A car is one of the things you will use most frequently in your life. It is not only about driving – they require maintenance. Drivers need to learn how to take care of a motor vehicle to make sure it is safe, in good condition, and running properly for the longest time possible. A car not taken care of can cause consequences nobody likes, including a lot of money to spend on repairs.
Ensure you and the car are insured with at least liability insurance so if you crash into another car, or something, or someone, that the repairs, and or medical bills will be covered by your insurance. Keep a copy of the current insurance summary in the car in a safe place so it is easy to find but won’t get tossed out when you clean up, vacuum, and de-trash your car.
Keep in mind that if you crash into the nice car that belongs to someone else it could cost over $50,000 to fix or replace the car. Make sure you have enough coverage.
Ensure you have a copy of the current vehicle registration papers in the car.
Ensure you have the current safety and emissions inspection documents.
You may want to keep the maintenance receipts in the car as well. Some people keep these in another location but this is a problem when you are at the shop or home for the weekend. You may wish you had them in the car if someone asks when you last rotated the tires, changed the oil or transmission fluid, or flushed the radiator. Keep these receipts in the car.
Learn how to check the pressure in all of the tires and keep a tire pressure gauge in the car so you can check it at least monthly. Under inflated tires cause many accidents. An under inflated tire can be torn off the rim when cornering hard causing a serious crash.
Remember that the oil in the engine needs to be changed regularly. Check the owner’s manual for guidance. It is recommended to change the oil every 3,000 miles (4,800 km).
Air filters should also be replaced periodically. Dirty oil and dirty air filters will allow dirt into the engine and scar the inside of the engine making wear out much faster and cause early and very expensive engine failure.
Rotate your tires every time you change the oil. This means having the wheels taken off and put back on in different locations such as moving the front tires to the back and vice versa. This helps the tires wear more evenly and last sometimes twice as long.
Check the pressure in the spare tire every month along with all of the other tires. Seasonal temperature swings can change the pressure in tires even if there is no leak.
Your brakes should be visually inspected at least once every year. Brake shoes eventually wear out just like the soles of your walking shoes. When they wear all the way through it can cause damage to the brake rotor that can be expensive to fix. Even though they stop the car effectively the shoes could be very thin and start damaging the brakes any time so check them visually when rotating your tires.
Learn how to check the vital fluids in your own car for your own safety. These are easy to check on most cars by opening the engine compartment:
Windshield wiper fluid.
If they are low they should be topped off. If they keep getting low you might have a leak. Check your parking spot for drips.
Learn to change a flat tire. Learn how to use the jack and lug wrench that is in your car and practice jacking up your car and changing a tire in your driveway so you will know what to do if you get a flat.
In case of emergency keep a few items in a duffel bag in your car. Think about what you might need or want if your car broke down or got smashed and you had to stand outside for 3 hours waiting for help. What if you had to walk home in the heat or in a storm? Suggested items include:
2 liters (0.5 US gal) of drinking water
First Aid kit
6 X 8 foot tarp
50 feet (15.2 m) of thin rope (parachute cord is ideal)
$30 cash in ones and fives.
If you live in a cold climate you may want to add an extra bag in the winter months that contains:
An extra warm winter coat
Warm winter gloves
Extra pants or thermals
Extra socks (wool)
These items could be used items from a garage sale or thrift store.
Learn how to wash your car. Never wipe off a dry car, it will scratch the paint.
If you live in a wet or snowy climate you may find it helpful to throw an old towel on the floor of your car to soak up slush and mud from your shoes. Just throw it into the washer once in a while. Be careful to keep it away from the brake, clutch and gas pedals.
Obtain a small booklet of sheet protectors to keep a few very important documents safe in your car. Label the outside with the make and model of your car so if it finds its way into the house it is obvious that it needs to be put back into the car. In this booklet of sheet protectors insert the following documents:
READ ALSO: THE IMPORTANCE OF TIRE PRESSURE IN CARS
Registration papers (Write the expiration date in your planner)
Safety and Emissions inspection papers
Receipts from repairs and maintenance
Keep this thin book tucked between the passenger seat and the center console for easy access.