The right car maintenance tips can keep your new driver safe and save you money on gas, oil and other important fluids. It’s vital for new drivers to understand the normal levels of gauges on their dashboard and what to do if a warning light comes on.
Teach them to visually check their wiper blades and washer fluid levels, to know where the air pressure gauge is located and to regularly inflate their tires.
1. Check the Owner’s Manual
When you own an expensive investment like a car, it is important that you take care of it. This includes knowing what all goes in it, and how to care for it. The best way to do this is to read the owner’s manual.
This will help you learn what all of the different gauges mean, what they do if a warning light comes on, and even where the hood release is located (you would be surprised how many cars hide this in some strange place). It also contains information about routine maintenance, such as when to change your oil or what type of gasoline your vehicle takes.
In addition, the manual will tell you if your vehicle requires special fluids such as transmission or brake fluid, and what the recommended levels are. This will give you a head start on learning about the specifics of your car, which can improve your experience and communication with technicians at a repair shop or dealership.
2. Inspect Your Tires
Many new drivers aren’t aware that their tires need to be inspected, particularly when they first get behind the wheel. They are excited to be able to experience the freedom of driving, but it’s important that they know how to inspect their tires regularly to ensure they are in good shape and safe for the road.
The best way to do this is by using an accurate tire pressure gauge and checking all four tires (including the spare) when they are cold. This helps to maintain the correct air pressure in the tires and boosts traction, fuel economy and handling.
Inspecting the tires for uneven wear and any visible damage is also important. Uneven wear can indicate the need for a wheel alignment or suspension issues. Lastly, check the tread depth for any bald spots which could be dangerous for driving on. Also, make sure to rotate and balancing your tires on a regular schedule to help them last longer.
3. Check Your Brakes
Brakes are responsible for bringing your vehicle to a stop by eliminating the kinetic energy that was created by motion. To do this, your brake pads press against a metal disc called a rotor. The rotor converts the kinetic energy to heat by friction, and your hydraulic system multiplies that force to slow or stop your car.
Slamming the brakes puts extra stress on your brake pads and rotors, and can cause them to wear down or even erode away. Leaving this to happen can lead to the dangerous condition where the brake pads are pressing against metal components such as the steering rack, wheel bearings and steering knuckles.
Fortunately, most newer cars come equipped with brake pads that feature “wear indicators.” These are small metal tabs that emit a loud screech to warn you when your brake pads are starting to wear down to dangerous levels. You should also pay attention to how your brake pedal feels. If it becomes spongy or loses its firmness, this is a sign that you need to change your brake fluid.
4. Check Your Oil
While it is important for new drivers to know how to drive safely, they should also be familiar with their vehicle’s maintenance needs. This includes checking their oil. Engine oil is responsible for lubricating all of the moving parts in your car’s engine, and without it, the engine could damage itself or even catch fire.
Luckily, checking your oil is relatively easy. First, make sure the engine is cool and locate the dip stick (which is usually located underneath the oil tank). Pull the dip stick out, wipe it off with a clean cloth or paper towel, then reinsert it to check the current level. The oil should cover the dip stick from one end to the other and be in between the two indicating lines.
It is also a good idea to get into the habit of checking your oil every 3-4 fill ups or every 1000 miles, whichever comes first. This will help you avoid getting stranded on the side of the road due to low engine oil.