Being Self Sufficient With Your Vehicle Maintenance
While working on my GTI today, I started to think of all the things I knew how to do to keep her running as perfectly as she can. As I started to list off the different tasks that I knew how to do, I thought about others my age and younger and their abilities to perform these tasks. It seems to me that working on your own vehicle in the driveway has almost completely vanished from most of our lives throughout the United States. What brought this on? Is it simply because the knowledge isn’t being shared? Is it because we have grown to be lazy as a culture? Perhaps it’s something else entirely.
The first thing I learned as a young driver was how to make sure a vehicle had enough fluids for it’s various tasks. Whether it was gas or oil, I learned quickly how to listen, look, and sometimes smell the needs of the vehicle. It’s not difficult to see that you need to stop by the pump for more Go-Juice, but it can be tricky for some folks to know when they need their oil changed. There are a few simple rules to live by when it comes to motor oil changes: No more than 5000 miles, check it every time you fill up especially if your vehicle has some age to it, and keep a quart in your vehicle to top off if need be. It’s not super difficult to pop the hood, look at a dipstick and see that you are either at level or need more oil. In either case, this should be something taught to young drivers before they hop out on the road.
The other quick and easy thing drivers should know is how to check your tire pressure. The proper pressure for your tires can be found on the inside of the driver door frame as well as through a simple, quick Google search. Just look for the size of your tires, brand, as well as the make and model of your vehicle and that should tell you everything you need to know. Some gas stations (my area it’s Sheetz) have air pumps that even give you a real time read out of how much air is in your tire as it is refilling them. Having a simple tire gauge that can be picked up from an auto parts store can ensure your tires are at the proper fill levels at all times. Remember, tire pressure changes as the air temperature outside does. Don’t let them get too empty or too full as this can cause a flat or blow out.
Just those three things alone are probably a foreign concept to a lot of people. What about filling your wiper and brake fluid reservoirs? Simple! Locate your vehicles manual (usually in the glove box) or Google your car’s make and model with “wiper fluid reservoir” or “brake fluid reservoir” attached to the end of search and thousands of results from sites to YouTube videos will be at your finger tips. Just remember that certain vehicles take certain types of fluids (especially coolants) so make sure you purchase and put in the correct types to avoid major issues such as over heating or loss of stopping power.
There are a few other things that all drivers should know how to do that I believe should be taught in all drivers education programs. Think about this: your new driver is out by themselves and they blow a tire. What do they do? Call a tow truck and pay $50+ to have someone swap it to a spare for them PLUS they’d have to pay for a new tire? Maybe you have AAA and can just have it done as part of your package deal, but what happens when they are way out of cellular service and stuck in the middle of nowhere? Changing a flat/blown tire is something that is simple, pretty self explanatory, and should be taught along side of how to check your own fluids, putting gas in the vehicle, etc.
Of course there are tons of other things that could be taught (like doing your own brakes) but some of those may be more in depth than some people really want to go with their vehicles. It isn’t about looking like a “redneck” or feeling like the job of maintaining a vehicle is beneath you, it’s about being able to do things for yourself in the event you have no one that can help. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and don’t let anyone tell you to not get your hands dirty. Doing my brakes and regular oil changes myself saves me around $350 a year in labor costs, that’s a few tanks of gas or an a couple awesome date nights that your are basically giving to someone else because you don’t want to do it or simply haven’t cared to learn.
I have placed a few links below on how to do basic maintenance that isn’t vehicle specific. For things like brakes and oil changes, I recommend YouTube or finding a vehicle specific installation or changing procedure.