As we gear up for the busy holiday driving season, now is a great time for parents to focus their teens on simple auto repair and maintenance tips that can support safe driving.
According to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , teen drivers are actually making better decisions when it comes to motor vehicle safety, with more buckling up and fewer risking riding with a friend who has been drinking. But, according to an AutoMD.com survey, when it comes to actual auto repair and maintenance, teens are a bit clueless, with two-thirds of parents rating their teen's basic knowledge of car maintenance as "somewhat or completely clueless," or "average."
Below are some simple DIY tips, plucked from AutoMD.com’s Teen Driver Car Maintenance and Repair Guide, to help teens – and their parents – make good auto repair decisions to keep their cars running safely and soundly through the holidays and into winter.
"Now is the perfect time to remind teens and their parents that driving and owning a vehicle is a big responsibility, and vehicle maintenance is a critical part of that responsibility," says Brian Hafer, VP of Marketing for AutoMD.com. "Our teen driver guide is designed to provide teens with basic information to start them on the road to a lifetime of responsible vehicle ownership."
Top Tips for Teens (and Parents!) to Keep Their Cars Running Well, and Staying Safe on the Road
1. Know your car's maintenance intervals and keep up with service
Each vehicle has a maintenance schedule, outlined in your owner's manual. Be sure you read and understand the schedule. Items that require regular maintenance include the car's fluids, tires, brakes, and oil and filter changes, too. Oil and air filter changes are particularly important to keep the engine running efficiently and make great beginning DIY auto repair projects. Get an experienced adult to help the first few times.
Did You Know?
These days experts say that you only need to change your oil every 5,000 miles. A good rule of thumb is this – if a vehicle is older than a 2002 model year, it should probably get an oil change every 3,000 miles. If it's newer than a 2002 model, it's fine to change the oil every 5,000 miles.
2. Take care of your tires – make sure they can get you to school, work, etc.
Tire maintenance is particularly important for safe and fuel-efficient driving, so, take good care of them! Keep your tires properly inflated, and watch for tire wear. Driving on underinflated tires can shorten the life of your tires, increase tire wear and lead to significant tire damage from heat, potholes and other road hazards. Plus, keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure can improve gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent. Consult your owner's manual or tire sticker on the door jamb for manufacturer-recommended tire pressure settings. And, look at your tires for wear and tear every time you stop for gas.
Did You Know?
You can check for tire wear and tear by using a penny. Hold a penny at the base between your thumb and forefinger so that you can see the top of President Lincoln's head and the words "In God We Trust." Place the top of Lincoln's head into one of the grooves in your tire tread. If any part of Lincoln's head is covered, you have a legal and safe amount of tire tread left and your tires probably don't need to be replaced. However, if there is any space above Lincoln's head, or if you can see any part of the words "In God We Trust," it's time for new tires.
3. Don't ignore dashboard warning lights
Dashboard warning lights serve as notification that something may be wrong with your car, and include the Check Engine Light, Oil Light, Temperature Light, Brake Light, and more. When warning lights come on, pay attention to them! Read the owner's manual so you know what each of the warning lights mean and how you should respond.
Did You Know?
If your Check Engine light is blinking while you're driving, you should pull over immediately. The Check Engine light can signal any number of system failures, from a fuel vapor leak caused by a loose gas cap to poor acceleration caused by a faulty MAF (Mass Air Flow) sensor. If the light comes on and stays on without flashing - yet the car seems to be running smoothly - chances are your car can be examined by a mechanic after you get home, or when you can get to one. On the other hand, if the Check Engine light is blinking while you're driving, pull over or get to a mechanic right away. A blinking check engine light usually indicates a severe misfire that could damage your car's engine.
4. Don't let your car run too low, or out of gas
You know it's important to fuel your body with food for optimal performance at school and play, and it is equally important to fuel your car appropriately, which means not letting your car run too low on gas. Most of today's vehicles have fuel-injected engines that rely on in-tank electric pumps that use gas to cool and lubricate its components. Driving your fuel injected engine frequently on fumes could cause hundreds of dollars in repairs, and leave you stranded on the side of the road, which is always a dangerous place to be. A good rule of thumb – keep the fuel level above a quarter tank to keep your car running well, and to avoid running out of gas!
Did You Know?
You don't need to use the highest grade of gasoline for your car's engine to perform its best. The variation in quality between different grades of gasoline today is very small, so don't waste your money by filling up with premium gasoline unless your car "requires" it (if this exact wording is stated in your owner's manual).
5. Steer clear – take care of your windshield
The windshield is like the eye of your car. Therefore, it is critical to keep it clean and clear for safe driving. Some parts of the country are, or will be, experiencing their first rainfalls after months of being dry. You don't want to discover that your windshield wiper blades don't work during the first rainfall when you need them most. Wiper blades that have cracks, skip, streak or leave spots or smears should be replaced. You should also check spray nozzles for proper aim. If the nozzles are clogged, clean them with a needle. Use windshield washer fluid in the tank to prevent corrosion and remove stubborn dirt, grime and insects from your windshield. Whether it rains or not, you should try to use your spray nozzles and wiper blades every few weeks to keep them functioning properly.
Did You Know?
Carrying a squeegee with a scrubber in your car or trunk is a good idea. It can help remove splattered bugs, and maximize visibility.
6. Teen life moves fast, but your car doesn't have to. Slow down – avoid speeding
Perhaps one of the best ways to keep your car well maintained, and keep you safe on the road, is to avoid speeding! It may seem fun to drive fast, or you might simply be in a hurry (late for school, maybe?), but speeding is incredibly dangerous, and bad for your car. In fact, driving slower puts less demand on your car's engine and transmission, and also helps to reduce the amount of gas you use in the process. Avoid all driving habits that put stress and strain on your vehicle, such as fast driving, hitting curbs, and off-roading. It is also a good idea to slow down and increase your following distance when driving in harsh weather, as vehicles can lose traction in rain, snow and ice.
Did You Know?
Speeding is so dangerous because it reduces your reaction time to avoid a potential collision. According to one website, among serious crashes involving teen driver error, 1 in 5 crashes occurred due to speeding. Remember that speeding is reckless driving.