If you’re a new driver, it’s often not enough that you passed your driving test with flying colors. In-depth knowledge about your car is as important as your skills behind the wheel. Experience is critical, and it will help keep you and everyone else safe on the road.
Here are five basics you need to be an expert on when it comes to your automobile. Before anything else, if you’re driving a used car or plan to get one, make sure to check the vehicle’s history. VIN search the owner of the car to see where it has been or if there are any liens and encumbrances. It pays to know these things, especially if there have been any accidents or recalls.
With that little word of warning out of the way, let’s get down to business. Are you ready?
Correct Tire Pressure
There are a lot of advantages to having your tires inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended psi. You’ll save fuel, have a more comfortable ride, and your tires will last longer. Over-inflated tires have a stiff ride, and anything above 6 psi can damage the tires quicker. Under-inflated tires can’t maintain their shape, and the flattened shape can lead to tire failure.
For better performance, fuel savings, and a longer-lasting engine, only use fuel with the correct octane rating. In the United States, unleaded gasoline fuel ratings start at 87 (regular), 88–90 (mid-grade), and 91–94 (premium). Check the user’s manual for information on what the recommended fuel rating is for your car. Using the wrong fuel type can lead to your engine “knocking” or “pinging” and will give you poor performance.
Before heading out, familiarize yourself with everything your car can do. You have to know what a knob or lever activates without looking because your eyes have to stay on the road at all times. Most vehicles will have similar layouts, such as the positioning of switches for wipers and lights. The infotainment system and AC are pretty straightforward. The idea is to memorize what these all do, so you can focus on driving and not fiddling with the radio knob.
How many airbags does your car have? Is your vehicle equipped with ABS, AEB, ESC, and lane departure warning? What do these acronyms even mean? ABS means anti-lock braking system, AEB is autonomous emergency braking, and ESC is electronic stability control. You’ll see these acronyms (among others) when your car’s computer checks all systems when you first start your vehicle. If the car’s computer gives a warning about ABS, for instance, you’d know that a checkup is in order. You should also know where the tools, car jack, and spare tire are. Be sure you know how to change a tire!
Basic Engine Layout
Before leaving the house, make it a habit to lift your car’s hood to check the fluids and belts. You must have at least a basic understanding of how to check your engine oil, coolant level, wiper water level, and brake/clutch fluid. Always check your car’s oil using the dipstick that juts out from the engine block. Clear is good, while black and grainy is bad.
Driving is an important skill to have. It gives you the freedom to go anywhere you want, without having to rely on public transportation or other people to get you there. Every good driver, however, has a willing dance partner: the car. Make sure to know your vehicle from the inside and out, to get the most out of every drive.
Now get out there and start driving!
Patrick Peterson is a writer/editor at AutoDetective. Born and raised in the automotive world. He’s a passionate writer who crafts exquisite content pieces about everything related to cars and bikes.