May 13, 2021

Do you have a new driver in the family? Teaching them how to drive or talking to them about anything car-related can be challenging because it requires a lot of patience, and teens often think they know it all. But we know driving is a huge responsibility that needs to be taken seriously.

Most teens get their driver’s permit or driver’s license before they know anything about car maintenance. Sometimes “live and learn” is the route they take.

Basic car maintenance can help keep them safe, reduce possible repair costs, and maybe ease a little bit of your worry as they begin to assert their independence.

Review these 7 basic maintenance tips with your teen:

1. Check the engine oil. 

If the engine oil isn’t changed regularly, it can cause buildup and lead to engine failure. Show your teenager how to check their oil level, and suggest they check it at least once a month—especially if it’s an older car. If they spot a leak, your teen should get their vehicle checked out right away.

2. How to tell if there’s a coolant leak.

Anyone can easily check the coolant level in the see-through white plastic overflow tank in the engine compartment. If it’s empty or low, there may be a leak. The next step should be to check the radiator’s metal cap, but that should be done only when the engine is cool. Having too little coolant in the car’s cooling system can cause engine overheating. In this Tech Talk by seasoned automotive technician Jon Hansen, you’ll learn what to do if you or your teenager experiences engine overheating.

3. Check tire pressure.

Make sure your teenager has a tire pressure gauge in their glove box and knows how to use it. Low tire pressure means poor gas mileage and can be unsafe. Low tire pressure can cause overheating which can lead to a blowout. We would hope we wouldn’t have to say it, but: Driving with a flat tire is unsafe and can cause damage to the vehicle.

4. How to change a flat tire.

Show your teen where the spare tire and jack are located in their car. Most vehicles keep these well hidden and out of plain view, and some newer vehicles don’t come with a spare tire. After showing your teen where the spare is located, teach your teen how to change a flat tire.

5. How to jump-start a car.

A dead battery can be a major inconvenience especially if your teen doesn’t know how to jump-start a car. Luckily, it’s an easy fix by having the right tools and knowing the proper safety measures. Remind your teen that the battery terminal connections are red to red and black to black. In this Tech Talk, Jon Hansen shows how to jump-start a car.

6. What do all the lights mean?

There are many different warning light symbols on a vehicle dashboard that will turn on when something is wrong. These lights indicate if the gas is low, oil needs changed, tire pressure is low, or other engine problems. Tell your teen to look through their car’s owner’s manual to understand the meanings of each warning light. Better yet, walk through the manual with them. 

7. What to do if something fails.

Give your teen all the resources they need in case something goes wrong. Make sure they always have their driver’s license, vehicle registration, and insurance information easily accessible. Talk them through a fender-bender scenario and how to be safe, alert the proper authorities, and gather appropriate information.

As a parent, you’ll always worry about your child’s safety, no matter their age, but as they learn to drive it increases their risk and your concern. Talk to your teen about the importance of driving safely and go over these seven basic tips. It will make you feel better, and your teen will be a more informed driver.

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