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THE BARE ESSENTIALS
There are many things that can be handy to have in your car. But these are the nine must-have items you should never be without.
LICENSE AND REGISTRATION
Before you get behind the wheel of any car, you need to have these two important documents. If you are stopped by the police for any reason or are in an accident, you'll need to show them to the police officer. However, it's better not to leave your registration in the car in case your car is stolen. Instead, carry it in your wallet with your license.
Of course, you have this-you keep it in the glove compartment at all times. But can you find it? About the only time you'll have to show this document is when you've been in an accident. And you're likely to be rattled at that moment. So you don't want to be searching for it under old tissues, half-eaten bags of peanuts, the address to a party you went to four months ago, and all the other junk that has accumulated in your glove compartment. Also, the more stuff that's in there, the more likely it is that your insurance card will be thrown away accidentally or fall out unnoticed whenyou open the compartment. So try to keep your glove compartment relatively clean and be careful when you're rummaging through it so that this all-important document doesn't get lost in the shuffle. New insurance cards are issued every six months or every year, so don't forget to replace your old insurance card with the most recent one.
AN INFLATED SPARE TIRE
You're no fool-you've got a spare. The only problem is that you used your real spare the last time you had a flat. The tire that's in there now is your old flat tire, which-no surprise-is still airless. Don't let this happen to you. Repair or replace any flat tire as soon as possible.
It's impossible to change a tire without one, so be sure you have a jack. Most cars come equipped with one, but in the newer models the jack can be small and artfully hidden away, so you may have to look around to find it.
If there is one thing that call save you time and money, it's a set of jumper cables. Assuming your problem is a only a run-down battery, any passing motorist can help you get your car started as long as one of you has jumper cables. Needless to say, it helps to know how to work them (see page tk). Fortunately, this is one car-related skill that virtually anyone-regardless of size, strength, or mechanical expertise-can master. And it beats sitting in the cold for hours waiting for a tow truck to arrive.
Sooner or later, chances are that your car will break down at night. It makes little sense to be fully equipped for an emergency if you can't see well enough to find and use this equipment. Even if you just need a stronger light to read a map more clearly, a flashlight can really come in handy.
A TOOL TO BREAK YOUR WINDSHIELD
Hopefully, you will never be in a position to need this piece of equipment, but if you do, it may save your life. In an accident you may not be able to open your car doors or windows. It's virtually impossible to break car-window glass by hitting it with your hands or kicking it with your feet. Tools designed especially for this circumstance are available in stores that carry automobile accessories. Be sure to pick one up.
THE ALL-IMPORTANT CELL PHONE
Although it's not necessary to keep it in the car, it's crucial that you carry a cell phone with you at all times. In an emergency it may make the difference between getting help or being totally stranded.
If you're one of those people who are fascinated by the inner workings of automobiles, you're probably looking forward to learning about your car and how to take care of it. Others could care less how their car works and dread having to deal with car maintenance. If you drive your parents' car, they will probably continue to take responsibility for keeping it in good condition. But if you're lucky enough to have a car of your own-and you want to keep it on the road-you'll have to be responsible for its upkeep. And you'll have to have your car serviced regularly, whether you do it yourself or have it done at a garage.
YOUR OWNER'S MANUAL
In order to take care of your car, you first, have to know how it works, not just how to drive it. All cars are supplied with a manufacturer's manual, which tells you where the various features of your car are located and how to operate them, what the vehicle maintenance requirements are for your car, how to perform maintenance yourself, and other important information. You should look through your manual at least once before you start driving the car. You don't have to remember everything you read, or even most of it, but thumbing through your manual will give you a good sense of the information that's available to you. Keep the manual in the glove compartment so that you'll be able to find it when you need to.
If you're driving an older or second-hand car, there's always the chance that the manual has gotten lost over the years. If so, you can usually order one from the parts department of a dealer who sells your kind of car. If that fails, your parents, driver's ed instructor, or friends can help you find the items discussed below.
If there's one thing that's most likely to keep your car alive and kicking, it's regular oil changes. Oil is the lifeblood of your car. Not changing it for long periods of time causes additives in the oil to break down, resulting in increased wear and tear on your engine. In general, you should change the oil every 3,000 miles or every three months, whichever comes first, and you should replace the oil filter with each change. (Most newer cars require less frequent changes. Your manual should tell you if yours is one of them.)
In between changes you should check your oil level periodically. To do this, shut off your engine. Then, remove the dipstick, wipe it with a paper towel, and reinsert it. Now, take the dipstick out again and look at the level of the oil on the stick. If it's close to or below the "low" mark, add oil until it reaches "full."
A dead battery means a dead car. No matter how well the rest of your car is working, if your battery fails, you won't be going anywhere. To avoid being stranded, have your battery checked each time you have your oil changed. Dirty or poor cable connections can also make your battery fail, so make sure that the cables are securely attached and free of corrosion. If your battery has gotten a little crusty, try cleaning the terminals with baking soda and water. (But be sure to turn the ignition off first.) You can also place felt rings around the post under the clamp to help prevent corrosion.
Know the warning signs of a dying battery so that you can head off trouble before you find yourself stranded somewhere. Groaning sounds when you turn on the ignition or the sound of the engine turning over several times before it catches are signs that your battery may be on its last legs and that you should consider replacing it. Even if your battery has been trouble free, you might also think about getting a new one if it is three years old or older.
Check your lights regularly to make sure they all work. Nonfunctioning headlights are something you're likely to notice right away, but one or more of your taillights, brake lights, or turn signals can be out for months without your being aware of it. Driving with nonworking lights is unsafe, and you can get ticketed for it. Usually, all that's needed to fix the problem is an inexpensive bulb or fuse. The alternative can cost you a whole lot more, both in time and money, as Tim found out.
I knew that one of my taillights was out, and I really meant to fix it, but I guess I just forgot. Anyhow, I was driving down the freeway around midnight, when the cops pulled me over. Turned out the other light had gone out too. I promised to get off at the next exit, but they looked at me like I was crazy and said I couldn't drive my car at all with no backlights. They called a tow truck-which I had to pay for, of course-and had my car hauled away.
If you've ever been caught in bad weather with worn-out windshield wipers, you don't have to be told how important, it is to make sure that these little items are in good condition. It's easy to tell when your wipers are starting to go because they leave streaks and smears on your windshield instead of cleanly wiping water away. Cracked or brittle wiper blades are another sign that it's time for change. You should replace your wipers at least once a year, and more often if you park your car outside. Bring the old blade with you when you go to the store so that you can be sure the replacement is the right size.
There are two things to watch out for with your tires. The first is to make sure that they are properly inflated. Tires that are under-or overinflated don't grab the road as well as they should and will increase your risk of having an accident. In addition, underinflated tires are more likely to have a blowout, which can be very dangerous. Your manual will tell you the recommended air pressure for the tires on your car. Some cars also provide this information on the inside edge of the driver's door. It's a good idea to check your tire pressure once a month, and that includes the pressure in your spare tire. Although you'll need to buy an air pressure gauge to do this, you an get one at any auto parts store or at many service stations.
The second potential problem is wear and tear. Over time, the tread on a tire wears down, reducing its grip on the road. To see if your tires still have sufficient tread, give them the Lincoln penny test. Insert the penny head down into the tire tread. If all of Abe's head is visible, you need a new tire. All other things being equal, your front tires will wear out much faster than your back ones. To reduce uneven wear, have your tires rotated every 6,000 miles. To do that, switch the two front tires with the two rear tires.
Brake fluid, power steering fluid, transmission fluid, coolant, and windshield washer fluid should be checked monthly. If you want to do this yourself, look in the manual for directions. If not, your nearest full-service gas station or oil change center can easily do this for you.
BELTS AND HOSES
A simple belt or hose can stand between you and a breakdown on some deserted road. To avoid this, check all hoses and belts monthly. Any that look or feel hard, spongy, cracked, or shiny are about ready to go and should be replaced immediately. Loose, cracked, or missing clamps can also spell trouble, so keep your eyes open for this problem as well.
You don't have to be told how important your brakes are. To make sure they will be there when you need them, have your brake system inspected once a year or every 12,000 miles, whichever comes first.
A dirty air filter reduces your gas mileage, as well as the life span of your motor. How often you have to replace your air filter depends on where you drive your car. Ordinarily, checking it every two to three months is enough. But if you drive in very dusty areas, you may need to check it more often.
You should test your shock absorbers every two to three months. You can do this by pressing down on your back fender to make your car bounce up and down. When you step away, the car should stop bouncing. If not, you need new shocks. Shock absorbers should always be replaced in pairs.
It's very important that your wheels be aligned correctly. One sure sign that they aren't is a car that pulls to one side when you're driving Uneven wear on a tire is another indication. You should have your wheel alignment checked right away if you notice either of these signals.
A NEW CAR
New cars (and some used cars) come with a warranty, a guarantee that certain parts of the car will work for a specific period of time. If these parts break down, the dealer will replace them for free. Exactly what parts of the car the warranty covers and for how long depend on the manufacturer or dealer or both. In general, parts that normally must be replaced after a certain amount of wear, such as tires and windshield wipers, are not covered, while the basic guts of the car-including the engine, transmission, and the electrical system-are covered. However, the warranty requires that you do your part in maintaining the car by having it serviced regularly. If you do not and your car breaks down, the dealer may not be required to repair it for free.
If you're lucky enough to have a new car, the dealership that sold it to you will give you a maintenance schedule telling you when to bring the car in for servicing. It's important to follow this schedule, not only to keep your car in top condition but also to protect your warranty. You can return to the dealership for servicing, or you can take your car to another garage if you wish. In either case, be sure to get a written statement of the work done so you can prove that you're doing what's required to maintain your warranty.
Congratulations! You've got your license and you've got a car-even if it belongs to your parents. You're ready to go! But before you pull out of the driveway, there are some things you need to do.
Excerpted from The Driving Book by Karen Gravelle Copyright © 2005 by Karen Gravelle. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted August 10, 2011
This book is great. I just got my permit, and even though I've read the drivers manual, I still wanted more knowledge about driving, and learn different tips and facts.And this book is perfect, and even better for teenagers. if you have kids that are getting there license, this is a must have for them.
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 9, 2012
This book is really helpful. Not only does it tell you about controling a car, it tells... well... everything. I think give more credit to women now that i know that a women wrote this. Haha... a must read.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 19, 2013