One of the toughest lessons that I had to learn after moving out was how to take care of my car. After years of having my parents keep up with the maintenance, learning to take care of it myself was a big task. A few flat tires and an overheated engine later-- I’d like to think I’ve come a long way. Here are some of the basics I’ve learned for keeping up with your car in college!
Change your oil - Most places will give you a windshield sticker to remind you when to come in next, but if not, the standard rule is to have your oil changed every 3,000 miles or 3 months. Older cars might require an oil change more frequently. While there, have them check your other fluids as well. Forgetting to do either can cause your engine to overheat or start breaking down. If you’re planning a road trip home or long trip, check your
Keep a spare - Locking yourself out of your car while running late to work is not something you want to experience. Keep a spare key to your car in your apartment or with a friend so there will always be a way to get in!
Check headlights and brake lights - While most oil companies will check these type of thins for you, it won’t hurt to periodically check your headlights and brake lights yourself. Having either one out can get you pulled over and a ticket!
Keep an Emergency Kit - Even if you’re driving a newer car, you never know when something could go wrong! Keep an emergency kit in your car with jumper cables, an ice scraper, blankets, water, a first aid kit, and different car fluids. Learn how to use the jumper cables before your actual emergency! Placing the cable on the wrong ends can damage your car and be dangerous!
Check your tires - While they can be expensive, keeping good tires on your car is important for helping your car run the way it should. Inspect your tires often for signs of wear and tear and holes and get them rotated whenever you change your oil. Keep a tire gage in your glove box so you’ll know how much air you need if you every need to top them off. To find the proper air pressure, look in your owner’s manual or on the sticker on the driver’s side door. Keeping a spare tire in your trunk can also be a good idea! Driving on a flat tire for even just a few miles can damage your car. Learning how to change a tire is also important! While your parents might still be on speed dial, they may not live close enough to come help you if you have a flat!
Change your windshield wipers - Having bad wipers on your car can do more harm than good. Changing your wipers every 6-12 months is a good idea to help keep them working properly. Wipers are easy to change out and pretty cheap at most auto parts stores. If you don’t mind paying more, most auto care places will offer to change them for you.
Don’t ignore problems- During sophomore year, I drove around with an emergency light on for three weeks before finally realizing it meant “Emergency Brake Failure” and was a warning that my brakes were going out. If your car starts making weird noises, shaking, or doing something that it doesn’t normally do, take it to the shop. Some car issues could get worse if you just ignore them.
Invest in Roadside Assistance - Investing in AAA or other roadside assistance programs is a great idea for students who don’t have family in the area! Some places even offer discounts for students!