There comes a time in most parents’ lives when they’re pinning themselves against the passenger seat, hand firmly clutched around the grip handle, foot planted against the floorboard, as their beloved teenage driver takes to the road. In between shouts of, “The brake is on the LEFT!” and “STOPPPP!” there’s something else you need to do: that is, teach your teen some basic car maintenance.
Whether your teen is a budding mechanic or hasn’t learned how to pop the vehicle’s hood, it’s helpful to teach him or her enough to ensure the oil gets changed and the gas gets pumped. With that in mind, here are a few tips you might want to remind the new driver in the family about before turning over those keys for good:
You know those cute little red triangles and oil cans that light up on the dashboard? It’s important that any driver not think they’re merely for decoration. To be sure, they all signify something important and can result in thousands of dollars in repairs if not taken seriously. So teach your teen to read the owner’s manual and become familiar with the different lights that illuminate for service.
Other than the horn and an occasional wave out the window, a vehicle’s lights are the only means of communicating with other drivers while on the road. Whether someone is pulled over to change a flat tire, driving along a dark, deserted road, or navigating a treacherous downpour, knowing how to use a car’s lights is necessary. Emphasize the need to check lights weekly, including the brake and back-up lights, high and low beams, and front and rear signals. Bonus points for teaching them the difference between different types of lights, such as fog lights, long-range lights, and driving lights.
Obtain Warranties and Car Service Contracts
Parents of teens uniformly want reliability. For many of us, knowing which cars are safe isn’t enough. We want protection. Car service contracts, or extended warranties, are an ideal solution for people who buy a used car or those who want to extend bumper-to-bumper coverage on a new car. Educate your teen on where to go to get different types of after-market warranties and vehicle service contracts.
Check the Tire Tread
Bald tires lead to dangerous accidents. Teach your teen the Penny Test. Place the side of the penny with the top of President Lincoln’s head into the grooves of the tire tread. If any part of the head is hidden by the tread, the vehicle’s tread is acceptable. On the other hand, if all of his head is visible, it’s time to replace the tires. Be sure to do this on all the tires and in various spots on each tire.
Track the Fluids
If your teen will be driving over the river and through the woods to anyone’s house in the future, or even if he or she is just commuting to school, performing an under-the-hood check for fluids can keep a motor running smoothly and safely. Emphasize the need to check the fluids while on a flat surface and with a cool engine. The five fluids to keep an eye on include the engine oil, windshield washer fluid, brake fluid, coolant, and power steering fluid. Should the inspection turn up a fluid leak or other problem, it’s time to visit a mechanic.
Even the most diligent drivers can face problems on the road. That’s why it’s important to maintain a stock of oft-needed supplies. Be sure your new driver keeps the following in the vehicle in case of an emergency:
- First aid kit
- A properly inflated spare tire and jack
- A tool kit (can be travel-sized)
- A flashlight
- Flares or reflective devices to warn other drivers in case of a breakdown
- Jumper cables
- An empty fuel container (never carry extra fuel in the vehicle, as it can quickly become hazardous)
Regularly Replace Wiper Blades
Replacing wiper blades is an unfortunate necessity for car maintenance and it’s something your teen can easily do to reduce mechanic bills. During harsh winter storms and blinding summer sun breaks, wiper blades can quickly get damaged and deteriorate. Emphasize how crucial it is for the new driver to inspect the blades regularly and make sure the rubber is not damaged. Even if it isn’t raining, the blades should be checked occasionally to ensure they are cleaning the window properly as well.
Knowing these basic car maintenance tips can not only preserve a vehicle’s safety, but it can also save your young driver’s life and significantly reduce trips to the auto shop. If you’re not sure how to best teach your teen how to do any of these steps, a mobile mechanic or reputable instructional video can help.
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