Carson, CA — Whether your back-to-school kid is driving to college or high school, it is important that his/her vehicle is in tip-top shape and, above all, safe to drive. Sadly, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens1, and neglected vehicle maintenance leads to 2,600 deaths annually and nearly 100,000 disabling injuries.2 With this sobering data in mind, AutoMD.com’s team of expert mechanics has released its Top Five DIY Checklist for the Back-to-School Car, along with some practical advice to help parents ensure their kid’s safety on the road-- and their peace of mind at home.
Running through this checklist with your son/daughter should help encourage vigilance about vehicle maintenance when you are not around. For more in-depth information and How-Tos, go to www.automd.com/About-AutoMD/Press/8-17-2010. In all cases, if you are not sure the car is safe to drive, you should have it inspected by your trusted local repair shop before your son/daughter hits the road.
1. Check the tires
· Check tire pressure, tread depth and wear pattern.
· Inspect the tires for tread separation, bulges, and weather cracking.
· Make sure that the vehicle has a usable spare tire.
2. Check the Brakes
· If the brake rotor is visible through the wheels, inspect the rotor surface for excessive wear and discoloration.
· Check for a firm brake pedal.
· Start the car and check for any brake warning lights on the dash.
· Road test the car and apply the brakes. Make sure the car stops straight and smooth, and there are no squealing or grinding sounds.
3. Check the Lights
· Check the headlights (high and low beams) and taillights.
· Check the brake lights, turn signals, and hazard lights.
· Check the interior, dome, trunk and hood lights.
4. Check Under the Hood
· Check drive belts for damage and proper tension.
· Check hoses for cracks, leaks and deterioration.
· Check the date code on the battery, and inspect the battery cables for corrosion.
· Check for a clogged air filter.
· Inspect the fluid levels and check for leaks: Engine oil, transmission fluid (engine must be started and warm), power steering fluid, brake fluid, engine coolant, and windshield washer fluid. Add fluid or change the fluid if necessary.
5. Check the Glove Compartment
· Owner’s manual with maintenance records
· Current registration and insurance
· Roadside assistance information and Emergency phone numbers
· Flashlight/Maps/portable GPS system.
Vehicle Knowledge and Safe Driving Check
Once the vehicle has been checked out, AutoMD.com recommends that you go for a drive with your son/daughter to make sure he/she understand any quirks the vehicle might have -- and how everything operates, from car alarm to cruise control to hazard lights to GPS system. Run through the different warning lights, what each indicates and how to respond (i.e., check oil, overheating, etc.). This is also a great time to review basic safe driving and traffic rules and to reinforce the dangers and consequence of speeding, and drinking/texting/cell phoning and/or surfing while driving. Run through a safety and ‘what to do’ protocol for a breakdown or accident – and in the event he/she is pulled over by the police. Make sure the vehicle has some form of roadside assistance and is equipped with a toolkit, emergency kit, and flares, etc. And, if you can, teach your son/daughter how to change a tire.
“Sending kids off to school in their own car is an important rite of passage… but one that can lead to sleepless nights for parents,” said AutoMD.com President Shane Evangelist. “At AutoMD.com, we believe that information is not only power, but it is security. By providing a checklist that encourages kids to really know and understand their vehicle, as well as a wealth of easily accessible maintenance and repair information online, we hope to help parents feel a little less anxious as that son or daughter drives off to school for the first time.”