When you first obtain your drivers licence, it can be both an exhilarating and unnerving feeling. Suddenly you're responsible for taking care of this machine! But proper car care is crucial to the sustainability and maintenance of your vehicle, so it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with how to look after it now so you can avoid car troubles later. By regularly changing your oil, ensuring your fluids are topped up, and knowing what to do in the event of an emergency, you can ensure you and your vehicle remain safe.
This simple guide will walk you through basic car care and what to do in the event of an emergency. If in doubt, remember, to consult the owner's manual.
Checking & Changing Your Oil
Your oil is a crucial part of your car's operation, so it's important to make sure it is kept clean and full.
- Make sure your car has been off for at least 20 minutes
- Open the hood of your car and pull the oil dipstick out. Wipe it with a clean, lint-free cloth
- Dip the dipstick back in and turn it
- Pull it back out and take note of whether it's full or needs oil added.
- To add oil, look for the oil cap and add the necessary amount
- Don't forget to screw the cap back on
If your oil feels dirty (rub a little between your fingers) it likely needs to be changed. You'll probably want to take it to a shop as changing the oil can be a complicated procedure.
Adding Windshield Washer Fluid
Your windshield directly impacts your visibility, so you'll want to keep it clean. To do this make sure you maintain your windshield washer levels.
- Make sure the vehicle is turned off
- Open the hood of the car
- Locate the windshield washer cap and unscrew it
- Carefully pour the windshield washer fluid to the reservoir (you may want to use a funnel for this) until it reaches the fill line
- Screw the cap back on and close the hood
Changing windshield wiper blades
Changing windshield wiper blades is something you're going to want to learn how to do. Not only do windshield wiper blades get worn down or cracked and need to be replaced, but also there are more optimal blades depending on the season.
- Measure the rubber part of the blade, as this is the part of the blade you will be replacing. It's quite possible you'll have two different sized blades
- Purchase replacement blades in the correct sizes
- Raise the windshield wiper away from the window
- Unlock the wiper blade by releasing the hook, or in some cases the pins
- Insert the new wiper blade by hooking it back in and snapping it into place
- Lay the wiper back down and repeat on the other side
Always be gentle with the blades to avoid damaging the arm and/or your windshield.
- Related Read: Winter Car Tune-Up Checklist
Flat Tire Safety
One common emergency you may have to deal with is a flat tire. Tires may deflate slowly or blowout suddenly resulting in a flat. The latter can be shocking, and instinct may tell you to pull over right away; however, there are some steps you must take first to ensure your safety.
- Even though you might be startled, don't slam on the brakes or suddenly jerk the wheel
- Ease off the pedal to slow down
- Quickly but safely guide your car to the shoulder
- If you're on the highway, get off at the nearest exit ramp and pull over once you've reached a road with less traffic and lower speeds
- Drive on the rim if you have to in order to get to a safe place
Once you've reached a safe location, that's when you can call for help or get out of your vehicle to change your flat tire if you know how. Make sure you put on your hazard lights.
Changing A Flat Tire
It's a good idea to learn how to change a flat tire. Here are basic guidelines for changing a flat tire and replacing it with a spare.
- Make sure you have pulled over to a safe, flat location (see guidelines above)
- Put on your hazard lights
- Secure the vehicle by setting your parking brake. You may also want to use bricks or blocks to prevent it from rolling.
- If you have a wheel cover or hub cap, use a screwdriver to pry it off
- Use a wrench to loosen the lug nuts. Use your weight to pull left (counter clockwise). Do not loosen them all the way
- Take out your jack and jack the vehicle up about 6 inches. To do this, secure the jack along the edge of the car in the proper location. Consult your owner's manual to find the correct spot as each vehicle is different.
- Finish unscrewing the lug nuts and remove the tire. Pull it towards you until it is completely off the bolts, then roll it out of the way
- Lift the spare tire onto the bolts. Keep in mind that it might be heavier than you're used to.
- Replace the lug nuts and tighten them, but not all of the way
- Use your jack to lower your vehicle to the ground
- Fully tighten the lug nuts as much as you can
- Replace the wheel cover/hubcap by whacking it into place with your hand
When you get home, consult your owner's manual to find out how much mileage you can get on your spare tire.
Now that we've outlined these basic tips, print this sheet out and keep it in your car for future reference. Monitoring your vehicle's fluids, changing or filling them when necessary, and ensuring you always pull over to a safe location before you get out of your vehicle or attempt to change a tire, ensures you're taking care of both your vehicle and yourself. By following these steps, you can help prevent breakdowns and collisions while keeping your car insurance rates low.