There are plenty of thing you don’t learn in driver’s education. Even more things that the car salesmen won’t tell you about your new car. With all those things I’ve come up with 8 basic things every car owner should know how to do.
Fill Washer Fluid
There is nothing worse than driving on slushy roads and not being able to clean your windshield off. Even worse is when you realize that if you had spent less than 10 minutes to fill your washer fluid, you wouldn’t be in that boat.
The best way to find out how to fill your washer fluid is read your owner’s manual. If you’ve lost the manual or don’t have one ask your mechanic.
Change wiper blades
There is nothing worse than that first wet snow of the season. Unless that snow also includes you driving around with bad wiper blades. I’ll admit I’ve done it, turned my wipers on just to have bigger mess. All parts stores, Wal-Mart, truck stops, and a lot of departments stores sell wiper blades. Being able to buy wipes doesn’t help you much if you can’t change them. I’ve met mechanics who have a hard time with wiper blades.
Changing wiper blades really isn’t hard once you’ve done it a few times, but like everything you have to do it. Go to a parts store buy a set and have the guy behind the counter show you how. Most parts store guys are happy to help. Once you’ve figured it change your blades at least twice a year. If you travel a lot keep a spare set in your trunk. The money you save from having your mechanic change them is worth changing them a little more often.
Check Tire Pressure
All new cars have low tire warning lights. These lights are there for the lazy and the forgetful. Well, maybe not for the lazy, but they do help for those who are forgetful. With oil change intervals going upwards of 10,000 miles now days it’s likely your tire pressures will only be checked twice a year at a shop. This is not nearly often enough. You’ll have to learn to check your own tire pressures.
Tires can lose a few pounds of air pressure with temperature drop, if you live in a place like I do where one day it’s 70 degrees and the next it’s 30 you’re bound to have low tires. Buy yourself a good tire gauge and use it, at least when the temperature changes if not once a month. If you don’t know what your car’s tire pressure should be look at the driver’s door. Somewhere either on the door jamb or door there is a sticker that tells the suggested tire pressure for you car. Do not read the tire pressure on your tires. That is a maximum tire pressure your tires can handle. If you run maximum tire pressure in your tires not only will you vehicle ride rough it will wear your tires very quickly.
Check And Add Oil
There are plenty of manufactures that say using a quart of oil every oil change is acceptable, even on a brand new car. With that said your car will eventually use more oil as it gets old. You add acceptable oil consumption with oops I’m 1000 miles over on my oil change, and you can cause major engine damage from to low an oil level. Checking your own oil is simple.
Open the hood, find your oil dipstick, pull it out, wipe it off, put it back in, then pull it out and look at it. You should have oil on the dipstick between two marks. If the oil is between these two marks you are good. If you don’t have oil between the marks then you will have to add oil. I suggest you add the same oil into your car that is used when you have your oil changed however in the grand scheme as long as it’s the specified oil weight you’ll be ok not matter what brand it is.
The most important this is that your engine has oil in it. If you still have oil on the dipstick but it’s under the lower mark then you can add 1 quart of oil. If it’s not showing up on the dipstick it will most likely take 2 or more quarts of oil. Always check the oil level after every quart of oil you put in. If it’s really cold outside give it a few minutes from the time you added the oil till the time you check it again so that the oil gets all the way through you engine to the oil pan. With most things your owner’s manual will tell you how to check and add oil.
Check and Add Coolant
If you have an older car you eventually need to add coolant. This can be for many reasons most of them requiring you have your car looked by a mechanic. However, if you are low on coolant you shouldn’t drive your car and having it towed because you couldn’t figure out how to add coolant is costly.
Adding coolant is very simple. Always make sure when dealing with your engine coolant that your car is cool and has not been run for a few hours. Never remove the radiator cap on a hot cooling system. Most cars have a coolant recovery tank. You can find this by looking at your owner’s manual. If your recovery tank is lower than the add mark just top off the coolant with the proper coolant for your car. When your recovery tank is empty remove your radiator cap and fill the radiator first, then add to the recovery tank. When you only fill the recovery tank while your radiator is low, the coolant will not fill your radiator.
How to Jump Start
I’ve already covered How To Jump Start your car. I firmly believe anyone who drives should know how to jump-start their car. If you haven’t had a dead battery yet in your life feel lucky you will eventually and when you do you will be happy you know how.
Flat tires happen more than we ever want them to. Even with carrying a 12v air compressor (you do have one like I’ve suggested) you will eventually have to put on your spare tire. Your owner’s manual will tell you how to change a tire, there is usually pictures on your jack and tools in your trunk.
If nothing else remember, loosen your lug nuts before you lift your car. Then use your jack to get your tire high enough it’s no longer touching the ground. For your safety block your rear tire or set your parking brake or both, before lifting your car. Once you have the wheel of the ground finish taking off the lug nuts putting them in a very safe place so as not to lose them. Remove the tire, sometimes force is required but be careful so as not to push the car off the jack. Then put the spare or new tire on and reverse the order. Be sure to tighten the lug nuts up. There is a torque spec for lug nuts. Unless you carry a torque wrench. Just try to get your lugs nuts equally tight.
Your car’s engine in its simplest form is a giant air pump. It can’t work without air coming into it. Thus when your air filter gets dirty and clogged you are keeping your engine from breathing. Changing your air filter is so simple everyone should do it. Your owner’s manual will tell you where your air filter is. Most of the time you don’t even need it just look for a box that has a tub connected to you engines intake. Once you have found your air filter box it’s as simple as opening the box usually a few screws or latches remove filter and replace the filter putting all back the way you found it.
I know I’ve suggested all through this post you should check your owner’s manual. Most used cars don’t have an owners manual with them. If you don’t have an owners manual search YouTube.com for videos on how to do any of these things. I’m sure you find at least one video that’s helpful on how to do anything dealing with your car. You can also use Google, or just ask your mechanic a good mechanic will take a few minutes to show you how to do the simple things on your car.