Back-to-school time is a very busy time for students and parents alike. With all that needs to be done, one item that is usually not at the top of the lists is car care. Whether your children are attending high school or leaving for college, there’s no better time than now to get your student’s car ready with these Back-to-School Car Maintenance Tips.
Check the Tires
A vehicle’s tires play a big role in both safety and how well the car runs. Therefore you should check the tires for any problems on a regular basis – not just as part of these back-to-school car maintenance tips.
You will want to look for uneven tread wear, low tire pressure, nails, and other potential hazards. Make sure you have the tires rotated and aligned as needed according to your owner’s manual.
Checking Tread Depth
According to Goodyear Tires, one of the easiest ways to check a tire’s tread depth is to use the penny trick. Simply insert the penny into a tire’s tread groove with Abe Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If you cannot see the majority of his head, your tread is fine. However, if you can see all of his head, the tread depth is less than 2/32 inch and that means it’s time to replace the tires.
Checking Tire Pressure
When checking tire pressure, always go by the vehicle’s manufacturer’s suggested pressure. On most vehicles you can find this on a sticker that’s usually located inside the driver’s side door, center console or glove compartment lid, or in the owner’s manual. Be sure to check the pressure on each tire with a gauge when they’re cold (not driven).
Look for Any Nails, Tears or Other Hazards
Lastly, check each tire carefully for any nails or other punctures, and keep an eye out for bald spots or wire showing through. If you see any of this, you will need to replace the tire.
Also, make sure the spare tire is inflated and that there is a jack, lug wrench or some other way to replace a flat tire. And don’t forget to include a car emergency kit!
Inspect all Lights
Another part of my back-to-school car maintenance tips is to check all the lights on the car. Have someone get in the car and turn on the headlights (both low and high beam), turn signals and emergency flashers while you walk around the car to make sure they all work. Check the brake lights and the reverse lights, too. Replace any bulbs that are burned out.
Check Windshield Wipers
Check the windshield wipers and blades on both the front and back of the car for signs of wear and tear. On the wipers, if the rubber edge looks worn out or torn, or if it is pulling away from the metal, it is time to replace the blades. Make sure you also check the metal arms to see if any are bent or cracked, or damaged in any other way. If so, replace those as well.
Under the Hood
Open the hood of your vehicle and checking the following:
- all fluid levels- including oil, transmission fluid, coolant/antifreeze, brake fluid, windshield washer fluid, and power steering fluid. The car’s owner manual will illustrate where everything is located and tell the proper levels to maintain.
- battery – check both the battery and the connections. Make sure all connections are clean, tight and corrosion-free. Remove any corrosion you do see on the battery or the connections. Test the battery with a voltmeter and replace it if it shows signs of reduced performance – especially if it is more than three years old.
- hoses and belts – Look for any signs of looseness, fraying, tearing, or dry rotting. Replace as needed.
After checking under the hood, take a look under the car to check for leaks. If you notice a leak, its color could help you determine what it is and help you locate the source.
Find a Local Resource
Despite preventive maintenance efforts, mechanical and other issues can still occur. That’s why it’s a good idea to locate a trusted and certified mechanic, as well as a good tire store, near your child’s school campus. If you are not familiar with the area, try contacting the university as they can often offer suggestions. You own mechanic may be able to suggest someone as well.
After performing these back-to-school car maintenance tips, if you have any concerns find a qualified mechanic (like the ones at Classic Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram for those of you in Ohio) to perform more detailed maintenance and safety check. This will help get your student on the road to a great school year.