teen driver

Teenagers are so excited when they first get their driver’s license. But it’s normal for parents to be worried. The best way to prevent a problem on the road is to make sure that your son or daughter knows how to maintain their car. Keeping it in good running order and knowing how to handle the most common car troubles will help ensure your teen is safe while driving.

Prepare your teen for a lifetime of safe driving, starting with a detailed understanding of how their car works and how it should be maintained. Before your teen takes the wheel, help him/her get familiar with the vehicle. Take the time to pop the hood and locate the engine, fluid reservoirs, radiator and belts. Show them the battery and how to properly attach jumper cables.

Each car model is different, so it’s important that they know where to find things in their own car. Give them hands-on experience whenever possible – changing a tire, topping off the windshield fluid and scheduling maintenance appointments.

Here are some main points to cover when teaching your teen about proper car maintenance.

Check the Car’s Fluids

To keep their car running well, it’s important to have the oil changed regularly. With advances in the quality of synthetic engine oil over the past few decades, experts now recommend changing the oil every 5,000 to 10,000 miles. Point out the oil change sticker which will help them remember when it’s time to schedule the next one.

Teach your teen how to check the engine oil to make sure that it’s full and free of particles. The dipstick should be marked with oil above the minimum level line and it should be dark, but not milky.

They should also know how to look at the transmission fluid and brake fluid levels and condition. The fluid should be clear and have a smooth texture. Low transmission fluid often causes a delay when the automatic transmission needs to shift gears. Low brake fluid, on the other hand, can lead to a dangerous inefficiency in the car’s braking power.

Even if you aren’t able to give your teen driver lessons on how to change the engine, transmission and brake fluid, it’s always good to know the signs of trouble. If the fluids are low, burnt or full of particles, your local mechanic can easily intervene before it develops into a bigger car problem.

Take Care of the Tires

When you take the car in to have the oil changed or a tuneup, the mechanic will check the tire pressure. But it’s always handy to be able to spot a low tire. Show them how to compare a normal tire with one that needs to be inflated. It can be helpful to learn how to use a tire gauge properly – when the car has been parked for at least three hours – and inflate the tires as needed.

Then, go through the process of changing a flat tire. Have your child find the spare, use the jack and loosen the lug nuts. By showing them and having them try it out for themselves, they are more likely to remember how to change a tire safely if it’s ever necessary.

Test the Brakes & Pads

Have your teen test the brakes and take note of how responsive they feel. A delay in brake responsiveness or unpleasant grinding noise will indicate the need to have the vehicle looked at by a professional. Show your child where the brake pads are located. On most car models, they can be seen through the wheel. If the pads are less than ¼ inch thick, they are probably ready to be replaced.

Plus, ask your mechanic to test the brakes and pads if the car has been in an accident or whenever it’s taken in for an oil change.

Prevent Major Car Troubles

Many vehicle problems can be nipped in the bud. Addressing problems in time will help reduce the risk of an accident or more expensive repair. If your teen driver knows what signs to look out for, he or she will be able to take the car in for a tuneup before it’s too late.

Go over the following warning signs with your child:

  • “Check Engine” light and other dash indicators,
  • Grinding brake sounds,
  • The smell of smoke or burning oil,
  • Delayed braking,
  • Difficulty turning the steering wheel,
  • The feeling that the car is being pulled to one side,
  • Leaking or puddles left under the parked car.

Regular maintenance is imperative to preventing bigger car problems. Help keep your teen driver safe by teaching them to check for the following signs of wear and tear on vehicle components:

  • Shallow tire treads,
  • Uneven tire wear,
  • Squeaking or streaking windshield wipers,
  • Dim or broken headlights, tail lights, brake lights and reverse lights,
  • Worn engine belts.

Be Prepared

The best way to help your teen who is taking to the road is to prepare him or her for the unexpected. Provide them with an emergency kit, including a tire pressure gauge, flashlight and set of jumper cables. Give your teen a list of phone numbers for roadside assistance, trusted mechanic, tow service and oil change center. Make sure you also talk to your teen driver about what to do after they are involved in a car accident.

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