Things first-time car owners should know

A car can seem like a complicated machine, especially for first-time car owners. Many issues and maintenance jobs are best left to the mechanic.

However, there are some basic maintenance and repair skills that everyone should know in order to take proper care of their vehicle and avoid getting stranded. Here are a few skills to add to your repertoire to keep your vehicle in good condition for years to come.

When to Get an Oil Change

Knowing how to check your oil and when you should have it changed is an important, regular part of car ownership. It can be a good practice to simply get your oil changed as soon as you buy a new or used car in order to be sure that it now has a fresh supply of clean oil. The mechanic will give you a sticker to let you know when it should be changed again, but this can vary from car to car. Check your owner’s manual to be sure of how long you should go before changes.

How to Change A Tire

While it doesn’t happen very often, odds are you may get a flat tire at some point during your years of car ownership. Whether it’s a flat that happens while you are driving, such as a sudden puncture from running over a nail or sharp rock or a quiet flat that seems to happen overnight while the car is parked, it can be very inconvenient at the time. Because driving on a flat tire can damage the wheel, you should only drive as far as you need to safely stop. Then, turn the car off and place it in park (for an automatic) or in gear (for a manual) with the parking brake on. Use a tire iron to remove the bolts holding the rim in place and remove it as well. Place the jack in place according to your car’s user manual and raise the car up so that you can pull the flat tire off. Then replace it with the spare. Use the tire iron to replace the rim and bolts, then lower the car and finally tighten the bolts with the car back on the ground.

How to Check Tire Pressure

A tire gauge can help you determine whether your tires are properly inflated to ensure that they stay safe. Because pressure changes based on temperature, you should check this during different seasons or anytime you travel to somewhere with a different climate. To check tire pressure, simply remove the caps on the valve-stems and push the gauge smoothly onto the tire valve stem for a tight seal. The gauge will be pushed out, measuring the tire pressure. Then check this figure against the number either in your user manual or inside the driver’s door to make sure it’s at the proper pressure.

How to Check Fluids and Top Them Up

The fluids in your car each have a specific function that keeps your vehicle running smoothly, so it’s important to know how to check on them. Check your user manual to determine where each fluid is. For some, you may be able to simply see the level at a glance, but for fluids such as oil, you will need to check by hand. Take your car for a short drive to warm it up, then park on level ground and turn it off. Open the hood and pull out the oil dipstick. Wipe it clean with a rag and reinsert it, then pull it up and check where the oil level is at against the markings on the dipstick. Aim to keep the level well away from the low level, as oil lubricates your vehicle, and it can be very damaging to run out.

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