As the parent of the freshly-licensed new driver, your life just became very different. Your little one has reached the age of driving, and while they are excited to get out and explore the world on their own, you are likely a nervous mess of emotion. There are so many questions you ask yourself “did I show him how to change a tire?” or “what if she runs out of gas?” While your child almost certainly has a cell phone, nothing helps prevent problems like a little preparedness.
We have compiled a list of 10 areas your new driver needs to be trained on. These are not standard driving points, this is the stuff that most of us either learned from our parents or we ended up learning the hard way. While some of these may seem like common sense, they are not common knowledge to everyone, especially beginners. Remember – it is really easy to forget what it was like to be a kid.
1. How To Change A Tire
Everyone needs to know how to change a tire. This is a critical process that is not hard, but requires some knowledge. Spend half an hour teaching your new driver how get the job done safely and quickly. If they are of smaller stature, teach them how to use their legs to prop up the tire if they are not quite strong enough to lift it by hand.
Here are some of the key points they need to learn:
- Where to pull off the road safely.
- How to position the jack as most cars today are unibody and there are specific jack points. Refer to the owner’s manual if you need to.
- Where the jack and spare are located on their car.
- How to loosen and tighten the lug nuts or bolts (loosen and tighten the nuts/bolts with the tire on the ground, not in the air).
2. How To Check The Fluid Levels
If you don’t check the fluids, your car won’t last very long. Every driver should know how to check the oil and transmission fluid, those are the two most important ones, but checking the radiator coolant and wiper fluid are good to know as well. Also make sure they know what type of fluid each requires and how to pour it in.
3. How To Check Tire Pressure And Fill
Checking the tire pressure should be done regularly to ensure that the tires are properly inflated. Most cars require 35 psi, but some require more, such as heavy duty trucks. Show your new driver how to read a tire pressure gauge, how to check the pressure, and how to fill the tire with air when necessary. It is also important that they understand the need for a cap on the valve stem – valve stems leak, the cap is the seal. You may be saying “their car has tire pressure monitors”, and that is great, but as soon as those tires get rotated, you have no idea which one is where.
4. How To Connect Your Phone To The Vehicle
Our phones are practically connected to our eyes at all times these days, make sure your child knows how to connect their phone to the car so that they don’t feel the need to check texts or hold the phone during calls. This only applies to vehicles with bluetooth or bluetooth adapters.
5. What To Do When You Drive Off The Road
Overcorrecting is one of the biggest causes of serious accidents for all ages, and it is something that you can teach away. Most driving classes don’t really address this issue as well as they should.
First – slow down, take your foot off the gas. Then slowly apply the brakes if necessary. Gently ease the steering wheel towards the road. If the shoulder has a big bump, you will need to go slower. It is a simple process, but so many people fail in the moment because they panic. If you go out to a dirt road and practice this with your new driver they will get it and you can rest a little easier.
6. What To Do If Your Throttle Sticks
Older cars with throttle cables can sometimes stick. It does not happen often, but if it does, it is very dangerous situation. In recent years, some electronic throttles were sticking, and because the cars did not have a key, the drivers didn’t know how to shut off the vehicle. A runaway vehicle is incredibly dangerous, but in most cases can be handled by simply putting the transmission in neutral. Once in neutral, you can pull the car to the side of the road and shut off the engine.
You do not want to shut off the car with the key, as you may end up in the “lock” position, and that can cause the steering wheel to lock, which would be even worse.
For keyless ignition vehicles, press and hold the start button until the engine is off.
7. What To Do If You Get Stuck
Getting stuck in the mud or snow is no fun, especially if you are a new driver and don’t know how to deal with it. Modern cars are actually even worse, as traction control kicks in and shuts off the power before you can get going.
First – shut off the traction control by pressing and holding the traction control button. This usually takes 5-15 seconds. Then, apply the gas. If you get out, great! If not, then you need to try rocking the vehicle back and forth using reverse and drive. This usually gets the job done unless you are really stuck. At this point, you have to get into some more drastic measures.
8. Don’t Trust Car Hack Memes
This is a big one for beginners – teach your kids not to trust the car “life hack” memes they see on social media. Most are fake and can actually damage your vehicle.
9. When To Fill Up
Modern vehicles use electronic fuel pumps in the gas tank. They are cooled by the fuel itself. If you let the car run below 1/4 of a tank, the pump is not being cooled properly and will die much faster. Always fill up before your tank gets to the 1/4 mark, that is good rule of thumb and you will always enough gas to get you to the next station at the very least.
10. What To Do If You Get Pulled Over
New drivers often get scared when they get pulled over for the first time. New drivers make mistakes, and that can lead to a visit from local constabulary. It is likely going to happen, and your new driver needs to be mentally prepared for it. Here are the key points:
- Pull over safely. Don’t stop in the middle of the road, pull off the road onto the shoulder or into the next available parking lot. Turn on the flashers.
- Roll down the window, turn off the radio.
- Keep your hands on the wheel until the officer asks for your license and insurance. Then tell the officer where they are located and that you have to reach for them. This is critical information, make sure your new driver understands to announce it to the officer.
- Stay calm. This is paramount to any traffic stop. Relax, take a breath, and be courteous. Don’t argue, that is what court is for.
All new drivers will face these challenges, driving school is great for learning the rules of the road and passing your test, but the real test is out there on the road in real situations. Take the time to teach your new driver these things so that they don’t have to learn the hard way.
Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on things your new driver needs to know, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
A life-long gearhead, Jefferson Bryant spends more time in the shop than anywhere else. His career began in the car audio industry as a shop manager, eventually working his way into a position at Rockford Fosgate as a product designer. In 2003, he began writing tech articles for magazines, and has been working as an automotive journalist ever since. His work has been featured in Car Craft, Hot Rod, Rod & Custom, Truckin’, Mopar Muscle, and many more. Jefferson has also written 4 books and produced countless videos. Jefferson operates Red Dirt Rodz, his personal garage studio, where all of his magazine articles and tech videos are produced.