What Your Teen Needs to Know BEFORE They Get Behind the Wheel
By Jack Bulko
Your teenage son or daughter just passed their driver’s test. Now you can send them off into the world. They can drive themselves to school, to work, to a friend’s home—all without having to bother you for a ride. But then you wonder, will they know what to do if a dashboard (dummy) light comes? Are they even aware that there is a manual in the glove compartment that explains everything? And if they are, will they crack it open? What are the essential they need to know before getting behind the wheel?
As a father and a grandfather, I understand your concerns, but the best way to avoid this situation is to educate your teen about the vehicle they will be driving. Their driver’s license may permit them to get behind the wheel, but it doesn’t provide an understanding of how the vehicle functions or how to maintain it. Take time to teach them about the basics, especially if they will be living in another county or state. If you feel as if you’re not quite as up to date with your car knowledge as you should be, David or I would be happy to explain it.
A few years ago, a client took me up on my offer to help his daughter out. She was attending an out-of-state school and needed to bring her car into the dealership for some maintenance. The dealership recommended some work be done on the car, but she didn’t quite understand what they were suggesting or why. My customer wondered if I could intervene and unscramble the lines of communication for her. I contacted the dealership. I didn’t mention I that I owned AutoAid. Instead, I spoke on her behalf as though I was Dad or Uncle Jack who knew something about cars. That way I wasn’t a threat and I was able to find out what they thought needed to be done and why. This was very comforting to her and her father, my customer.
Six Car Basics Your Teen Should Know
Your teen should also know these six basics about the vehicle they drive. It will reduce everyone’s stress levels.
- Start with the car manual. If they have an older or used car that didn’t come with a manual, you may be able to find one online. The newer the car, the more bells and whistles it likely has and the more icons you will need to review.
- As you go through the dashboard icons, explain what they mean and which symbols need immediate attention. There is also a free app called Dashboard Symbols that you can reference in a pinch. The app is available for Apple and android products.
- If the car has had any maintenance, there will be an oil replacement sticker on the windshield. Please advise your child to pay attention to the date on that sticker and to stay current with their maintenance. We can help them with oil and filter changes and other types of maintenance.
- Show them how to check their vehicle’s fluids (oil, transmission, radiator) and tire pressure (every third to fifth fill up at the pump). If you are unsure how they would check this, please bring your teen and the car by our shop and we will happily show them. If they do have a flat we can tow them to the shop and repair and align or replace their tire.
- Make your teen aware that funny smells, strange noises or lights that pop up on the dashboard can be warning signs that something is wrong with the vehicle they are driving. We can read the engine codes for them at no charge, however, a diagnostic fee will be added if we have to delve deeper into the issue.
- Give your child a sense of responsibility for their vehicle. Suggest they pay for gas and basic maintenance (oil changes, oil filters, etc.) but that you’ll be there to help with the larger unexpected repairs. And if they need financing over $299, tell them about our Auto Pass card.
We understand that not everyone is a car geek like we are here at AutoAid, so we welcome the chance to instruct your son or daughter on car maintenance safety. Give your teen our contact information so they can contact David or myself if they are unsure of anything, whether it is a funny smell, a strange noise, a light that comes on or even if they are at another repair shop and don’t quite understand what they are being told. We can talk them through it.
Before stopping by, ask them to visit our Specials page. That’s where our service coupons reside. We are here to assist them. AutoAid, located at 14526 Erwin St., Van Nuys, CA 91411 can be reached at (818) 305-6632. We are open Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Fridays 7:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. If English isn’t your first language, we speak Spanish, too. Let us help keep you and yours safe on the road.