Pop Quiz: You’re on the freeway and a tire blows out—could you handle changing it?
Being confident that you can perform basic car maintenance tasks like that can translate into huge amounts of saved time and money when surprises pop up. It can also help drivers foster a deeper connection with their ride—helping to assess when their car may be in need of more serious repairs. (And of course, Emergency Roadside Assistance Service if you get stuck.)
Master these and drive with ease: 5 vital tasks to learn when it comes to maintaining your car.
Change A Flat Tire – Rule #1: Always pull over to a safe location (if you can’t, call for help), set the parking brake, and loosen (but don’t remove) the lug nuts before jacking up the car (and consult your owner’s manual for the proper placement of the jack). Spare tires should be placed only on the rear. If you blow a front tire, move a rear tire forward (if front and rear tires are the same size on your vehicle) and put the spare on the back. Mount the spare with the air valve facing out and replace the lug nuts, tightening them gradually in an alternating pattern.
Jumpstart Your Car – First, turn OFF the engine on both your car and the one giving you the juice. Then, get your jumper cables and identify the battery terminals. (Check the owner’s manual.) Connect the positive (red) clamps to the positive terminals; throughout the whole process, don’t let the jumper leads come into contact. Attach one (black) negative clamp to the negative terminal of the working battery, and the other to an unpainted metal surface under the hood of the immobilized car, such as a bolt. Start the engine of the working car and wait five minutes for your battery to charge.
Check Tire Pressure – First, check the recommended PSI (look inside the driver’s side doorjamb or in your owner’s manual) and wait until your tires are cool before removing the caps from the air valves. Firmly apply the pressure gauge to the valve, ensuring a solid seal between gauge and valve. If the pressure is too low or too high, use an air compressor (available at many gas stations) to add air, or depress the pin in the valve to remove air—and never overfill your tires. Incorrect tire pressure can impact your car’s handling and gas mileage more than you might think.
Windshield Wiper Blade Replacement – It’s easy to overlook worn wipers—that is, until you’re caught in a rainstorm and they’re not clearing your line of sight. Wipers should be replaced every six months, especially after the beating they take in the winter; in the meantime, and listen for slapping, squeaking or chattering that can indicate disrepair.
Fluid Levels Check – Engine oil, transmission fluid, wiper fluid and radiator coolant are your vehicle’s lifeblood. Checking most of them requires some familiarity with your engine, so consult your owner’s manual for details on how to monitor them properly and how often to check. Always allow the engine to cool down before going under the hood.