Getting Your Car Ready for the School Year
Back-to-school season can be a very busy time for students and parents alike. One item you may want to put on the to-do list is car maintenance. Whether you’re driving the kids back and forth to school or your college student is taking a car to campus, follow these tips to help get your car ready to go back to school.
Check Under the Hood
Keeping up with basic maintenance may help prevent potentially costly repairs down the road. Before school starts, either you or a mechanic should pop the hood to ensure fluids are at the correct levels. Popular Mechanics recommends checking fluid levels for the:
Top off fluids that are low and, if necessary, have any leaks fixed.
While you’re under the hood, it’s also a good time to check your car’s battery. Make sure the connections are tight, and clean any corrosion off the terminals with a battery brush, says Consumer Reports. If the battery is more than two years old, you may also want to have it tested to see how much charge is left. You can often have this done at an auto parts store or have your mechanic test it.
Check the Tires
Tires that are not inflated properly can negatively affect the car’s handling as well as the gas mileage, according to Cars.com. Before you start carting kids to and from school and activities again, check the tire pressure and look for uneven tread wear, nails or other potential hazards. Use a tire gauge to check the pressure on each tire, including the spare tire. If needed, inflate the tires to the vehicle manufacturer’s suggested pressure. This information is typically listed on a sticker inside the driver’s door and inside the owner’s manual, says Cars.com. You may also want to have your tires rotated to help prevent uneven wear.
Check the Lights
Your vehicle’s lights help you to see the road ahead and alert other drivers to your next move. So, it’s a good idea to do a visual inspection of your car’s lighting system, says the Humble Mechanic — even on newer cars, because the monitoring system doesn’t always include every light on the vehicle.
You can often tell if a turn signal light is out, because the indicator on the dashboard will typically flash quicker than usual if a bulb needs to be replaced, says the Humble Mechanic. To complete a full inspection, have someone walk around the car while you turn on the various lights, including headlights, fog lights, turn signals and emergency hazard lights. Since some vehicles use the same bulbs for multiple functions, the Humble Mechanic recommends checking each function separately instead of turning on all the lights at once.
Have the other person check the brake lights while you press the brake pedal. Also, keep your foot on the brake pedal and shift into reverse so he can see if the reverse lights are working properly.
After completing the inspection, be sure to replace any bulbs that are not working properly. If a light still doesn’t work after a bulb is changed, the Humble Mechanic says it could be a fuse, wiring or computer issue. Check with your local auto parts store or mechanic if you need assistance.
Taking a little time for basic car maintenance may help minimize maintenance issues and get your student on the road to what will hopefully be a fantastic school year. If you have any concerns after your own inspection, talk to a qualified mechanic who can help with any necessary repairs.
Originally published on August 24, 2011.