Driving Instruction – Basic Car Maintenance

I know that driving instruction should focus on the act of driving but I also feel like drivers and car owners should know how to basically take care of their car.  When I was a kid this included actually learning how to work on the car (replace spark plugs, change the oil, replace belts, etc.).  But those days are gone, mostly due to the computerized nature of cars.  But there are still things that should be understood by every driver.

Some of these items should be done proactively and periodically as part of a maintenance routine while others are more for events of emergency.  Also, after walking through these items, give a quiz that involves actually doing the activity or at least pointing and explaining the steps.

  • Checking tire pressure and tire tread
    • For tire pressure, show the decal on the inside edge of the driver’s door or the opposing car panel that explains the ideal tire pressure when cold
  • Adding washer fluid
  • Checking the battery terminals for corrosion if the car gets harder and harder to start
  • Jump starting the battery
  • Checking the oil level and adding oil
  • What to do (and not to do) if the car overheats and the radiator is steaming (don’t open the cap)
  • Changing a tire
    • I strongly recommend having your teenager actually do this in the driveway (but not on a slope) while you verbally instruct
    • I also recommend marking the page in their owner’s manual where it explains proper jack placement.  There is almost always a picture of some sort to help explain this.  Have you teenager write some explanatory notes on this page in their own words for future use.

Beyond this, explain the importance of paying attention to new noises, vibrations or increased difficulty starting the car.  Obviously, these can be signs of something going wrong.  Saying something about it as soon as it starts can avoid much more costly repairs if the issue were allowed to continue.