Car Care Tips

Tips to keep your car on the road.

Maintenance January 7, 2016

Five Things Every Teen Driver Should Know About Their Vehicle

While driver’s education courses teach many teens important skills in vehicle control and the rules of the road, valuable information may not be addressed. Here is a list of five important points every new teen driver should know.

A Flat Tire; What to Do?!
Flat tires can sneak up on the best of us. Whether you’re late for school or on the way to Friday night’s football game, tires don’t discriminate. Taking the time to get familiarized with putting on a spare will give anyone the confidence they need to complete the task in an emergency situation.

Begin by locating the vehicle’s owner’s manual. The manual offers detailed instructions on how to change the wheel and where to locate the spare tire, the jack and other tools specific to the car. Most importantly, all drivers should pull off to a safe area; the side of any roadway is extremely dangerous, so be certain to be away from traffic and be visible at all times.

The Proper Way to Jump-Start a Battery
All cars should be stocked with jumper cables. Refer to the owner’s manual for the jump-start procedure. Jump-starting a vehicle requires a second car; instruct teen drivers to seek assistance from a friend or law enforcement officer, but never from a stranger. It is recommended to practice jump-starting a vehicle in the driveway.

Remember to attach the red cable clamps to the positive terminals of each vehicle’s battery, and the black clamp to the negative terminal on the donor car and, on the dead car, to an unpainted metal surface under the hood that is not a moving part. A bolt head usually works well. Start the donor car, turn off the lights and electrical accessories on the dead car, and turn the key. If nothing happens, check to see that the black cable is on a good ground on the dead car. If it’s still a no-go, maybe the starter is shot. Then call for a tow truck.

A good alternative to jumper cables is a portable jump starter, an enclosed battery with two cables. This is useful in situations where another vehicle isn’t present.

What to Do if a Vehicle Runs Out of Gas
Most teens should be able to locate the gas gauge on the dashboard and understand that “E” stands for empty. However, not all teens understand what it means when the low-fuel warning light illuminates. Take the time to show them what this symbol looks like; the owners manual should have a picture, and when it comes on, it means gas is needed.

Discuss with your young driver that if they fail to listen to or notice the light, and the car sputters to a stop, they should stay with the car. This applies to any situation that causes the car to stop running. Get the car safely off the road, turn on its flashers and open the hood, the international sign of driver distress.

Since most teen drivers have cell phones nowadays, they should call for help, or wait until a police officer shows up. Advise them to not accept assistance from strangers even if they come across as a good samaritan.

How to Check the Tires Air Pressure
Use a tire air pressure gauge to check the tire’s air pressure; gauges can be purchased for a few dollars at most auto parts stores.

Refer to the owner’s manual to learn the recommended PSI the tires should be inflated to; this information can also be found on a decal inside the driver’s side door. Start by placing the air pressure gauge onto the tire’s valve stem, the pencil-width air nozzle on the side of the tire. Place the gauge evenly onto the valve stem. This will allow air to escape, but once you firmly press the gauge down on the valve stem, it will stop the air flow and give the gauge a reading, either by blowing out the metered stick with a traditional gauge, or a reading with a digital model gauge. If any of the tires are underinflated, find the nearest auto service facility, whether it is a gas station or repair shop that has a source of air. Many of these pumps are quarter operated, so be sure to have some change available.

Choose the first tire to fill, get your air hose ready and deposit the coins into the air machine. Then, fit the air hose nozzle onto the tire stem. When you start to place the air hose onto the tire stem, it will hit a pin inside the stem and start leaking air. You know when you have the air hose nozzle on correctly when the air stops leaking.

It is important to have the gauge handy and to take the hose off somewhat frequently to check the pressure. Do not to over-inflate your tires; this can be avoided using small bursts of air between tire checks. Once you have the tires properly inflated, replace the stem caps by screwing them back on. Be careful not to over-screw them, as they will break on the top. Tire pressure should be checked weekly. Particularly with severe weather and temperature swings, tire pressure should be monitored and maintained regularly for safe and fuel-efficient driving.

How to Check Tires Tread
The good news is that it’s pretty simple to get a sense of tires’ remaining tread depth: all you need is a penny or a quarter. To measure the tire tread, place a penny in the groove between the treads with Lincoln’s head upside down. If part of Lincoln’s head is always covered by the tread, you have more than 2/32″ of tread depth remaining. Alternatively, place a quarter into several tread grooves across the tire with Washington’s head upside down. If part of Washington’s head is always covered by the tread, you have more than 4/32″ of tread depth remaining. If your tread is below 2/32-inch deep, they are deemed worn out and should be promptly replaced.

Proper tire inflation and tread depth work hand-in-hand. Bottom line: Check your tire pressure and tire tread depth to protect yourselves and others on the road.

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