This Auto Editor’s Two Car-Care Lessons He Learned the Hard Way

Michael Harley - Car-Care Lessons

Happy National Car Care Month! To celebrate, here are two car-care lessons, courtesy of an automotive pro.

Michael Harley has had a great ride – as an automotive editor for outlets ranging from AutoWeb and Autoblog to JD Power, his career is one many would envy. When Mike’s not driving “this week’s sled,” a.k.a. a manufacturer-loaned vehicle around town, Harley jets across the world (even traveling to “The End of the World”) to test drive and critique the newest cars.

Here, Harley recalls two car-care lessons that he had to learn the hard way from his earlier days on the road –

“When I was just a naïve 16-year-old, I borrowed my dad’s car (a near-new 1979 Audi 5000) and took my girlfriend out for ice cream at the local Baskin-Robbins. We parked in the large paved lot, and 30 minutes later we headed back to the car for the ride home.

With the coolness of any male teenager driving his dad’s European sport sedan, I started the Audi’s engine with sly smile. My right hand slid the automatic transmission lever into “D” and I gave it a nice stab of throttle – showing off the horsepower, of course. The car lurched forward and then rose upward violently before coming to an abrupt halt about three feet further than it had started, with the drive wheels spinning uselessly in the air.

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Stunned, confused, and more than a bit embarrassed, I slid the lever back into “P” and climbed out to see what had happened. It was immediately obvious – I had run over a large concrete parking lot bumper and high-centered the chassis on top of it!  Ten minutes later, with the help of several men in the parking lot, we had bounced the car off the obstruction and I was on my way with very red face.

Lesson Learned: Always look around the vehicle for hidden obstructions before pulling away.”


Michael Harley - Car-Care Lessons


“The engine in my car had been stuttering inexplicably all day long, but my 19-year-old self dismissed it, as I had more important things to attend to – a hot double date with my college roommate and two attractive young women we’d met at a party the night before.

That evening, the four of us loaded into my car for a 45-minute drive up the coast to a restaurant. About halfway there, along a very dark stretch of rural highway, the engine cut out – permanently. This was before cell phones, so my buddy hitchhiked to get help. Five passengers won’t fit in a costly tow truck, so we had to call and hire a taxi, too. We never made it to dinner, and needless to say, we never saw those girls again.

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Lesson Learned: If your car is acting strangely, have a professional take a look at it or be prepared for the consequences.”