Car Care:First car maintenance tips for teens
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So you’ve bought your first car, taken it home, given it a good clean and there it sits proudly on your driveway, waiting to be driven.
It’s not quite the car of your dreams but it will do until you can afford the one that is. You want to get some value from your new chariot, keep it on the road for as long as possible and not have it cost you a fortune.
Cars, like most things in life, depreciate in value with time. The rate at which they lose their original value depends largely on their age, the distance they’ve travelled and how well they’ve been maintained.
But there are ways to maximise their value, safety and reliability.
Keep it oiled
The engine is what drives the car, and oil is what keeps that engine lubricated and running smoothly.
If the oil level is too low, it will harm your engine and reduce its lifespan. It’s an easy thing to check.
Most cars have a dipstick that you remove, wipe with a cloth and re-insert.
You then pull it out and check the oil level is between the two high and low marks.
If it isn’t, you can buy engine oil from most petrol stations and auto shops and you can top it up. (They can help select the right oil).
If the oil looks thick and black, then it may be time for an oil change, which a technician can do.
Most brakes in new cars use a hydraulic fluid that applies pressure when the brakes are used.
This fluid level drops as the brakes are used and will also deteriorate, so should be checked and changed at regular intervals. You can top up the level yourself on most cars — but if you’re unsure, ask a technician to do it.
Keep your engine cool
You should check the level of coolant in your engine regularly and before you go on long journeys.
Without adequate coolant, the engine can overheat and cause a range of damage — from blown gaskets to cracked cylinder heads.
Both can be pricey to fix. It’s quicker, easier and cheaper to keep the coolant level up. If the level drops markedly, call road service. You may have a leak.
Stay connected with the road
The importance of the bits of rubber that keep your pride and joy connected to the road shouldn’t be underestimated, nor should the added cost of not taking care of them.
By law there must be 1.5mm of tread around the circumference of your tyres and across three quarters of the width.
To check, insert a 20c coin into the tread with the number facing in towards the tyre. If the entire number is visible, the tyres have only 2mm of tread left and you should consider replacing them.
A bald tyre is dangerous. In an emergency, you may not stop as quickly — or worse, skid.
Tyres should also be inflated to the manufacturer’s guidelines, usually displayed in the driver’s side door area.
Or enter your rego number into the EECA’s website’s tyre pressure tool to see what the pressure should be. Under- or over-inflated tyres will wear quicker and can mean your car is using more petrol than it should.
Keep the airflow easy
Your engine will have air filters that keep the air that rushes through the engine free of harmful dust and debris.
These filters get dirty and oily and need changing at regular intervals. It is usually a job for the mechanic but well worth doing.
Keep it clean
This won’t necessarily make your car last longer or prevent it from breaking down but a little TLC makes it look a lot better, which does have value when it comes to reselling.
Keeping the lights, windows, windscreen and mirrors clean will also make it safer to drive, especially at night.
Get it serviced
A good service will sort out most of the above. Getting your car regularly serviced by a qualified mechanic will do a lot to ensuring it stays on the road. Keep a record of the services as it will be helpful should you want to sell it.