There isn't a person on earth who fantasizes about the maintenance requirements of owning a car, and that goes tenfold for teenagers. They're in it for the status and speed, not the extra responsibilities. But they're in for a rude awakening the first time a dash light pops on.
Finding and imparting the best car care tips for teens can be daunting, but when you arm them with the right education and an extended vehicle warranty, you can rest a little easier when your baby hits the road for the first time.
An Idle Car Is the Devil's Workshop
Many decades ago, a car needed to idle a little bit to get the engine hot. Modern engines don't need that time and are actually damaged by idling. Similarly, modern engines and batteries are much more efficient turning on and off, rendering gas waste and wear and tear negligible. A good rule of thumb is to turn off your engine if you are going to be idling longer than 10 seconds.
Be Kind to Your Battery
Few things are worse than running late for school only to find your car won't start because the battery died. If you don't have a foolproof car that turns off the lights with the engine, make a habit of performing a quick exit check to see if the cabin and headlights are all off. If your battery is getting on in years, check for corrosion buildup around the terminals. If you think it's time to replace, do so before the extreme temperatures of summer and winter, when a battery is most likely to fail.
Let There Be Symmetrical Lights
Most people think car lights are flashlights to help the driver see, but they're really more akin to lighthouses — that is, they're meant to help everyone else see you. Having a headlight or brake light out poses a very real danger at night or in bad weather, so be sure to routinely check that all of them are working. Luckily, replacing burned out bulbs is both cheap and easy.
Don't Burnout — No, Seriously
First and foremost, burnouts are illegal, and depending on where you are, it could mean heavy fines or losing your car.
There's no telling how fresh the treads on your used car were when you bought it, and your first burnout may be the tires' last! But even worse is the damage you're doing under the hood. The technique will wear out your brakes, and the damage done to your transmission or drivetrain could put your car out of commission for good.
Braking Is Hard to Do
Avoid fast starts and stops as well. The idea of learning how to brake may sound rudimentary, but there is a proper method to regular braking and engaging your anti-lock brakes. Proper braking and safe driving will save you a lot of damage on your brake pads and tires.
Speaking of Tires ...
Did you know one of the best and easiest ways to increase fuel efficiency is by keeping your cars' tires properly filled? Check the pressure every month and scan each tire to make sure the tread hasn't worn out and no nails or other objects are lodged or puncturing the rubber.
Air Filters FTW
You can also add 2–3 mpg to your fuel efficiency with a semi-annual air filter change. They are super cheap, and your local auto parts store will probably install it for free.
Get Your Hands Dirty
Working on your own car can make you really take ownership of it, and probably the easiest job is the oil change. Oil can be bought in bulk at any auto parts retailer and filters will run about another $10.
And that old rule of thumb to change every 3 months or 3,000 miles? That's old hat. Modern oil can go nearly double that — up to a year and 5,000 miles — but always consult your manual before putting anything in your car.
All Blades Get Dull
Generally speaking, blades will need to be changed every 6 to 12 months, depending on how poor your visibility is when they are in use. But not all wipers can be replaced with universal blades found at the auto parts store. Check your manual for specs before you buy — they'll run you roughly $15 each.
Like most fluids that are the owner's responsibility, radiator coolant is easy to check and replace. But like oil, it is not something to test the limits of. Overheating is at best a major inconvenience that leaves you killing a few hours in the breakdown lane, and at worst puts you and other drivers directly in harm's way.
Get an Extended Vehicle Warranty for Peace of Mind
There are a lot of concerns parents have when buying a car for their child, and rightfully so. But you aren't helpless to protect them. No matter if you got your teen a brand new car or a junker off craigslist, there is an extended warranty from Protect My Car that will protect both your investment and your most precious people.
With patience, discipline, and added protection, you can sit a little easier when your teen takes their car out for a spin.