To that end, our auto care experts have a few valuable tips that can help teens and first-time drivers keep this freedom by taking better care of their car. Originally published in 2014, and updated in 2019 to meet changing industry and manufacturer standards, our experts share some valuable maintenance pointers that every young and first-time driver should learn, as it can not only keep their car running, but will keep them much safer while out on the road.
Check & Replace Your Wiper Blades
When the rain or snow starts falling, you need to be able to see. You need wiper blades that are in good condition. Blades are simply made of rubber and will wear out over time and exposure to the elements. Old wiper blades will leave streaks that are difficult to see through and can even scratch your windshield. It’s a good idea to test your blades every month or so using a brief spritz of your washer fluid. Expect to have to replace your blades at least once a year, possibly twice, depending on how much you use them. You should also take the time to learn how to change your wiper blades. It’s a simple task you can do without any tools.
Change Your Oil Regularly
Every engine needs regular oil changes. The oil is responsible for keeping the different components of your engine moving cohesively with minimal friction. Over time, oil gets dirty and needs to be changed to keep your engine healthy. Consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual to find out how often your manufacturer suggests servicing your oil. Most modern cars suggest oil changes between every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, but some engines can go for 7,000 miles or more between changes.
Rotate Your Tires & Check Air Pressure
Your tires are perhaps the single most important factor in how your vehicle drives down the road. Your tires keep your vehicle connected to the road, allowing you to turn, accelerate, and brake safely. Worn-out tires risk blowing out, don’t handle as they normally would, and even present an increased risk in bad weather. It’s a good idea to rotate your tires every time you change your oil. Likewise, you should have your alignment checked professionally every year to ensure your steering is straight and your tires are rolling perfectly flat with the road below for maximum traction and functionality.
Check Your Battery’s Charge
A dead battery can leave you stranded anywhere, and to make matters worse they can sneak up on you without any signs or symptoms of wear and tear. While many batteries have warranties that last as long as five or six years, it’s not uncommon for batteries to only last around two or three years before needing replacement. When you change your oil, also check your battery’s voltage. If you notice voltage dropping significantly, the time may be coming to replace your battery.
Replace Worn-Down Brake Pads
Your brakes are responsible for keeping you safe by bringing your vehicle to a stop. Most vehicles use disc brakes–ceramic pads that press against a metal disc in order to stop your car. The ceramic pads will wear down over time, so they’ll need to be replaced. It’s a good idea to check the thickness of your brake pads every time you rotate your tires and always change them when they start to get too worn.
Replace Your Air Filter
Your air filter is responsible for removing debris from the air that’s pumped into your engine. As you rack up the miles on your car, your air filter will become inundated with this debris and need to be replaced. We strongly advise changing your air filter every 15,000 to 20,000 miles, but you may have to do so sooner if you drive through dusty areas or areas with poor air quality. You should, at the very least, check your air filter every time you change your oil.
Check Hoses & Belts
As a young or first-time driver, there’s a pretty strong chance your first car isn’t new. It’s probably far from it. Driving an older car means you must pay more attention to its maintenance. Air hoses, and timing and serpentine belts generally last up to 60,000 miles or more, but can and will usually become a concern after that.
Make sure you pay close attention to these parts and look for signs of wear and tear. A broken timing belt can destroy your entire engine and leave you without a car. Even a small leak in one of your hoses can have catastrophic consequences. It’s a good idea to give a simple visual check of these things every time you change your oil.
Replace Old Spark Plugs
Your spark plugs are small parts with a big job, and unfortunately, they wear out over time. They need to be replaced every 60,000-75,000 miles, depending on your car. When one or more spark plugs aren't functioning, your engine has to work harder, causing inconsistent performance. Have the spark plugs regularly inspected and replace any that are dying or completely burnt out. By doing so, your engine will run more smoothly and your vehicle will last longer.