The older I’ve grown, the more I’ve realized how much planning it takes to enjoy more than just work and sleep. I’m not talking about a work/life balance, either. I’m talking about how many decisions and how much commitment maintaining a successful personal life requires. If you don’t spend that hour or two on lawncare and gardening each week, you know it’s just going to mean an entire weekend wasted later down the road to get it back on track. Don’t do the dishes for a few meals? Now you’re spending time that could be enjoyed somewhere else washing, drying, and shelving all the china that would have been a five-minute job after dinner. Being a responsible, independent, and successful human person takes effort to then exert more effort before you can budget time for the things you truly enjoy. Of course, this being the ECS Blog, what you enjoy means things like our shared automotive passion that, while time and work demanding, also provide a recharge between the real work that we don’t enjoy. But it isn’t all fun and games. Getting the most out of our hobby takes planning way ahead to ensure projects, maintenance, and events happen. This week, I’m here to help you get a jump start on this winter’s projects and maybe motivate a few of our readers into finding more time for what they enjoy. 

Car Care

Now that we’re into the middle of August, it’s the time of year all of us have to accept and recognize as some of the last, but best, weeks of car culture. Between now and mid-September, those of us who live in places with winter weather have some of the most fun shows, fall weather for peak driving, changing leaves for epic photo backdrops, and local meets in cool evenings. To enjoy all of that, and to prep for the ultimate dark times that are the winter storage months, it’s the perfect time to up your detailing game. 

The end of the season is about when I have exhausted most of my detailing supplies. I hate to admit it, but that’s previously stopped me from my due diligence of cleaning up my car before I put it away for the winter at least once. You’re in that same situation as a straight that’s a little too long for third gear but causes you to lose speed before the corner if you shift up. Do you wind it out and hope for the best, or change up into fourth and risk an overtake into the braking zone? (Sorry, I’ve been re-watching all the Racewagen episodes). In my case, I’ve settled on re-upping before the close of the season with some of the basics and then rewarding myself in the spring with a new gadget, like a Tornador gun for deeper carpet cleaning or a hand-pump pressure foam sprayer from Griot’s Garage

This way, I’ve got the soap, the wash mitts, the fresh drying towels, some interior cleaner, and leather conditioner going into the spring and I can justify a new tool to make my detailing jobs more thorough. (Next year, I’m getting a new random orbital and a detailing cart from Griot’s). It’s a bit like meal planning, honestly. Again, though, it does take that planning. In my experience, the best thing to do is just start with a simple wash. You’ll find the things that you can’t clean as well as you’d like, or swirl marks you’d like to correct. That necessity will dictate what you need next, just like visual inspections will during regular maintenance. 

Regular Maintenance

I’ve taken the first sentence to pat myself on the back for that tremendous transition. Now that self-congratulations are over, I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about the importance of the actual inspection when performing routine services like oil changes and brake pads. If you take my advice for giving your car a good post-season detail, why not up the ante and put it away with fresh fluids and filters? As we’re coming up to the end of the car season, and some of the biggest sales for our industry (Labor Day and Black Friday are around the corner, y’all), it’s a good idea to really get in there and find anything that you might need to replace sometime before next season.

So, grab a few Assembled by ECS Service Kits like our LIQUI MOLY and Hengst oil service kits with our magnetic drain plug, intake air and cabin air filters, and any of the other regular service items. While you’re putting your grubby hands all over your car, give those ball joints in the suspension a little look-see. Check your brake rotors for lips around the edges, check your pad wear, and check your tire wear. Look out for any cracking in serpentine belts, play in pulleys, shoot, grab a Schwaben Professional Scan Tool and see if there is anything your car knows that you don’t. Tackling these services and the inspections you can do while you’re in there will help you create a list of things that you know you need when those sales drop. This way, you’re buying what you need at the best price and planning ahead enough to budget some time this winter to knock all that stuff out. Naturally, we don’t want to end with just the boring repair and maintenance stuff. The inspection serves an equally important purpose to maintenance: identifying what could use an improvement.

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Shop Liqui Moly oils, additives, and car care here

Need-Based Performance Upgrades

Here’s a concept I’m sure many people do without realizing. Why replace a failed or aging component with the same one when there’s a better option? Well, it depends on three things. First, price is a big factor. If you’re on a high-dollar build and don’t care? Spend that money, baby. Buy the Gucci gear. However, if you’re picking and choosing your mod list when you can justify the price, you need to be extra attentive to what needs replacing and what should really be upgraded. Second, actual need for the upgrade. If you’re in that rare “money is no object” group, I guess this doesn’t really apply to you. Go nuts. But if you’re budget conscious, or this is your daily driver, it’s imperative that you don’t let what will be factor three get in the way. Look at the component, look at your budget, and look at your real need for the part. Finally, third is the want for the upgrade. You can’t discount intrinsic value here. If you really want those coilovers or that exhaust, and the improvements they provide outweigh either of the other factors, then go for it. Just make sure that want is measured with reason. I’ll explain. 

Price is something you can’t directly control, but it is something you can sometimes plan for. If you regularly inspect your car, you’ll know what life most of the wearable components have left. That routine inspection can help you monitor the lifespans and plan ahead for replacements with the OEM, aftermarket, or upgraded version of whatever that is. Take control arms as a good example. The lazy enthusiast is surprised when he has play in his suspension from failed ball joints and control arm bushings. Now he has to order the parts, wait for them, and replace them, all interrupting any scheduled chill time he likely defaults to in his lack of planning. The attentive enthusiast knew in advance and planned his maintenance parts order well in advance. Now he knows exactly when they’ll be at his door and ready for him to take that Saturday to do that, and probably a few more services, without sacrificing any of his other time-consuming interests or responsibilities. One step further than the attentive enthusiast is the truly engaged enthusiast. Their actions are identical except the truly engaged enthusiast knows what his goals for his car are and what capabilities he needs to give it to achieve that goal rather than just replace the same part. This enthusiast knows that he needs to reduce his unsprung mass weight and understands that control arm bushings create a source of performance-robbing deflection, so he planned for lightweight control arms, like Turner Motorsport control arms and some Monoball FCABs. 

Shop Turner Motorsport BMW performance upgrades here

The engaged enthusiast example also demonstrates that “need” component. If you’re looking to improve your times on the track, at the local AutoX, or just want to craft the most rewarding driving experience from your daily, you need to think about what your car doesn’t do that you need it to. Identifying those areas of improvement allows you to prioritize what you replace with components that add those capabilities or improvements. Again, this takes regular inspection, an end-goal, planning the stages to reach that end goal, and prioritizing where you turn your attention (and wallet). By identifying the things that you truly need to reach your goal, and the things that you really don’t, you’ll prevent unnecessary spending. Remember, the goal here is to upgrade through necessity. You’re already replacing the part. If it’s something you should upgrade to reach your goal, then any additional cost is simply the difference between an OEM replacement and the aftermarket performance version. Sometimes, the cost is fairly equal or even less for the upgrade. Take our ECS Adjustable Coilovers as a great example. They add the visual and performance elements you want, with factory-like ride quality, and replace several wearable components at once for usually less money when compared to factory suspension component replacements. Speaking of usually, upgrades are usually what we want anyway.

Finally, there is the “want” factor. I said need-based, but I would argue that want does play a part here. If you didn’t want it, you wouldn’t even consider the upgrade. You’d buy the OEM part and be on your way. But if you’re reading the ECS blog, chances are you have your eye on a few things you’d like for your car that make it better. However, it’s important to recognize when the want is just a want for immediate gratification or truly what you want to reach the goal you have in mind. If you simply want a shiny new part because you saw someone on Instagram showing theirs off, you need to reign that in and remember your priorities. If that’s one of the reasons, and it’s on your list, that’s one thing. But if you’re just lusting after the latest new thing, you’re letting that want take over. Want is the last factor for a reason. If it’s been planned in your budget, it’s on your list of priorities to reach your goal, AND it’s what you truly want to get there, then you have that magic combination that tells you to hit “add to cart” and anticipate that fun weekend project of upgrading and servicing your car. 

Wrapping Up

As I said, though, getting to that point takes planning. Planning takes more than just sitting down and thinking about random car stuff, too. It means putting your hands on your car now, while there’s good weather, and spending time with it. Your car will tell you what it needs as you care for it, and you’ll decide how to balance what it needs and what you want from it with diligent forethought. So, go out there and enjoy these last weeks of car season weather. Just remember to use some of that time to give your car a few good detailing Saturdays to find the ways you can improve your car care game. Get under the hood and do some routine maintenance, all the while inspecting what you need to plan for your Black Friday list. Finally, think about what your goals are with the car. If you see it doing something it doesn’t currently or looking differently than it does, now is the time to match those wants with the upcoming maintenance needs. Plan ahead, optimize your maintenance and modification budget, and schedule your time in all aspects of your life. You’ll find yourself reaching your goals on time, your car staying in the shape it deserves, and any time you turn a wrench is time spent on your terms. And make sure you’re staying on top of those chores.