Your teen has just passed driver’s ed and received their license, but is he or she really ready to hit the road? Teaching your new driver safe vehicle operation is crucial. But sometimes, safety overshadows other considerations, like the importance of routine vehicle service.
“Many people fail to realize that poorly maintained vehicles can be safety hazards, not just for teen drivers, but for others on the road as well,” said John Nielsen, director, AAA Approved Auto Repair Network. “And driving with worn out vehicle components not only increases the chance of a crash, it reduces fuel economy.”
Before you hand the keys over to your teen driver, make sure they are aware of at least two maintenance operations every driver should practice:
Tire pressure. Teen drivers should know that proper tire inflation is critical to safe vehicle operation. Underinflated tires degrade handling and may overheat and blow out.
The proper tire-inflation pressures for a vehicle can be found in the owner’s manual or on a tire information decal usually affixed to the driver’s door jamb. Teach teens to check pressures when the tires are cold, such as when the vehicle hasn’t been driven for at least three hours. Use a quality gauge, not one built into the air hose.
Engine oil level. Teaching your teens to maintain a proper oil level is the single most important thing you can do to help extend the life of the engine in their vehicle. If an uninformed teen allows the oil level to fall too low, the result can be overheating and low oil pressure that can lead to increased wear and even catastrophic engine failure.
They should check the oil level with the engine off and the vehicle parked on a level surface. If the engine has been run recently, allow it to sit a couple of minutes before checking the level. Locate the oil dipstick under the hood, remove it, wipe it clean and re-insert it all the way. Withdraw the dipstick and, holding it level, check the oil-level line on the stick. If it’s between the high and low marks, you’re good to go. If it’s below the lower mark, add oil to raise the level to within the safe range.