Sending a kid off to college is a bittersweet experience. Sending a kid and a car off to college together can be a bit more worrisome. Parents may wonder if they've done all they can to stress the importance of vehicle maintenance and safety to their kids.
If you do the following, you have done more than most:
Teach your young adult the nitty gritty
You may think that showing your daughter or son how to change a tire and check the oil is enough. If your child is going to be away from home with a vehicle for most of the year, they'll need more detailed help than that.
Skills and tasks they'll need to practice or at least understand before they head off to school include knowing how to check other fluids under the hood like brake and windshield wiper fluids. They need to know which weight and type of oil to use in the engine in winter or summer and how to properly pour all system fluids into their respective reservoirs.
Go over jump-starting their vehicle, and make sure they understand the terminal sequence to follow and safety precautions to take when starting a vehicle with a dead battery. College-age drivers should understand how their basic fuses work, how to tell if a fuse is burnt out and how to use a fuse-removal tool. They should know which fuses should be left to the professionals.
Auto parts that are likely to need replacement within a year (depending on driving conditions) are windshield wiper blades, brake pads, and indicator lights. Your kid should know how to change the windshield wipers, how to recognize when the brakes need servicing, and how to choose and replace the correct bulbs for their headlights, taillights, and turn signal lights.
Provide a backup auto parts kit
Send your student off to campus with the gift of a maintenance kit stocked with the basic essentials to keep the car in safe running condition throughout the academic year. The vehicle owner's manual should list the correct products to purchase, but your local car parts supplier will have that information if you've lost the manual, and parts staff are happy to help you select the right items for the make and model car your student will be driving.
The kit should include:
- Spare headlight, taillight and turn signal bulbs
- Fuses, fuse diagram and fuse-removal tool
- Jump-start compressor or jumper cables
- Can of flat-fixing foam
- Set of extra windshield wiper blades
- Necessary tools for basic maintenance
- Extra oil and other fluids
The time and money you spend teaching and outfitting a young person for vehicle responsibility is well worth it when you consider that broken lights and other safety issues on vehicles can cost you (or your student) money in ticket fines and increased insurance rates. Many colleges and universities are strict about vehicle maintenance on campus, so avoid any headaches later by preparing your college student now with a class you might call "Real Life With Cars 101."