Even if you don’t happen to be one of those people who prefer to DIY their way through life, there are some basics every driver should know when it comes to vehicle maintenance. Let’s face it, even in a world filled with cell phones and roadside assistance, there may be a time when knowing how to change a flat tire or jump a battery could be the difference between making it to that meeting, wedding, or football game you didn’t want to miss. To help keep the wheels turning, we’ve rounded up 5 of the most important vehicle care basics that everyone should know before they get in the driver’s seat.
- Windshield wiper replacement – Nothing impairs visibility quite like sheets of rain in a torrential downpour. So, when your windshield wiper blades start to wear out, don’t wait to replace them. To replace your wiper blades – first make sure you have the correct ones for your vehicle. There is typically a small tab you must push to release the old blade. Line up the new blade flush to the arm of the wiper blade and push it in snugly. Give it a test and adjust if necessary.
- Jump starting a battery – A dead battery always seems to happen at the worst possible time. Battery cables are fairly inexpensive, so keep a pair in your trunk at all times so you don’t have to wait on roadside assistance to get moving again. To jump your car’s battery, make sure both vehicles are shut off. Attach one of the red clips of your battery cables to the positive (+) terminal of your car and the other red clip to the car that is giving you the jump, while attaching one black clip to the negative (-) terminal of the other car and the second black clip to a metal surface that is unpainted. Start the car that will be giving you a charge. Next, try to start your vehicle.
- Replacing a bulb in a headlight or taillight – Not replacing a headlight right away is not only a safety hazard, it’s a violation that could result in a ticket or fine. There’s no reason to wait until you have time to see your mechanic. Simply buy the correct replacement bulb, remove the headlight frame from the bracket by removing the screws, unplug the electrical connector and screw the new bulb in place. Reconnect the electrical connector, replace the screws and you’re good to go!
- Changing a flat tire – This may be one of the most common reasons for roadside assistance. A flat tire can really ruin your day. Monitor your tire pressure regularly to help prevent the damage that occurs from driving on improperly inflated tires. Also, make sure you always carry the right equipment – a spare, a jack and a lug wrench. In a nutshell, you start by using the jack to elevate the car on the corner the flat tire is on. Remove the lug nuts, making sure to keep them from rolling away and disappearing. Take off the flat, replacing it with the spare and reinstalling the lug nuts, loosely install the lug nuts back on the tire, and then proceed to tighten them down with the lug wrench as much as possible when the car is back on the ground. Lower the car with the jack and off you go!
- Monitoring fluids– This could save you money and headache in the long run. Not knowing your car is low on fluids can lead to major engine issues and costs. To check your oil level, make sure your car is completely cooled and unscrew the lid to the oil tank. Clean off the dipstick and insert it all the way in. Withdraw it and check the dipstick for the oil level. Follow the same procedure for the power steering fluid and transmission fluid. Warm the car up some before checking your transmission fluid level.
Being able to depend on yourself for some of the unexpected vehicle challenges that pop up doesn’t just feel good, it can help keep you and your family be safer on the roadways. If you’ve always been more than just a little interested in what happens under the hood, maybe a career in automotive technology is right for you! J-Tech Institute is helping train the next generation of automotive and diesel technology professionals in their 168,000 square foot facility in Jacksonville, Florida. Call J-Tech today to learn more about J-Tech or to schedule a tour of our facility.