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What Every Driver Should Know About Car Ownership

“All I need to know about my car is the number to roadside assistance.” This is what you’ll hear many car owners say today.

And while it’s true that you can usually call roadside assistance when you have a problem, life isn’t always that predictable or simple.

What if you forgot your cell phone that day? Your phone battery died? Or you’re in a dead zone where you don’t have a signal? Or perhaps you’re stuck in terrible weather (subzero windchills, a snowstorm, a deluge), and you have a 2+ hour wait for help.

In the worst-case scenarios, you might experience a situation like this one, and your lack of car knowledge could make you the next victim of a scam:

True Story: An 18-year-old new driver got out of work very late and her car wouldn’t start. Worse than not starting, it had no power at all. No lights, no radio, nothing. She knew zero about car maintenance but called a tow truck to take the car home. The tow truck driver looked under the hood for a minute and told the young woman she had blown the engine. Just so happens that he had a “friend” who could replace it quickly for $800.

If this young lady would have had the $800, she later admitted that she probably would have said yes. She didn’t, however, so she had it towed to her home. In the morning, she called her older brother. He looked at the car, got a screwdriver, tightened a loose battery cable end and the car was fine.

We don’t say this to scare you, but to illustrate a point. Knowing at least a few basics about your car can keep you from becoming the victim of unscrupulous people, as well as saving you time and headaches.

Armed with these facts and a couple of new skills, you can have more confidence when you hit the road.

Tire Basics

You should know how to change a tire if you need to. Yes, tires are disgustingly dirty. Keep gloves in the trunk to help you stay a bit cleaner. You can also keep a can of fix-a-flat in the trunk. Having it and knowing how to use it is helpful and a great cheat. This works especially well if you don’t think you can physically change a tire or don’t want to mess with it.

It’s also a good idea to know how to use a tire pressure gauge. Don’t count on the gas station ones being accurate. The correct tire pressure for your vehicle is on a tag on the driver’s door or pillar or sometimes in the glove box. It’s also a very good habit to inspect your tires for uneven or general wear every time you get an oil change. You can look at them yourself or ask the technician to take a look. (At Auto Lab, we do this for you.) This is helpful because you can spot problems before they get more serious. You might even prevent accidents because of worn-out tires.

How to Check and Add Oil

You just don’t know when you’ll need to make sure your engine has enough oil. And while someone at a full-service gas station could likely check the oil level for you, don’t count on being able to find a full-service stop when you need one. It’s very easy to learn how to check the oil level, and good peace of mind in an emergency. Find out the proper type of oil your car should use and learn how to check it yourself. Extra points and kudos to you if you learn how to check your own brake fluid, power steering fluid, and coolant.

Know What the Dash Lights Mean

There is a very funny meme on social media you might have seen where a woman is texting her husband asking what it means when the man sitting on the toilet light is on. The light is actually an outside temperature reading that says -4. Funny, but unfortunately, too many tow trucks deliver cars with notes from the owner saying something along the lines of, “I don’t know what’s wrong, but there’s been a funny light on the dash for a few weeks.”  Your owner’s manual will explain what all the dash lights mean. If you still have questions, you can always ask the professionals at Auto Lab.

How to Drive in Bad Weather

You would think we would all be pros at this, but there so many accidents after the first snowfall or rain. Your car takes longer to stop and can easily slide on ice or slippery roads, so slow down and leave more room. Remember, only you can prevent those 50-car pileups. Be smart when it comes to car ownership and safe driving.

How to Jump Start a Battery

Nothing is more agonizing than waiting for hours for roadside assistance in the freezing cold with a dead battery. With jumper cables, you could be on your way in minutes if someone else will let you use their car battery. Have someone show you how to connect the cables correctly. Then, practice it yourself a few times. Write a few notes and stick them in the bag with the cables if you think you might forget anything.

Those who can master the items listed above, congrats to you! You are a shining example of independence and knowledge. It’s empowering to know that you don’t have to rely on others when it comes to car ownership and maintenance. You can handle it yourself!

Remember that, at Auto Lab, we are here to help. If you have any questions about your car, such as what oil to use or what type of tire you need, you can trust us to supply you with helpful answers. We care about our customers and want you to enjoy many years of safe driving.

Posted in Auto Repair.