As a new driver, getting behind the wheel is liberating! However, most new drivers get overexcited and overlook safety. Did you know that according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2% of all crashes result from component failure? While driving schools teach car maintenance 101 and the importance of following rules on the road, many forget as soon as they graduate.
Nevertheless, don’t panic. In this article, we’ll take you back to car Maintenance 101, including ten essential car care tips to heighten your safety on the road and avoid an auto body collision repair shop at all costs. Keep reading – your life depends on it. Let’s start!
1. Read the Manual
Let’s agree. Probably, you’ve never read your vehicle’s manual. Well, most new drivers consider reading the manual unnecessary and boring. However, the reality is that your vehicle manual is your number one car maintenance 101 guidebook. It has essential information on how often your car will need automotive service for safety and peak performance. Additionally, it specifies correct repair techniques that work to ensure your mechanic gets it right and helps you understand the warning lights that may pop up on your dashboard.
Typically, most vehicles have a long list of customization settings you must do the second you receive your vehicle. Such adjustments may include the sensitivity of your automatic headlights and the tone for unlocking your car. Some settings require manual setup, which can prove complex, especially if you aren’t tech-savvy. However, the manual will make setting up your vehicle seamless.
There’s more to your car than it looks; a manual will help you understand it better. It’s a machine created by linking complex electrical, technological, and mechanical systems. Although it isn’t necessary to understand every vehicle component, you’ll understand how your car functions by reading your manual. Such basic knowledge is essential for better communication with a dealership or auto repair shop, especially if you need repairs.
2. Ensure You Have a Reputable Warranty
If you’re a new driver, it will help if your car insurance company exhaustively explains everything regarding auto insurance coverage. Typically, the subject is among the most misunderstood concepts for most new and old car owners. While essential, it only covers accident repair like windshield replacement, theft, and inclement weather damage repair, such as auto hail repair service. However, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for unexpected breakdowns, wear and tear damage, and other repair bills outside of coverage.
Even so, your car factory has a way to counterbalance such unexpected costs with a warranty guarantee. Typically, your vehicle will come with a limited factory or manufacturer warranty from the dealership. A proper car maintenance 101 measure is to know the warranty period, as most last three years (36,000 miles) and five years (60,000 miles). However, before your initial coverage expires, you can purchase a vehicle service contract or an extended warranty.
3. Car Battery Care
Let’s face it. Without a properly installed and charged battery, you’re stuck. For this reason, you must ensure your car battery gets the much-deserved care and attention. It works to power your starter motor and your vehicle’s electronics, and with a monthly inspection, your battery will serve you for a long time.
The most effortless battery maintenance 101 hack is to keep the case clean. Typically, dirt and oil residue can quickly build up, hiding cracks or bulges that pave the way to costly problems over time. To clean the case, moisten a paper towel with a mild detergent and wipe the dirt out. After your battery is dry and tidy, thoroughly inspect for any sign of bulging or cracking. Any visible sign of such defects indicates problems like lack of fluid or freezing.
Also, check the electrolytes. The liquid that floats inside your battery is sulphuric acid and water. If your battery has removable vent caps, checking the liquid level in each cell becomes easy. As a rule of thumb, the fluid level must be above the battery plates. If not, add distilled water, but don’t overflow the cell.
Inspect the battery posts, hardware, and terminal for corrosion. If present, create a 50/50 mix of water and baking soda, and scrub the corroded parts using a stiff brush. After cleaning, rinse with clean water. Leave any other pending battery issue to a mechanic; it might be too complicated for a new driver.
4. Check Your Tires
When you’re about to drive, actions like snapping on your seatbelt, checking your fuel gauge, and using your turn signal come automatically. Even the best and most experienced forget this critical car maintenance 101 tip: To check the car tires. Missing the warning signs that your vehicle tires need air, repair, or replacement can cost your life. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 12% of vehicle crashes related to new drivers were due to tire-related problems.
As a new driver, you can habitually check your tires before hitting the road. It will be best to check your tires monthly without fail. If you can, put a reminder on your phone to never skip a tire check.
Your tire inflation needs to be just right. To check this, invest in a tire pressure gauge. The device is cheap and easily fits in your glove box. Use a penny test to check for extreme wear in your tires and examine them for debris or bulges. If your tires fail to pass the tests, visit a car repair shop immediately.
5. Install a Dash Camera
Most car care maintenance lists don’t prioritize the installation of car cams. It actually may never cross your mind. However, installing a dash cam is a car maintenance 101 pro tip. Wonder how?
Picture this: You’ve just had your driver’s license and can’t wait to hit the road. Chances are your excitement might make you overlook safety. A few miles on the road, then boom! A crash. On the other hand, you’ll find yourself driving carefully with a dash cam. For this reason, you’ll be caring for your vehicle by minimizing your odds of causing an accident.
Car theft and damage is a new driver’s nightmare, especially if you’ve just bought a new car. The good news is that dash cameras are theft deterrents. Most models offer 24/7 surveillance protection.
As a result, thieves will less likely target your vehicle with a visible dash cam installed. Surveillance with G sensors will quickly detect any force against your car. Therefore, they’re perfect for recording any damages and unauthorized vehicle access. Also, auto window tinting is another excellent strategy to deter thieves from breaking into your car.
A dash cam promotes better driving. Whether you’re driving a manual or an automatic transmission gear vehicle, it’s a fact that it may take time to get comfortable on the road. However, a dash cam can quickly boost your confidence levels. You can quickly review its footage and identify errors to make you a confident driver. Better driving is a significant step toward proper car maintenance 101 strategy.
6. Keep Your Eyes on the Dash
As a new driver, you’ll focus completely on the road. Well, it’s commendable. In fact, according to Forbes, nearly 3,000 people die annually in auto accidents due to distracted driving.
On the flip side, stealing a glimpse at certain gauges on your vehicle is essential. You can get information about your car that’s just as important as paying attention on the road. For instance, when a ‘check engine’ light comes on, you must pull over quickly for a car diagnosis. Also, never let the gas gauge reflect ‘E,’ as your vehicle may stall on the highway or worse – accident-prone areas.
However, never keep your eyes off the road for over a second. The longer you keep your eyes away from the highway, the higher your chances of getting into an accident. Also, avoid glancing at the dashboard on a congested road or when taking a corner. The best time is when you’re off traffic and on a reasonably straight road.
7. Change Oil
Typically, oil flows from other areas into your engine, accumulating dirt and other particles. So, if you don’t change your oil regularly, sludge build-up will develop in your engine. For your engine to function optimally, it must be clear of any sludge. Before dust and particles create a bigger problem, always keep up with timely oil changes, especially if you live in dry and dustier conditions.
Oil is the blood of your car. It protects, lubricates, and protects your engine (the heart of your car) and other essential parts from wear and damage. Therefore, regular oil changes deserve a spot on your ‘car maintenance 101’ lesson. When oil gets dirty, it does the opposite – it jeopardizes everything! For this reason, if you want to extend the life of your vehicle, you must keep up with regular oil changes.
8. Radiator Coolant Change
There’s no specific time frame to change your coolant. Typically, the schedule will vary from one manufacturer to another. Also, different car models from the same manufacturer recommend different intervals for coolant change. Your best shot to get it right is to refer to the car Maintenance 101 schedule in your car manual.
As your coolant ages, scale deposits and rusts typically build up. Without a coolant change, such deposits damage your engine and other components of your car’s cooling system. Also, the chemical component of the coolant becomes acidic over time.
As a result, the high acidity levels may start damaging bearings, rubber, hoses, and aluminum components. As a new driver, you want to avoid such damage. So, keep up with your manufacturer’s coolant change recommendations.
9. Change Air Filter
Replacing clogged air filters improves performance and acceleration. In some vehicles, it increases fuel efficiency (a good thing for any new driver). A dirty air filter will automatically limit the air flowing into your vehicle’s engine, which forces your car to work harder, hence using more fuel.
Also, changing air filters will prolong your car’s engine life. When a tiny particle gets through a damaged air filter, it causes plenty of damage to the internal parts of your engine, such as pistons and cylinders. Such components are costly to repair, and as a new driver, you must change and check your air filters to avoid such expensive damages.
10. Have Towing Services on Speed Dial
Let’s face it. Your car can stall anytime, even after adhering to the maintenance schedule. Therefore, you must ensure that you have a company that offers tow truck services on speed dial. Preparing for the worst is a pro tip for dealing with emergencies and uncertainties. Hence, you must always have a 24-hour tow service and roadside contacts on your phone. If you’re on a road trip, search for companies that offer towing services at your destination and keep their emergency contacts.
Professional towing services will quickly get you back on the road. Also, they’ll promptly advise you on any other impending problem that needs fixing.
11. Have a Kit of Breakdown Necessities
Like seasoned drivers, newbies must travel with a box of necessities in case the car breaks down. For instance, carry jumper cables, funnel, flashlight, fluids specific to your car, lug wrench, and tire jack for tire changes. Additionally, you must have an emergency kit with life-saving essentials such as water, blankets, and non-perishable foods. You’re never sure when your car will stall, and having such essentials in your vehicle may save your life.
It’s exciting to receive your driver’s license. It feels good to drive yourself around without depending on other people. However, you must never create a car maintenance schedule list for your safety and to extend your car’s life. Your car care guide must include car services such as changing the oil regularly, changing air filters, installing a dash cam, and checking your tires frequently. Your car deserves proper care, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is car Maintenance 101! Check our website for more car care tips.