Thursday, October 24, 2013

Keeping a Car Log with Google Calendar

Keeping a log of all activity related to your car is very useful. Without needing to rely on memory, a concrete record can make it easy to answer questions about your car, such as how many miles you drove in the past year, when your last oil change was, or what was done in your last service appointment.

Originally I kept my car log on paper in my car, as you can see below:


However, once I got my Android smartphone, I found an even neater way: to use Google Calendar. This has several advantages:
  • You can access the car log on your cell phone (= anywhere) and on your computer
  • You don't need to worry about misplacing it
  • You can search for specific events (like "oil change")
  • You don't need to take up space with a pen and paper
  • You can set up reminders for appointments
    • On my phone, I can set it up so that I get notifications before every event

Creating your car log calendar

1. Open Google Calendar in your web browser
2. Click on the drop down arrow next to My calendars and select "Create new calendar" 

3. Name your new calendar something like "car log" or "Lexus ES350 car log"
4. Give your calendar a color
5. Sync the calendar on your smartphone. Below is a screenshot from my Motorola Atrix 4G:


Repeat this for each car you own. In other words, one calendar per car.

From here on...

Just keep updating your calendar. With every event, it is also a good idea to note the mileage of your car (even the PSI of each tire could be useful).
  • Every time you have an appointment
  • Every time something goes wrong ("bumped back left bumper into tree", "car vandalized at office parking lot", "car engine light came on")
  • Every time you renew your DMV paperwork for this car
  • (optional) Every time you fill up gas, including the cost of the gas and number of gallons

Sample event

4600 miles, 32 PSI all tires

Stepped on acceleration very fast a few days ago and heard sounds similar to as if I was going over speed bumps.
My check engine light came on today.

I called the dealership. Susan says the acceleration probably did not cause the issue and asked me to tighten my gas cap. I did so. She says that if I wait a day, the light should go out. If it does not, I should call back.

Receipts

One area this solution does not address is receipts and other car-related paper documents. If you got a receipt for an oil change, for example, how would you integrate it with this solution? Currently, what I do is digitize all paper documents (scan or take a photograph) and keep a separate folder in my computer for them. Of course, the downside is that you can only access these files from your computer (unless, of course, you maintained this folder in the cloud, such as in Google Drive).
Folder containing receipts for E320

Google Calendar Attachments

Google Calendar actually does have a beta feature to attach documents to calendar events. However, the Android app currently does not support this feature (as of 2013/11/4). Anyways, this is another option to keep in mind.

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