Congratulations! You have your own car. Even if it’s not the “dream” car that you envisioned (first cars usually aren’t), you are an independent driver with a whole new set of responsibilities. You’ve got the driving thing down, that’s for sure, but before you head out in your new ride you need to make sure you’ve got some things covered. For instance, do you know what when if your car breaks down or what to do when that mysterious engine light goes on? Keep reading and you’ll be prepped in no time.
Car Maintenance 101
Whether you are still in high school or in college, you probably have already noticed how much you relied on your parent’s vehicle prior to getting your own (you should thank them…again). Your own vehicle is convenient to have because now you are only responsible for yourself. Running late for school or work? You have no one to blame but yourself. Another bonus is that you don’t have to wait around for your ride to show up, you are your ride. As you also know, a car that runs well is important and with scheduled, simple maintenance your vehicle should last a long time, until you save up for your next car.
Here are some routine things that should be done. If done right and with frequency, it will be less costly than if and when a bigger issue pops up:
- Check and Change the Oil: Oil is one of those vital fluids. Forget to keep it filled and you could wreck your car’s engine. Many car experts suggest checking oil about once a month, more if you commute a lot. There are a lot of helpful how-to videos online. Make an appointment to have your oil changed about every 3,000 miles or whatever your car’s manual suggests.
(Note: Your owner’s manual is IMPORTANT! Don’t throw it out. If you don’t have one, talk to a mechanic.
- Find a Trusted Mechanic: As soon as you own a vehicle, it’s a good idea to find a mechanic who is affordable, but also does a good job. Ask friends or family who they suggest. A smart and fair mechanic is priceless. Set up a maintenance schedule with him or her and stick to it.
- Check Air in Tires: The air in your tires fluctuates in the warm and cold months. An overinflated or under-inflated tire can be dangerous. Check with your manual on how much air should be in your tires and invest in a tire air gauge. Plan on checking your tires at least once a month. Properly filled tires will also keep your gas costs lower.
- Pay Attention to Sights, Smells, & Sounds: Once you spend a lot of time in your car, you’ll become familiar with how it should look, smell and sound. If you smell something odd, such as a burning smell, there could be something wrong under the hood. If you hear a clunk or a rattle, there could be an issue with your wheels or your exhaust. If you notice a puddle underneath your car (that isn’t rainwater), it could indicate a leak somewhere. Don’t try to self-diagnose your car’s issues, call your mechanic.
* As for the check engine light or other dashboard lights? Don’t ignore them. The longer you ignore a car problem, the worse it can become.
- Don’t Make Repairs Yourself: It’s a smart idea to get to know your car a little bit, but don’t try to make repairs yourself until you are completely sure of what you are doing. If your car breaks down on the side of the road, call roadside assistance.
As a car owner and as a safe driver, it’s your responsibility to keep your car in good working order.