The more they know … teaching your teen vehicle basics

family-getting-car-keysSummer typically means your teen driver will be spending more time behind the wheel. Does the thought of this cause panic?

You can relieve some of your worries by giving your teen a lesson in vehicle basics. While this may elicit eye rolls from your teen, the confidence gained will likely make you deem it time well spent.

If you don’t know where to begin, here are some steps to get you started.

Many resources will likely tell you that starting with a review of the owner’s manual is the best place to begin a lesson in vehicle maintenance. While I agree this is very important, consider doing this as your final step. Here’s why – if you have a teen who is completely unfamiliar with how a vehicle runs, some of the manual will be like reading another language.

Would you read something that made no sense to you? That’s what I thought. Start with some hands-on, supervised learning and suddenly the manual becomes a much more usable tool and reference guide for things that happen down the road.

A good place to begin is by looking under the hood.woman-checking-oil-in-car

To an unknowing teen, it may look like a maze of metal, belts and hoses, but don’t let them be intimidated. After all, we’re not talking about rebuilding an engine – just getting familiar with things like where to put the windshield washer fluid and how to check and/or add the oil.

Other fluids are also important, but if the place that does your regular service also completes a fluid check it’s not likely teenagers will find themselves needing to fill the coolant.

Another item to get familiar with under the hood is the battery. Batteries generally last a long time, but they do go bad eventually. Make sure your teen knows where it is, can identify the positive and negative and has the ability to safely use jumper cables. These simple steps can get them out of a bind when they forget to turn off the lights. (They may even find themselves the hero to others who are less informed about such things.)

two-women-under-hood-carHow much does your teen know about the tires? If the vehicle has a spare, knowing where it is and how to change a flat is valuable information. Many late model vehicles are equipped with inflator kits and/or run-flat tires. If this is the case with yours, understanding how to properly inflate a flat can prevent your teen from waiting for roadside assistance or being stranded altogether.

Finally, there is the owner’s manual.

Reading the manual from cover-to-cover is probably not necessary, but hitting the highlights is a good idea. Sections that cover recommended vehicle maintenance and which warning lights mean what are definite reads, but less critical sections may include how to operate the radio and the detailed vehicle specifications. You may want to take a run-through of the information in the manual first and decide together which sections are most important.

Having a teen driver in the house may be cause for some added gray hairs, but knowing you’ve provided them with the knowledge and tools to keep things running smooth can provide some peace of mind.