Car care for beginners

Driving a car is a big responsibility. Not keeping up with the scheduled maintenance on a car could lead to mechanical failure, causing frustration or tragedy. If not maintained correctly, injury can be caused to the student, the student’s passengers or the student’s bank account.

Luckily for me, my parents made vehicle safety a priority. I endured many lectures on how to keep my car properly maintained. They made sure I was aware that a car breakdown could leave me stranded or cause an accident.

Now that I am on my own, I have found it’s easy to become careless about vehicle maintenance. I found myself not refilling gas or keeping up with oil changes, and it gradually led to several costly vehicle repairs. If only I had stuck to those few pointers I had been given.

The first thing is to become familiar with one’s vehicle. Do not be afraid to look under the hood and learn how to check oil and fluid levels. These simple tasks could save you from having a breakdown on the side of the road.

Ricky Anderson, a Bradenton Jiffy Lube owner, said that many people, mostly females, automatically assume that their vehicle is out of gas when there could be many different things wrong with the car.

“Getting an oil change on time makes sure the fluids are full and the car is regularly maintained,” Anderson said. “Because with ensuring that the product is serviced it will lead to better performance from the vehicle by ensuring a longer engine life.”

Seeing as how I never remember when it is time for an oil change, I am sure there are many students in the same situation. What should be done if my car starts making sputtering noises?

Anderson said there are a couple ways to check the oil. For starters, there is a dipstick under the hood.

There are three basic stick designs made. Depending on the vehicle, you could have a crosshatch (X’s.), one with two holes or one with two lines. The basic thing that students need to know is that when they lift the dipstick out of the oil container, they should be checking the level of remaining oil, meaning, they should make sure there is oil is above the X’s, above the top hole or above the bottom line.

If students are low on oil, they should simply go into a nearby gas station or Wal-Mart and buy some.

Don’t know what kind to buy? Anderson said in Florida weather, every vehicle manufacturer recommends 10W-30 motor oil. But when traveling up north, under cooler conditions, a different weight of oil should be used, such as 5W-30 motor oil. It doesn’t matter what brands or combinations of brands as long as it is the right weight.

“Getting the oil changed every 3,000 miles or three months is important. Whichever comes first is when you get the oil changed. This is because the oil breaks down as the engine runs, and it deteriorates. Replacing the oil helps the engine and the car,” said Mike, a local Midas service station employee, said.

As for the tires, I was always told to check the pressure. Sure enough, I didn’t listen and one of my tires completely shredded, ultimately costing me more money in the long run.

“A couple of years ago, the Explorers were blowing over on the roads. Different things were being blamed but to find out, the real cause was that people were over-inflating their tires,” Anderson said.

Anderson recommends checking your tire pressure on a regular basis to ensure the one’s safety and that of their fellow motorists.

Car and tire manufacturers recommend maximum pressures and minimum pressures. Stickers containing this information can be found in several places, depending on your vehicle model, or in your owner’s manual. Anderson says following the recommendations will allow for a safer drive.

Being a college student, I’m always looking for sales, bargains and cheap gas. Sound familiar? Well, this may not be good for your car because the grade of fuel one should buy depends on what kind of car one owns. Anderson says to check your owner’s manual for gasoline recommendations. Don’t buy the cheapest grade of gas when premium is what is suggested. It will hurt the car in the long run and can cause major breakage in the fuel pump and other areas of the engine. Saving a couple extra dollars at the pump is not worth it when you consider that it could lead to costly repairs later on.

Florida has salty air and rainy days. This weather could lead to wiper blades wearing down sooner than in the northern states.

“The wiper blades should be changed every three to six months,” Anderson said. “This is something that people forget to do, and it could lead to fatal accidents. A way to check to see if the blades need to be replaced is to take your finger and rub on the actual wiper blade. If it feels rough and worn down it means that they are being eaten up by the salt, and they need to be replaced immediately.”

With the holidays approaching and road trips planned, think about safety first and make sure your car is ready for all possible driving conditions.

Anderson says that if students have trouble with their cars or have questions on different sounds their vehicle is making, they can e-mail him at . He says he will research the problem and try his hardest to answer any questions.

Christyna Prehn is a senior majoring in communication.