Five Things to Teach Your Teen About Car Maintenance

When you are teaching a teenager to drive, you’re naturally focused on some of the most important things about being behind the wheel. Like, maybe you’re constantly shouting, “The brake is on the left. The LEFT!”

But somewhere in the middle of showing your teenager how to drive and handing them the car keys to motor off to who knows where on their own (unless you have a tracking device on their phone), you really should show your teenager how to take care of a car – especially if they have their own wheels. You don’t want to someday pick up your kid, waiting for you on the side of the road, and learn that he’s never had the oil changed.

So, with that in mind, here a few things you might want to remind your teenager to do when taking care of a car.

Get the oil changed. We’ll start with the easiest and most obvious thing first. You know it’s important. Your teenager probably knows, too, but if you never discuss getting an oil change, your kid may not think about taking it in to a Milex Complete Auto Care to get it changed. And how often to bring it in? That really depends on the car (check the owner’s manual) and how much your teen drives. Of course, if your teenager has a car and brings it into Milex, we can get them on a regular maintenance schedule.

You would also be wise to show your teenager how to check his or her oil level – and suggest to them that they check it at least once a month, especially if it’s an older car. And point out that if they notice a leak, they should get their car checked out right away.

Talk about tune-ups. This is really important, too, and it’s easy to forget since it isn’t a regular maintenance activity in the way that an oil change is. We suggest getting a vehicle tune up every 30,000 miles or as required by the manufacturer (in other words, check the trusty owner’s manual). Also, of course, if you notice your gas mileage is way off, or the car isn’t starting very well, or the engine seems to be acting up, bring it in for a tune-up.

These are all obvious things a veteran driver knows, but a teenager may not. Especially if your son or daughter is driving his or her own car, and it’s a used clunker, maybe the car never started all that well, and if it’s getting worse, they may think that’s normal. In fact, if you do get your kid a used clunker, you’d be smart to get it a tune-up at Milex before he or she drives it. And, of course, if you’re looking to buy a used car for your kid, and you get a chance to bring the car over to Milex before you make a purchase, our mechanics would be glad to look it over and offer our opinion on whether you’re getting a car that seems reliable – or one that will be visiting our shop all the time.

Discuss brakes. Just as you want your teenager to be on alert if the motor sounds weird, or the engine doesn’t start very well, he or she should know the warning signs that the brakes aren’t doing well, like when the brake feels spongy. Or your teen may hear screeching of the brakes, think it’s not a big deal, get used to it and never mention it until the noise is too loud to ignore. You don’t want that. So talk to him or her and tell them that, no, it isn’t normal if you’re pressing down on the brake and the car starts vibrating. Seriously, while plenty of teenagers are whip smart and good drivers, they aren’t born knowing how cars work.

Show him or her the air filter and the battery. It’s a good idea for your teenager to look under the hood every once in awhile and point out the air filter, and how they need to be changed periodically. You also don’t want corrosion on the battery; if it’s caked in dirt, that can drain power from the battery and, of course, weaken the car. It’s a good idea, at any rate. As you likely recognize, people don’t work on their car engines like they used to, now that they’ve become so computerized and complicated. But there are still important components car owners need to be aware of. While you’re at it, you may also want to discuss windshield wipers, and how once they’re ripped or cracked, it’s definitely time to get new ones. It’s far safer driving in the rain, having dependable wipers than ones that barely do the job.

Have a plan for what your teen should do if he or she gets a flat. You could teach them to use a tire jack, or you can pay for a service like AAA they can call in case they run out of gas or have a blowout – you should talk about how to steer and pull off the road in a situation like that, too. Or you just emphasize that they should call you, and you’ll do the rest. There’s a lot to remember when it comes to car maintenance but having a strategy for prevent car problems (and what to do if there something does go wrong) may help reduce some of their panic – and yours.

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