Car maintenance: 5 things to teach your teenager.
Teaching your teenager how to drive a car is only half the battle in helping them learn to maintain and take care of a car. Cars do a good job of getting you from point A to point B, but they need to be taken care of in order to stay safe and reliable. Part of being independent and driving a car is learning how to maintain it. The following are five musts for teaching your teenager about car maintenance.
One of the most important car maintenance items is undoubtedly oil changes. Regular oil changes at recommended intervals will keep most cars running strong for a long time. Start by explaining to your teenager why oil changes are important, then show them how to check the oil level in the car. If you have an older car or drive often, the oil should be checked more regularly. Show them the marks on the dipstick indicating when the oil level is full and safe and when it needs to have oil added. The next step is to show them where to add oil and how much. If you’re really ambitious, you can even show them how to change the oil themselves. It’s one of the easier jobs for car maintenance as long as you have the right tools. If not, then you can suggest the use of handy oil change stickers to act as a reminder to change the oil every 3,000 miles.
Another important part of your car that needs a little attention to keep you safe is the tires. Well-maintained tires can last a long time. Start by teaching your teen how to check tire pressure and how to add more air to the tires when they’re low. Car tires lose roughly 3 psi per month through normal use. The cold tire pressure listed in the vehicle’s door jamb is what you should fill your tires with. Don’t use the amount on the tire itself as that pressure is the maximum for the tire, which doesn’t account for the vehicle’s type and weight. Tell your teen to always check the tire pressure on cold tires that haven’t been driven, and then fill to appropriate levels if necessary. If you’re ambitious, you can also teach them how to change a flat tire, or simply prepare a backup plan for what they can do in case of a flat. It’s also important to tell them the importance of rotating tires to keep them wearing evenly. Every six months or 6,000 miles is the usual recommended interval.
Brakes obviously play a pretty important role in that they safely bring your car to a stop or slow it down. It’s a good idea for your teenager to know when brakes might be having problems. Brakes can last a long time, but they do eventually wear down and they give signs of wear as they do so. Teach your teen that the brake pedal should not feel spongy and it should not cause the car to vibrate when stepped on. Both of these are indicative of problems. Squeaky brakes aren’t always serious, but they can be a sign of brake wear. Show your teen how to check the wear on brake pads as well.
Engine oil isn’t the only important fluid in a vehicle. If your vehicle has an automatic transmission, then this fluid should also be easily accessible in the engine compartment. It should be checked semi-regularly and definitely if the transmission is having any issues. Brake fluid is another important fluid that should be checked regularly. Show your teen what good fluid levels are and what color they should be. Similarly, show them where the coolant is and how to check the coolant overflow reservoir. Also, show them how to add fluids when they’re low.
Regular car washes help preserve a car’s paint and keep it safer. Show your teen how to manually wash a car or how to take it through an automatic car wash. You should also impress upon them to keep the interior clean as well by vacuuming and throwing away trash.
Learning car maintenance should be a comprehensive part of learning to drive. If you show your teen how to take care of a car as well as drive it, they will likely take it with them into adulthood.