5 Things Your Teen Should Know About The Basics of Exterior Auto Care -

5 Things Your Teen Should Know About The Basics of Exterior Auto Care

There is a special place in heaven for parents who teach their children how to drive. It is an exciting time, but can also be the ultimate test of patience. Helping teenagers learn the rules of the road is important, but in the haze of what can be a trying time don’t forget to also teach them how to take care of the car too. Your teen should know about the basics of exterior auto care.

It’s surprising how many teen drivers don’t know how to perform even basic maintenance on their cars. They are even clueless about what the symbols on their dashboards mean! Too many of us parents are so relieved they passed the driving test that we send our teens off in their car without preparing them for maintaining it.

Knowing how a car works is an important part of car ownership, or even just car use. In addition, this maintenance can help to lower repair costs later on. 

Teen drivers need to know the basics on auto maintenance.

5 Things Your Teen Should Know About The Basics of Exterior Auto Care

There are some basic things everyone who drives needs to know. Teens are no exception! This knowledge will help prepare teenagers for any circumstances that could arise with their vehicles.It can also save you and your teen  money and help them feel more responsible.

1. Rotate Your Tires 

Do you really need to rotate your tires? The simple answer: yes! Rotating your tires may seem like it’s just an extra cost,, but it is actually something that will save you money in the long run. Teens need to know the purpose of rotating a cars’ tires. It helps ensure the wear patterns on the tires are even. If the wear patterns are uneven, this can cause your car to dangerously pull to one side. Uneven tires may not give you the traction you need during bad weather. This might even cause you to purchase new tires more often. The direction you rotate the tires depends on the type of tires on your car. 

Rotating your tires is really important for safety and balance.

How often should this be done?

Tires should be rotated every 3,000 to 5,000 miles.

Can teens rotate their tires at home?

Much to the dismay of teenagers everywhere, the answer is yes. All anyone needs are a few tools, like a car jack or car ramp, to do most of this basic car maintenance. It is important to note that you and your teen are not certified experts. If the maintenance seems difficult, the easiest and safest thing to do, unless you have experience in this, is to take it to a certified mechanic to handle. (Like we did. Did you actually think we were going to get our hands dirty??!)

2. Check The Tire Pressure 

It is important to check the tire pressure on all four tires to help maintain your car. It’s one of the basics of exterior auto care that is easiest to maintain.

Having incorrect tire pressure can impact your fuel economy, create braking issues and even be the cause of a tire blow out. Most late model cars have an onboard computer that will alert the driver when tire pressure is low. The trick here is getting your teen to actually pay attention to those alerts!

Adding air to your tires is super easy!

Can teens do this at home? 

Yes, they can – and it’s simple to do. You just need a tire gauge. When checking the tire pressure, it is important that your tires are ‘cold’, meaning don’t check them right after you have driven the car. Remove the top of each tire valve, push the gauge onto the valve until you hear a “pssst” sound. Then, the gauge will measure the pressure of each tire.

The appropriate pressure per square inch (psi) for all tires is different for each type of vehicle you’re driving. Not sure what your psi should be? There should be a sticker inside the driver side door that tells you what the specific psi should be. If the gauge is above the recommended psi, let some air out. If the gauge reads below the appropriate psi, add air to your tire(s). Once you remove or add air, be sure to measure the tire pressure again to be sure it is right.

How often should this be done?

Tire pressure should be checked once a month.

3. Check Tire Tread 

Low tread on your tires can lead to some major issues. It can cause the loss of air pressure, increase steering issues and increase the likelihood for tire blowouts. Low tread could even be the cause of a driver losing control of their vehicle. This is one of the more important basics of exterior auto care for you to teach your teen.

Tread is what helps the tires stay in contact with the road. When the roads are wet, worn tire treads can equal less traction and possibly less control of the vehicle. This can lead to hydroplaning, where the tires lose contact with the road and slide out of control across sheets of water. Many people can attest to the dangerousness of this situation. It is not one you want your teen driver to experience if possible.

Girl tests depth of tire tread with penny inserted into groove
The ol’ penny-in-the-tire-tread test to see if it’s time to replace your tires.

Can teens do this at home?

This may be one of the easiest auto maintenance tasks for your teenagers. All you need to check the tire tread is a penny! Take the penny and insert it into the tread of the tire. Make sure Lincoln’s head is facing down and towards you. If you can see only part of his head when it is in the tread, your tire tread is good. If you can see his entire head when it’s in the tread, you may have a problem. Most likely this means your tread is completely worn and you need to replace that tire. This task should be performed on all four tires. Each tire’s tread could be completely different, based on where the tire is located and how often you rotated them. 

How often should this be done?

Tire tread should be checked once a month.

4. Change Your Windshield Wipers 

Having a dirty windshield can impair the driver’s vision and make driving hazardous. It is imperative to have a clear line of sight. There are many things that can cause a dirty windshield including pollen, pollution, sea salt, bird droppings and dirt. Having windshield wipers which are not cracked or worn helps keep your windshield clean.

Checking the windshield wipers is important to maintain good vision of the road.

Can teens do this at home? 

Yes, although the wipers on some cars are trickier to change. Check your car’s user manual for instructions and the size wipers you need.

How often should this be done?

Most manufacturers suggest that you change your windshield wipers every 6 months to a year, depending on use. However, if you live in an extremely hot climate your wipers can deteriorate and crack in the heat more quickly than in other climates. Teach your teen that the best practice is to check them when washing your car, just in case. If they leave streaks on the windshield, it’s time to change them.

5. Check Your Lights 

This is another enormously important thing to teach your teen about the basics of exterior auto care. A lot of people don’t think of checking their exterior lights until they find themselves on a dark road and they can’t see the turns in front of them. It’s super important to check the lights before you get in that situation!

Having a turn signal that doesn’t work or brake lights that don’t operate can cause an accident. This is dangerous for the person driving as well as other drivers on the road. All lights should be checked regularly including headlights, brake lights, hazard lights, turn signals and parking lights. (This is the cause of many teens being pulled over by the police for fix-it tickets, which we all know can be an unsettling experience at best.)

Changing the light bulbs on your headlamps can be tricky.

Can teens do this at home?

Yes, they just need to have someone to help them. Teens should start the car, keeping it in park and ensure that the parking brake has been activated for safety purposes. The person helping them should tell the teen to activate all the lights. They should turn on the headlights, step on the brake, test the turn signals, flash the high beams and any other light the car may have. The  helper then walks around the car to make sure they’re all working correctly.

Any lights not working should be replaced. Some lights are easier than others to replace at home – it may not be as easy as just changing a light bulb. Check your owner’s manual for detailed instructions including which bulbs to use.

How often should this be done?

A good timeline for this task is to include it in the once monthly car maintenance check. 

Bottom line: Teens CAN and SHOULD take care of the exterior of the car they are driving.

While some tasks are easier than others, instilling a feeling of knowledge and confidence in performing these basics of exterior auto care can have a huge affect on your children. Plus you are giving them tools to feel more safe and secure on the road.

Good luck!

Other Posts on Basics of Auto Care

Here are some other things you should consider when it comes to basic auto care:

Teaching Your Teen the Basics of Auto Maintenance

Dog Car Safety

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