Every year thousands of parents in Lincoln are liberated from schlepping their teens to school and activities. That also means every year we see thousands of shall we say, “novice” drivers. While experience behind the wheel will eventually help, after all we were all once beginners, there are quite a few things that every new driver needs to know about vehicle maintenance and safety. That’s why we’ve put together this handy checklist for teens and parents.
Here’s what you need to know when you get behind the wheel:
- How to change a tire
You never know when you (or your teen driver) may end up on the side of the road with a flat tire. Check first to ensure that the vehicle has a spare, a shocking number of newer cars don’t even have a donut. If there is a spare, make sure you have the proper tools and a functional jack. Once you’ve established that you have the needed tools take the time to show them how to change a tire and walk them through the owner’s manual’s instructions. It’s important to reinforce that once the tire is changed the best idea is to drive cautiously straight home or to a repair facility.
- How to check tire pressure and air up tires
Under or overinflated tires can be dangerous when operating your vehicle. Teaching your teen how to put air in their tires and how much air they should be putting in the tires, is important. While many new cars have tire pressure monitors, learning to check manually is a valuable skill. If the tires are unevenly worn or have bald spots on them, it’s probably time to purchase some new ones.
- How to check fluid levels
Oil, power steering, antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid – your teen should know how to check the levels on each of these, especially the oil. To check the fluid levels, the car should be parked on a level surface and the engine should be turned off. You should encourage them to review the car’s owner’s manual for the proper procedures.
- Importance of preventative maintenance
Staying on top of preventative maintenance not only keeps a car running well, but it also helps keep your teen driver safe on the road. Oil changes, tire rotation, alignment and tune-ups should be maintained on a regular basis. Give your teen driver the responsibility for scheduling preventative maintenance and tune-ups on his or her vehicle, so they can develop good auto care habits early on.
- How to jump-start a car battery
Every driver should know how to safely jump-start a car battery. To get started, both vehicles should be in park, or neutral, with engines off and parking brakes engaged. The red positive (+) cable should first be clamped to the disabled vehicle’s red positive (+) battery terminal. Then the other end of that same cable should be clamped to the booster vehicle’s red positive (+) terminal. Next, clamp the black negative (-) cable to the booster vehicle’s black negative (-) terminal. Finally, clamp the other end of the black negative cable to a large, unpainted metal surface in the disabled vehicle’s engine bay, away from the battery and engine itself. After cables are connected, try to start the disabled vehicle. Once it starts, allow both vehicles to run while connected for three minutes.
- What to do in case of an emergency
Every car should be equipped with emergency supplies. At a minimum this means jumper cables, tire pressure gauge, a flashlight and hazard signs. It’s also a good idea to keep a bottle of water and a snack (such as protein bars) in the car should the driver ever become stranded. If you’re taking a longer trip, blankets, a jacket, a candle and some matches can quite literally be a lifesaver.
- What to do when the “check engine” light comes on
If the check engine light comes on that’s a sign to pay attention. If there is any change in the car’s performance, any mechanical noises, smoke from the tailpipe or electrical smells, stop the car and call for assistance. If there are none of those symptoms, take the car to a reputable shop and let them diagnose the problem. One thing to keep in mind if you just bought gas, the light might just be indicating that the gas cap is loose. Tighten the cap and continue driving. If the light goes off you should be OK but if it stays on then head to a shop.
- How to get an honest quote for an automotive repair
Check out our blog on finding a reputable shop. This is especially important for kids who may be off at college and away from home for the first time. When in doubt don’t be afraid to get a second opinion from multiple shops.
- What to do after an auto accident
Unfortunately many new drivers get in accidents, hopefully it’s not serious and everyone is safe. However knowing what to do in case of an accident is important. If the car is drivable and there are no serious injuries, turn on your flashers and pull safely out of traffic. Call the police to report the accident. Exchange insurance information with the other driver, but refrain from discussing the accident and who is at fault. Make notes and use your phone’s camera to take pictures of the cars involved.
- How to drive in rain and snow
This is key for young drivers, especially in places like Nebraska that can see dramatic and unpredictable weather. Make sure to reduce your speed to leave more room between your vehicle and those in front of you. Understand how to handle skids. If possible, practice reacting to skidding in safe conditions, such as a snow-covered empty parking lot. Understand that a car might hydroplane on a rain puddle on the road and learn how to react to driving with reduced traction and visibility.
We hope that all of Lincoln’s new drivers never have an accident or roadside emergency but being prepared will go a long way to ensuring that they are safe in case something happens.