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Car Care Essentials: Back to School Edition

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To the dismay of many teenagers and young adults, another year of school is approaching quickly. For some in high school, this may be the first year you’ve had a car and been able to drive to school. Most teenagers LOVE the privilege of having a car but HATE the idea of taking care of the car’s maintenance. Fear not! There are a couple easy things you can do to keep your car running smoothly while also keeping your parents off your back. Here are just a few SIMPLE things teenagers and college students can do throughout the school year to keep the car running smoothly:

Monday Morning Maintenance

Pledge to yourself that at the start of every school week you’ll take 5 minutes to walk a lap around your car and check for anything out of place. Check for obvious things such as broken tail lights and anything dragging from the undercarriage of the vehicle. One of the main things you’ll also want to check is tire pressure. While using a tire gauge is the most accurate and effective way to check your tire pressure, the eye alone can also see when tires are getting dangerously low on pressure. August is a GREAT time to keep this in mind because tires tend to lose pressure when the temperature sees drastic swings.

Oil change

Sometimes as a teen or young adult, it’s hard to find the value in something we can’t see. Getting your oil changed is a great example of this! It’s easy to think that because your car appears to be running fine that the oil doesn’t need changing. This isn’t the case! Check the sticker on your windshield and do your best to ensure that you are getting your oil changed every 3000 to 4000 miles. It will improve the longevity of your car on the road, and is a relatively inexpensive piece of maintenance.

Drive in silence

One of my favorite things about getting my very first car was that it meant I had full control over the radio. I could jam out to whatever I wanted! One tip that has been passed down to me, however, is to take 5 minutes a week to drive in silence. The reason for this is to listen to your car. Sometimes the problems are not visible to the eye and are best detected by the ear. One example of this is a high-pitched squeak when you apply brake pressure. This likely means that the brake pad is rubbing up against the rotor and needs to be replaced soon. Another example could be hearing a rumble and a roar from the rear of the car. This sound likely means that there is a crack in your exhaust system’s manifold and will need inspection as soon as possible. These are just a few benefits of SLOWING DOWN to take notice of some things that could save you from massive problems down the road. Another tip is that while you are driving in silence, it’s a great time to check your dashboard for service engine lights and to monitor the temperature gauge to ensure your car isn’t overheating.

Check fluids

The last tip, and perhaps the most tedious, involves checking your vehicle’s fluids. This isn’t as hard as it seems, I promise! First, you’ll want to locate the lever that pops the hood of your car. After propping open the hood, there are 5 fluid levels you will want to check. (a) A common one that is often overlooked is the windshield wiper fluid. This can be kept at a full level to make sure you have enough fluid to clean your windshield. (b) Coolant goes in the clear plastic container near the radiator! It’s important to keep this as an even mix of water and antifreeze. (c&d) Brake fluid and power steering fluid both have minimum and maximum lines on the containers. Monitor these to make sure they stay between the appropriate levels! (e) The last fluid to check is your oil level. Remove the dipstick from the slot marked “oil,” and clean it off with a dirty rag. Then reinsert the dipstick and remove it again to ensure a fresh reading. The dipstick will have sections labeled “add” and “full.” Ensure that your vehicle’s oil level is in between these two sections in order to properly care for your car.

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5 Tips to Pass your Vehicle Inspection

Currently in the U.S., there are nearly 20 states that require an annual vehicle inspection. Failing an auto inspection means more of your time and energy goes to waste. Here’s what the next steps look like if your car fails: make another appointment to correct the issue and this is followed by an additional appointment to pass your vehicle inspection. Not only is this tedious and time consuming, it may also cause you to miss your state’s inspection deadline. Hero has compiled 5 simple tips you can do as a vehicle owner to ensure a passing grade for your inspection. The following tips not only are easy fixes that can be done by anyone, but they will also help you avoid the headache of scheduling multiple inspection appointments for issues that could have been easily prevented:

1. Cosmetic check

Walk around your car to ensure there are no obvious areas of need that would prevent a passing grade. Verify that windows aren’t cracked and also make sure that your license plate is securely attached. An often overlooked area inside the car are the seatbelts. Make sure that the holsters are properly working and that each seatbelt is able to be securely fastened.

2. Exterior lights

Grab a family member or friend to help you out to make sure all of the car’s exterior lights are working. This includes your brake lights, headlights, taillights, and high beams. Also, remember to check the lights that illuminate your license plate because they are also required for passing inspection.

3. Internal dash lights

Your car cannot pass inspection with a service engine light on. While fixing this issue might not be something you personally can do, it’s important to know that your car will need to complete a “drive cycle” before the internal computer resets and will register a passing grade on your inspection. This drive cycle can be anywhere from 50-75 miles, so knowing this in advance can be a major time-saving help.

 4. Tires

Most states require tires to have at least 1/16 inch of tread to pass inspection. An easy way to check this is with the penny tire tread trick. According to Bridgestone Tires, a person can place a U.S. penny upside down in the groove of the tire tread and if you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace your tires. This trick takes no more than a minute and can really help you plan your inspection in advance.

5. Brakes

You don’t need to be a car expert to determine when your brakes need replacing. According to J.D. Power & Associates, one of the best ways to know when your brakes need to be replaced is by listening carefully to them while applying heavy brake pressure. While driving, turn off the radio and listen to see if you hear a high pitched screeching sound during the application of pressing your brakes. This sound is called a metal shim. Even the faint noise of a metal shim is an indicator that your brakes need to be replaced. Having your brakes replaced can take some serious time, so knowing to check for them in advance can assist you in scheduling a brake replacement appointment to guarantee you meet your inspection on time.

For all of the latest car tips and hacks, make sure to check out the rest of Hero's blog