You teach your kids to be responsible, about the birds and the bees, how to be a responsible adult, but do you teach your kids about the basics of cars? Too often, parents hand their kids a set of car keys and simply say, “be careful”.
There are things your kids need to know about cars to prepare them for the rest of their lives. This is not necessarily a job for Dads, either parent or Grandparents can step up and prepare kids for proper maintenance, safety, and care of their cars. This can save children countless money over the years.
So What Do Kids Need To Know?
There are basics to car ownership. Without some training, your child will not know how to make a car last as long as possible, how to avoid excessive repairs, and how to maximize performance and fuel economy. Here are a few things to teach your children:
- Checking the oil: First, only when the engine is cool, and the car is on level ground, show your child how to lift the hood of the car and secure it in place. Remove the oil dipstick and clean it with an old rag. Show how to put the dipstick back in place and remove it once more. Most dipsticks clearly show if a vehicle is low on oil, or even if there is too much in there. More and more, engines are using a quart or maybe two between oil changes and proper levels are critical.
- Tire Wear: Visually inspecting tires is critical for safety. There are several popular ways to check tire tread depth. One easy way to teach your kids is the penny test. Simply insert a penny into the tire’s tread groove with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, your tread depth is less than 2/32 inch and it’s time to replace the tires. Give your child a good tire gauge, and make sure he or she knows the importance of proper tire pressure. Let him or her know you cannot look at a tire and tell if it is low. Also, teach your kid the importance of the 5000-mile rotation for long tire life.
- Checking Fluids: Clean and properly filled fluids are the lifelines of a car and your children need to understand this. Of course, kids need to know to only do this when the engine is cool, but they are usually quite capable of checking your car’s water level. Let them know what an antifreeze checker looks like to confirm their engine will remain cool in the summer and not freeze in the winter. Let them know, too, overheating or a frozen engine block can result in a totally ruined engine. If you think your kid is not getting the message, encourage him or her to get professional assistance.
- Timing Belts: Make sure your child knows about timing belts. Not necessarily what their function is, but the importance of changing it at the proper time. Too often, young people never know to ask this question. If the vehicle they drive has a timing chain, nothing is required, but if it is a belt, the child needs to know that if the timing belt breaks at highway speeds, a new engine will be required. It is also a good idea to go ahead and replace the water pump at the same time.
- Maintenance Schedules: Instruct your kids to read their maintenance schedule as provided by the manufacturer of their car. Reminders can be set on their smartphones. They need to understand the importance of maintenance, not only for the long life of a car but also to keep the warranty and/or extended warranty is intact. Kids need to know, also, how important it is to keep good records of all service done.
- Gauges And Warning Lights: Using the owner’s manual of your child’s car, go through the gauges, and most importantly, what the warning lights mean. Often, when young drivers see a light on the dash pop on, they panic. Sometimes it is warranted, but at other times, they can continue driving home or to a service facility. The main thing is they know the difference. You don’t want your child on the side of the road if it is not necessary.
- What To Do If They Have A Flat: It’s going to happen, you know it and I know it. Now what? Your child needs to know if he or she even has a spare (many cars don’t these days) and what to do next. If the child’s car is covered by roadside assistance, make sure he or she has the number programmed into his or her phone. If there is not roadside assistance, consider showing how to get a policy through AAA or maybe even his or her insurance agency. Some parents actually teach their children how to change a flat safely.
Children need to know about cars, not just to put the key in the ignition and turn the car on. That won’t happen always, and safety is a big factor when this occurs. Being prepared is something all parents can teach their kids. Not only will it prepare them for the road ahead, it could save their lives or a lot of unnecessary repair bills.
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