So you got your license and you’re ready to head out on the road. But do you know how to care for your car? If not, here’s your simple teen’s guide to car care!
by Atomic Mommy Editors
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So you just turned the appropriate age to drive, and you got your driver’s license. Congratulations! You are now a new driver and car owner!
And as a new driver and car owner, one of the most important things that you can do is learn how to care of your car. Why? Because you need to be a safe driver on the road or you could be setting yourself up for some major issues like getting tickets, acquiring points on your license, higher insurance premiums, car accidents, and costly repairs.
The best way to be a safe teen driver is by understanding a few key points. One of them being the need for proper car maintenance. Without it, your chances of getting from point A to point B will become dimmer with each avoidance.
Why is car maintenance so important?
Car maintenance is often the last thing people want to think about because the cost can often be too much. But when it comes to maintaining your vehicle, the saying “ignorance is bliss” is actually more harmful and will cost you big bucks in the long run.
Ignoring a problem with your car is not going to make it go away, especially when it comes to things like a flat tire or car fuel pump repair. And while some repairs can easily be done yourself, there are many other repairs that require professional help. If you don’t maintain your car when minor repairs become present, then those minor repairs will grow into more extensive repair needs which in turn becomes more expensive to fix. Not to mention, if a vehicle is run down and without proper maintenance, it can also cause accidents and be unsafe to drive.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the common things that people forget or neglect when it comes to car maintenance.
You’re not checking your oil level.
One of the most important things that you should be doing for your car and that you should be doing regularly is checking the oil. It’s a form of simple car maintenance to check the oil, and you don’t need any fancy equipment to do this. All you have to do is park your car on a level surface and use a paper towel. Find the dipstick for your engine oil, pull it out and wipe it off. Then all you have to do is put it back into the car. Pull it back out again to see the oil level on the stick, and there should be a pair of lines on that stick that indicates exactly where it should be. If the oil level of your car is not on those lines, add some oil until it is.
What color is your car’s oil?
If you can’t answer this question, then it’s very clear you haven’t been checking the level of oil that you have. You need to know the color of your car’s oil because oil color is a good indicator of how dirty or clean your oil is. Good motor oil should actually be quite transparent, but there should be a clean amber or brown coloration towards it. There shouldn’t be any grit or impurities and there definitely shouldn’t be any blackened dirt in the oil. It should be glossy, almost slick in texture. If the oil is too dark or black, or it’s grainy or lumpy, then there is something wrong and it does need to be replaced. Your car relies on clean oil to run as safely as possible, so don’t wait around for this one.
Change the oil routinely.
It’s easy to forget to do it, despite the fact that you change and fill up the petrol of your car quite often. The oil should be changed every few months, but you can check it yourself. If it looks good, you can stick to your manufacturer’s recommendation of how often you should be changing it. If it’s dirty like we explained earlier, it needs to be changed.
Checking tire pressure is important if you want to keep your car under control and well maintained. You don’t need to do much for this one, you just need a gauge. These are inexpensive and it makes the whole process very simple. You could also use the gauge typically located with air pumps at gas stations to check your tire pressure and it shouldn’t cost you too much money to do this. If your tires are getting low, make sure that you inflate them to keep them at the recommended amount of air. You get a much smoother ride when you do it and it’s so much better for your tires.
Whilst you are busy checking the pressure of your tires, don’t forget to check that tread. That tread isn’t just there for a fancy pattern or to look interesting. It keeps you safe and grounded on the road. It also helps you to maintain control on wet weather or slippery surfaces. You’ll be very thankful for your tread when you are driving through icy or snowy conditions, too.
Your tread should never be smooth on your car, because you will end up skidding down the road when trying to break and may cause an accident. You can use a penny or quarter to check the tread of your car tires, just insert it into the tread with the head of the president facing down. If you can’t see the top of the president’s head, then you absolutely will need a change. As soon as the head is showing, however, then you need to replace your tire. Regular checks with a penny may help you to keep your car from being a danger to everybody else on the road as well as to yourself.
Seeing as we’re doing well on the subject of tires right now, we’ll keep going and talk about rotation. You would think that tires would wear evenly as you are driving on them, given that all parts of the tires do touch the road while you are driving. But we are living in an imperfect world which means you have to assume that your tires are not going to wear down evenly.
When you go for an oil change or any other routine appointments, make sure you ask them to rotate the tires for you. If they’re due for replacement, that’s a whole other issue, but if they’re not due for replacement and all it requires is for you to have your tires rotated, then that’s all you need to do.
Have the tires changed.
You don’t need to do this very often because tires should last you for upwards of 60,000 miles. But you do need to have them replaced as necessary. The rubber in tires is quite durable, and it’s built to be that way, but it still breaks down. Even if they look OK, you still need to replace them if they get too old, so make sure you are checking with your manufacturer’s recommendations so that you are replacing them as recommended.
Check and change your air filters.
This one is often forgotten, because they are not considered as much as everything else in the car, but your air filters are fairly important. A lot of mechanics will push the idea of replacing these while you’re in for maintenance.
The reason is because air filters are important to keep your engine running smoothly and not overheating. They are very cheap to replace, so you won’t have to worry about being too out of pocket for this one. If the engine has been damaged by dirt and debris or by lack of airflow, the filter is going to help.
Replace your wipers.
This is definitely one of those things that you wouldn’t think about until you need it, but for car maintenance your windshield wipers are inessential. You need to be able to see the road and have proper visibility while you are driving.
The windshield wipers help you control rain and snow and dirt off your windscreen so you can see. It’s so much better to replace these as they wear down before you have to try to replace them in a torrential downpour. You also don’t want to be caught on snowy roads and have your windshield wipers stick to the windows. It’s a huge danger if you don’t replace them when you’re supposed to, so keep an eye on them.
Have your brakes checked properly.
One more thing you would think people wouldn’t forget but they really do, is to get their brakes checked. You need your brakes to be in good working condition if you want to stay safe on the road, and that means you need to get them checked as regularly as necessary. Listen for sounds to tell you that your brakes are failing, or that your brake pads are sitting out is important. These sounds include a grinding on metal, a squealing, or a whistling, as they often mean that it is time for a checkup and possible replacement.
As a new teen driver, caring for your car is an important job you must undertake. But it’s not always clear what needs to be done or looked after. We hope this teen’s guide to car care is a truly helpful guide!