these things can be changed. If not, maybe you should look at a different model?
All the Rest
There are many more things a dealer can teach you. This story was actually inspired by an older CarTalk Community member who admitted in a post that he had owned his 2016 Subaru for a year and could not find the AC button. That is an extreme example, but new cars have a long list of controls and adjustments that can be difficult to find. Just a few things most new vehicles can do include; Adjusting the height that your tailgate opens, how your high beams work, what information your head-up display shows you, the sound level of your audible navigation instructions, and much much more. Every good dealership has an expert that can show you how all of these things can be set and adjusted to your liking. It may not be the salesperson, so don’t give up if they are not helpful. Ask for the dealership expert on all these gadgets and take as much time as they will give you. Then drive home in your vehicle customized to your personal taste.