It's Back-To-School Time for New Car Owners

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Aug 30, 2018

Dear Car Talk:

I recently bought a 2018 car that I love driving. However, my new car, and every other car that I test drove, has far more gadgets, lights and symbols than my old (2006) car had. Do you have any ideas on the best way to master all these new gadgets? -- Sally

It's not easy, Sally. We are going through a technological revolution right now. While it's resulting in safer cars, it's also creating a learning curve for lots of new car buyers. Unfortunately, we're in the phase of this revolution where humans still need to interact with and control the technology. At some point, it'll all be invisible, and just work perfectly in the background.

You may be old enough to remember when computers required you to "program" them for specific tasks. Now, you just point and click. And eventually, you'll just be driving along with your husband, daydreaming, and -- poof -- your high school boyfriend's Facebook page will just automatically pop up on your phone.

But for now, we have two recommendations. One is to find the person at your dealership who specializes in technology. Almost every dealership has one of these people now, because the car salesmen are naturally inclined to make something up when they don't know the answer. And that wasn't going well.

So there's usually one specialist who's assigned to give you an overview of all your new car's technology before you drive off the lot. Unfortunately, for most people, it's overwhelming.

Our suggestion: Make an appointment and go back. In fact, go back as many times as you need to. It'll cost nothing. And now that you're familiar with the car's basics, you'll be able to absorb more details about the new stuff.

Our other recommendation is something most people haven't had to do in ages: Read the owner's manual. But don't read it in your easy chair with the new "Queer Eye" on in the background. Read it while sitting in the driver's seat.

Take an hour at a time, start at the beginning, and read through the manual, going as slowly as you need to. As you get to explanations of features that are new to you, try them out. You'll be more likely to remember them if you do that. We wish there were a faster way to do it, but until Audible comes out with best-seller owner's manuals as "books on tape," you're stuck plowing through it yourself, Sally.

And finally, just because all the technology is there, doesn't mean you have to use it all. If adaptive cruise control, which makes the car slow down and speed up in highway traffic, isn't important to you, don't use it. But you should get familiar with all the safety stuff. And your dealer's technology specialist and the owner's manual are the two best ways to do that.

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