Your car is an incredible machine with lots of moving parts and elaborate systems. Being able to tell when something is wrong may help your car last longer. Knowing how to fix small issues that crop up, and knowing when to see a professional, is an important skill as a car owner.
Use this list of basic skills for car owners to improve your existing skills and get up to speed on skills you may need in the future.
Routine Maintenance Skills and Repairs
Routine maintenance is one of the most important skills for a driver. Maintenance like regular oil changes and rotating your tires is essential for keeping your car in good repair. Regular maintenance, however, also gives you a chance to inspect your vehicle for anything abnormal. If you do find something out of place, you can either fix it yourself or take your vehicle to a mechanic.
Top Off Fluids Regularly
Your car probably needs fluids to run smoothly. Things like motor oil and coolant are important to the health of your engine. Neglecting fluids often leads to expensive repairs, so it’s usually a good idea to keep them full before you run into issues.
Check your owner’s manual for a guide to the fluids used by your car. Your owner’s manual should also show you where you can fill each type of fluid. If you’re unsure where fluids go or what they’re for, ask your mechanic to teach you. Most reputable mechanic shops are willing to show you how to fill basic fluids.
Keep Tires in Good Repair
Fluids help your car run smoothly, but bad tires could keep your car from running at all. Without tires, your car won’t be getting very far. Regularly checking tire pressure and tread wear could help you avoid blowouts when driving. Make sure you know what psi your tires require and check them about once a month. You should know how to refill a tire if it’s low, both using a manual hand or foot pump as well as an electric pump. If one tire consistently needs to be refilled, you may have a leak that requires patching. In the state of California, gas stations must provide free air for pumping tires.
Similar to tire pressure, the tread of your tires should be checked often. Check the overall tread for even wear. Tires that wear unevenly, such as the outside tread wearing more quickly than inside tread, may indicate problems. Uneven wear is often a sign of a car that’s out of alignment.
Even with proper maintenance, tires sometimes catch road hazards such as nails and you’re left with a rapidly deflating tire. This makes knowing how to safely change your tire along a roadway a useful skill. Consider asking a knowledgeable friend or family member to teach you how to change the tires on your vehicle. Practice changing your tires before you experience a blowout so you know what to do if you experience a flat.
Check the Lighting
Checking the lights on your vehicle is often a good idea before you hit the road. Take a walk around your car to check all of the exterior lights are working. Have a friend help you check the brake lights so you know they’re working and can alert other drivers when you brake.
Check your owner’s manual first if you find yourself with a burnt-out light. Many vehicle lights can be replaced at home. Most hardware or auto parts stores carry a range of bulbs to fit your car. Follow the instructions in your owner’s manual to change the bulb. Some cars might require basic tools like a screwdriver or wrench, while others may not need tools at all. If you find it difficult to get to the lights on your vehicle to replace a blown bulb, consider taking it to an auto shop. Certain vehicles require you to maneuver around or move important engine parts to reach the bulbs and it may be easier to have a professional take care of it. Be sure to wear gloves or wait enough time after the bulb has been turned off before switching it out. The heat from the bulb could be too hot to touch and could burn your hand.
Give it a Good Cleaning
Cleaning your car may seem like an extra step to make your vehicle look better, but it’s usually also a good idea for the health of your car. A thorough car wash by hand allows you to inspect the exterior of your vehicle. Check for dents, scratches and rust spots as you’re washing.
A car wash and inspection also give you a chance to check the wiper blades, inspect tires and top off your fluids. You may want to make sure all of the electronic features work as well. A window that won’t roll down or moves slowly could prevent you from escaping in an accident.
Warning Signs it’s Time to See a Mechanic
Being able to provide basic maintenance and small repairs to your vehicle is a good skill to have. It’s unlikely, however, that you’ll be able to make every repair your car might need. Find a good mechanic who is reliable and knowledgeable while your car is running well. When you encounter a problem you can’t fix, you’ll already have a trusted shop for professional repairs.
Knowing when to take your vehicle to the repair shop usually involves understanding how it sounds, looks and feels when it’s running correctly. Be aware of what your car sounds like when it drives normally. If you encounter sudden squealing, knocking or other unusual noises, you may want to see your mechanic. Likewise, make sure you know how your car normally looks and feels when you drive.
If you’re concerned about something, talk to your mechanic about your concerns.
Roadside Assistance from Wawanesa
Roadside assistance is an optional coverage that helps keep you on the road when things go wrong. Wawanesa offers a roadside assistance program as an add-on to certain auto insurance policies as long as the vehicle is under 15 years old. With roadside assistance, you can enjoy peace of mind thanks to services including:
- Emergency towing for roadside breakdowns.
- Tire change service if your car gets a flat.
- A jump start for dead batteries.
- Fuel delivery when you’re out of gas.
- Winching service for stuck vehicles.
- Locksmith or lockout services if you accidentally lock the keys in the car.
All of the roadside services are available 24/7, 365 days a year. Even if you’re skilled at car repairs, roadside assistance could bring important peace of mind. Ask your agent how roadside assistance could help prepare you for the unexpected with quick, reliable service when you need it most.