Travel Advice/Travel Tips - Know how to
operate your rental car
Take a few minutes to examine the layout of the car’s controls after
you have taken possession of your rental car.
Make sure that you familiarize yourself with the layout of the dashboard, safety
features, the locations, and meaning of warning symbols, signaling devices, and
In addition, note the side of the car that contains the fuel door and make sure
you know what type of fuel the car requires for normal operation.
The time to familiarize yourself with the car’s functions is before
you start driving not afterwards.
Making sure that you understand the layout of the car before you leave the
rental lot is especially important if you are renting a car outside of the
It is likely the manual in the glove compartment will be in the language of the
country you are visiting and may be of little help when you are trying to figure
out how something works.
In addition, remember that the warning signals on the dash may be accompanied by
text but the message will not be in English.
Have personnel at the facility explain any questions that need answering
Why spend time doing this, what can go wrong?
On a trip to France, we rented a Renault that was an extremely nice car with
good performance. However, when I started the car, I realized that I was dealing
with a diesel engine and would need to fill-up with diesel when I refueled
the car. What I did not know was that diesel is called “gas-oil” in France.
During the first fueling of the car I tried to confirm that “Gas-oil est
Diesel?” “Non”, came the response “Gas-oil est gas-oil.” Finally, we
communicated and the agreed that gas-oil was diesel. Of course, a quick question
at the car rental agency would have eliminated the problem but I was in too much
of a rush to get started.
Later in the trip, as I was pulling out of a rest stop, a warning light showed
up on the dash. I pulled over on the side of the highway and poured over the
owner’s manual printed in French, consulting my Langenscheidt French-English
pocket dictionary all the while. It was only after some reading that my
companion pointed out the symbol looked like the one on her car for the
emergency brake. Yes, it was on. Oh the shame of it all!
Be particularly careful to give your car’s operation a close once over
if you will be driving in the British Isles or other locations that have
adopted the driving on the left rules of the road. The steering wheel
will be on the wrong side of the car for most of us and many of the
switches will be in the “wrong position”. I am sure you will remember
this advice, even if I forget it from time to time. If you want to know
how a travel writer can be embarrassed,
read this article.
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