Car meets are a gearhead rite of passage. Whether it’s a late-night setup in the parking lot of an abandoned mall or an afternoon cruise-in at the local ice cream shop, most car people are pulled to each other’s rides through the inexorable magnetism of a shared passion.

Of course, any gathering of hot metal tends to draw a crowd, and as meets get bigger so do the attitudes, temptations, and pitfalls presented to everyone involved. The key to any successful (and repeatable) meeting of the automotive minds lies in making sure no one in the group acts in a way that could potentially jeopardize the goodwill of the community.

This includes not just local law enforcement, who always have their eye on any confluence of cars, but also the business owners lending their parking lots, and occasionally sponsorship, to these events. Finally, you can’t forget the crowd, who show up to have a good time, not to deal with those who can’t keep themselves under control.

Fortunately, it’s really not all that hard to stay in everyone’s good graces. Let’s look at three ways tips for acting like you’ve been there before so you can avoid having your next car meet invitation rescinded for bad behaviour.

Don’t Show Off*

Wait a minute – isn’t the entire point of a car meet to “show off” your ride and check out what everyone else has brought with them, too? Yes – but that asterisk is there for a reason. There’s a huge difference between pulling into the parking lot and snagging a spot so you can pop the hood or flip the switch or whatever you need to do to get eyes on your motor – or three-wheel motion, or bottles of laughing gas – and making a fool of yourself.

The list of “show-off” behaviours that will quickly get you singled out at any meet is a fairly long one. It includes such gems as endlessly revving your engine while parked (we get it – tailpipe flames are cool), enormous subwoofers set to ear-bleed mode (we can see that they’re big, bro), and endlessly circling the parking lot instead of finding a spot and sticking to it (sharks are the only animals that have to stay in constant motion, and last we checked, your tricked-out Civic/Mustang/Pantera isn’t a shark).

A good rule of thumb is to simply do what the majority of the other people at the meet are doing, which is almost always mingling, talking to each other, and taking photos. If you notice someone doing something outside one of those three activities, chances are they stand out because they look like a jerk.

Don’t be that jerk.

Be Respectful

This point seems like a basic quality that should guide all human behaviour, but in a pack it’s apparently very easy to forget the social contact that we’ve all implicitly agreed to.

Being respectful at a car meet can be broken down into two basic guidelines. The first is to be aware of the fact that you don’t own whatever parking lot you happen to be hanging out in. The use of that space has been carefully negotiated by whoever organized the meet you are attending, and whether it’s a shop lot, a shopping centre, or a grassy field in a community park, it needs to be left in the same condition it was when you first arrived. This means keeping track of your trash, not dumping food or drink on the ground, and (if your car happens to leak) not leaving a puddle or stain behind when you leave.

The second layer of respect that you’ll find at any successful car meet has to do with how you treat the others attending it with you. Not everyone has the same taste in vehicles, and maybe you’re really not in to bright green neon lights or giant scorpion stickers on the back window, but that doesn’t mean you should be making fun of the driver who proudly parked their rolling self-expression on the property.

This applies not just to how you act in person, but online, too. If you think no one at the meet will notice your digital snark about a community member’s car, well, maybe you’re not all that familiar with how the Internet works.

No Moving Violations

This last piece of advice is designed to prevent you from becoming a viral video sensation. No matter how much adrenaline is flowing through your veins, no matter how cool your car might be, or how much space you think you have, there’s really never an excuse for attempting a burnout, smoke-show, drift, or high-speed fly-by at a car meet.

Why not? Let us count the ways:

  1. There are so many people milling about that there’s a serious risk you’ll hit a pedestrian and seriously injure someone.
  2. Curbs are your worst enemy when you lose control of your car and bite the pavement hard enough to tear off your front bumper and maybe a wheel hub.
  3. Doing stupid stunts is the number-one way to attract the kind of police attention that quickly convinces local businesses that they won’t tolerate these kinds of shenanigans anymore. Burn enough bridges, and there won’t be anywhere left in town for you to hang out with your car buddies.

Follow these basic rules, act like a generally decent human being, and above all, come to have fun (and not be the centre of attention), and you’ll dramatically improve not just your own car meet experience, but that of everyone around you as well. Communities are a fragile thing, and it’s always better to act in way that helps build and support your local crowd of car fans, rather than shake it up.