Obtaining a license is an exciting rite of passage for young people. It’s a formative experience when teens gain their first real sense of independence behind the wheel of a car.
It’s also an important lesson to impart to teens that cars don’t maintain themselves. Neglecting periodic care has consequences, including a possible breakdown at the most inopportune time. To avoid unnecessary repairs and reduce the risk of a breakdown, make sure to arm your teen with these basic maintenance tips for young drivers.
1. Inspect Tires
At least once monthly, check the tire pressure and add air as needed. Inflate tires only when they’re cold, and fill to the PSI rate listed in the owner’s manual or on the placard located on the driver’s door jamb. Rotate tires approximately every 6,000 miles and replace them when the treadwear indicators begin to show. Remember: Tires are the only thing that separate your car from the road, so they should always be in top condition. You should also ensure that your teen driver knows how to change a flat tire.
2. Check Fluids
Get used to lifting the hood every other time you refuel your vehicle. Inspect washer fluid levels and replenish as necessary. Check oil levels, brake fluid and transmission fluid. Take note of the coolant (antifreeze) level and refresh or replace when needed. Learn how to change your motor oil and the proper way to dispose of old oil.
3. Examine Hoses and Clamps
While you’re peering under the hood, take note of the series of hoses that weave from the radiator, around the engine and back again. The hoses keep the engine from overheating, which can lead to engine failure. Replace cracked or squishy-to-the-touch hoses; otherwise, they should be securely held in place by clamps.
Cars come with accessory drive belts, which are powered by the engine and turn the alternator, steering pump, water pump and the air conditioner compressor. Usually, there is one very long belt present, and it should be securely in place and with very little give to the touch. Signs of trouble include fraying, cracks or splits. If you notice missing chunks in the groove underneath, then replace the belt at once.
5. Check Other Parts Regularly
There are some parts you won’t need to check as often, but they shouldn’t fall into neglect, either. These include: brake pads, air filters and the car battery. Familiarize yourself with your owner’s manual and adhere to the maintenance schedule to ensure you leave nothing out.
6. Wash and Wax Your Car
As important as it is to maintain components, never neglect the outside of your car. Glass cleaner and a towel are useful for wiping down windows and exterior lights between washings. Wash your car regularly, especially when dirt, pollen, dust, tree sap and other debris take over. Wax your car every three months to protect the vehicle’s finish. Invest in a quality cleaning solution, wax, bucket, wash mitt, microfiber towel and applicator pad. Tire-cleaning foam and scratch touch-up are useful, as well. Don’t forget the interior — vacuum, wipe down surfaces and remove trash as needed.
Not all essential tips for young drivers apply to expected situations. Assemble a kit of emergency items to have in the trunk at all times in case your teen runs into trouble far from home. A portable jump-starter is a useful tool to include, especially if you live in a remote area where it may be difficult to flag down another motorist for help.
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 tips for young drivers, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.