The fall can be a very busy time for students and parents, with everyone rushing to get things done for the back to school season. One item which can fall off the to-do list easily is vehicle maintenance. Whether you're parent of a student in high school or you're heading off to college yourself, there is no better time than the back to school season to to do a thorough maintenance review on your car, or your teen's car to make sure it's ready for a great school year, too.
Under the Hood
In order to avoid costly repairs or issues, go ahead and take a look under the hood of your vehicle and perform some basic checks:
- Check your fluids. Engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and coolant are all easily checked. Check your owner's manual if you're not sure where some of these are.
- Are you leaking a fluid? Brown or black fluid is usually oil. Reddish fluid is either transmission or power steering fluid - power steering fluid will leak from near the front of the vehicle, transmission from the center. A clear to brown, very slick fluid that isn't oil could be brake fluid. Any other brightly colored fluid is almost certainly coolant.
- If you're dripping something that looks like water, it probably is - condensation builds up on the AC compressor and drips off. Totally harmless.
- Check your battery. Make sure the connections are cleaned and have it tested if you don't have a tester yourself.
Check the Tires
It's good to check your tire pressure once a month. Use the pressures in your owner's manual or inside the driver's side door, not the ones on the tire's sidewall itself. Also check for tread wear using the old tried-and-true penny method (if Abe Lincoln's head clears your tire, you don't have enough tread), and check for signs of uneven wear, caused by alignment issues or over- or under-inflation. Check your spare while you're at it, and make sure it has plenty of air, and that you have a jack, a lug wrench, and booster cables on hand.
Hit the Lights
Finally, make sure to check your headlights (high and low beams), taillights, brake lights, and all turn signals. If any of them are out, replace the bulbs.