7 Tips Every Teen Driver Needs to Know About Maintenance

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Sure, your teen driver will have to take Driver’s Ed before they get a driver’s license. Frankly, trying to teach your own children to drive is probably a bad idea—a professional instructor will be more patient and more thorough. And insured properly, to boot. Both you and your children don’t need the potential stress of learning to navigate traffic.
But there’s still plenty of wisdom to impart yourself or with family help. Foster the proper attitude for managing an expensive, complex piece of machinery by setting a good example. You know who you are. That means keeping your own personal vehicle washed, the interior clean and all normal maintenance items done on schedule. A proper respect for traffic laws, keeping the insurance and license plates up to date and generally being a responsible adult will go a long way in showing your teenager how to care for the second most expensive thing in his or her life (right after the mortgage on a house).
Here’s a short checklist of other things you should make part of your teen’s new-driver education:
The Importance of Regular Maintenance
Every vehicle has a detailed recommended maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual. Neglecting recommended maintenance will wind up costing more in repairs – and maybe in tow truck fees – over the life of the vehicle. No owner’s manual in the glovebox? The dealership service department should be happy to provide you with a photocopy of the appropriate page in the service manual, and that list is also searchable online.
How to Check the Following Items Regularly:

Again, instructions for these are covered in the owner’s manual.
How to Replace Windshield Wiper Blades
Before you get caught in a rainstorm and can’t see. It only takes a minute. Seriously, it takes longer to open the blister pack than it does to install the blades.
How to Change a Tire Safely
Can’t get the lug nuts loose? Go back to the shop that overtightened the wheels last, and make them tighten the lugs appropriately. Now might be a good time to practice proper tire rotation, as well. Practicing in the driveway with your teen driver, away from traffic and in good weather will make a future roadside change a snap.

Proper Procedure for Jumpstarting a Dead Car
Even if your car is reliable, it’s good to be able to start someone else’s car safely and quickly. If your kids think they’ll never inadvertently leave the stereo on, the door ajar or the dome light on overnight, they’re probably wrong. Keep a decent set of jumper cables in the trunk.
Driving a Manual Shift Car
As rare as manual transmissions are, being able to drive one is still a valuable skill. Consider what might happen if a teenager is forced to drive someone else’s car home from a party because the usual driver is under the influence.
Obeying the Law
Let’s hope you’ve made your kids already assume some of the financial responsibility for driving, because your insurance rates will go up—way up—when they get a license. Go through the driving-infraction point schedule for your state so your kid understands how easy it is to lose a license for driving irresponsibly.
Then go through your insurance company’s rate schedule. Surprise: that $100 fine for coasting through a stop sign may be only the tip of the iceberg. Surcharges and rate increases can turn that C-note civil fine into thousands of dollars of additional expense by the time the points roll over three years down the road.
And you might remind them that while the legal limit for driving under the influence is a blood alcohol is 0.08mg/L, that’s for adults. If a minor is stopped with even trace amounts of alcohol circulating in the bloodstream, the stand to lose their license for as long as five years. A good friend of mine who’s a county sheriff assures me he can detect marijuana smoke on someone’s clothing or inside a car interior for many hours. Getting caught with weed carries not only a DUI infraction, but the criminal charges for drug possession as well.
-Mike Allen
Mike is a guest writer for the Openbay blog. He’s an ASE-certified mechanic, longtime former editor of Popular Mechanics, and world-record-holding race-car driver. For more on Mike, check out his bio here, and find him on his own site, Saturday Mechanic.
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