Tips for back to school car maintenance

It’s the beginning of September and your kids are back in school. With the end of summer fast approaching you want to make sure that their vehicles are ready to go and in tip top shape. I’ve seen all kinds of vehicle damage, from minor dents to complete losses, and many of these can be prevented simply by paying attention not just while you’re driving but paying attention to your car when it’s at a standstill. Here are a few steps you take to keep you car or truck in peak running condition.

Check your tires

Your tires are extremely important. They steer your vehicle, absorb bumps from the road, help you vehicle stop, and of course, help your vehicle go. Tires also play an important role during wet weather. They maintain your car’s grip by channeling away water via your tire’s tread. The deeper your car’s tread, the better your car will do during bad weather. Check the tread on all four tires by using a penny and inserting it in one of the gaps between each row of treads. If you see the very top of Lincoln’s head then it’s time to replace your tire. Do the same for the other three tires. Check for uneven tire wear. If your tires are more worn out on the outside of the vehicle than they are on the inside of the vehicle then that’s a sign of alignment or suspension issues with your car. If you leave these issues unchecked they can increase the likelihood of an accident. Also check your tires for proper tire pressure with a tire pressure gauge. Proper tire pressure will improve your vehicle’s grip and improve gas mileage.

Windshield wipers and fluid

Make sure your windshield wipers are in good shape and the blade isn’t brittle of cracked. Test them out to ensure they are removing all moisture from the windshield. If there’s residue left each time the wipers make a pass then replace them. Also top your windshield wiper fluid is topped off. This will help your young driver maintain a high level of visibility on the road.


Check your headlights for haziness or bulbs that have gone out. Headlamps get hazy over time from heat and residue. This can result in the headlamp beam not going as far in from of the vehicle as it should, and nighttime visibility is reduced. Many auto parts stores sell headlamp cleaner that will restore headlamp clarity for $10-$20. Another option is to switch your bulbs from standard bulbs to halogen bulbs. Halogen bulbs operate at a lower temperature than regular bulbs. They also light a longer distance in front of your vehicle than regular lamps. Check the taillights to make sure they both work and the bulbs haven’t gone out.


Needless to say, your brakes are a very important part of your car. Check your vehicle’s brakes, including the drums, rotors, and brake pads. Perform a visual inspection (you may need to remove the wheel to do this) and look at the rotors and brake pads. If the rotors are beginning to form ridges or the pads have very little surface left on them then get them replaced immediately. If you’re experiencing scratching or squealing when you stop that is also a sign that your brakes need to be replaced. Have a brake technician inspect your brake fluid to make sure it’s clean and it’s at optimum levels.


Open the hood of your car and check the battery. You battery provides the “juice” necessary to power your vehicle’s starter and get the engine going. You can take the battery to any auto parts store or mechanic and have it tested. Check the terminals at the top of the battery for signs of corrosion and damage. If necessary then replace the connectors and clean off all corrosion. This will help maintain maximum contact with the battery so your car starts with no hesitation. Also check the alternator. The alternator powers the electrical components of your car and helps recharge the battery. A properly working alternator will keep your battery fully charged and prevent issues with starting your car as the weather cools off.

Emergency Kit

If you’ve got a high school student or college student who’s driving an emergency roadside kit is essential. In fact, it’s essential for every member of the family. Items you should have in your roadside kit include jumper cables, a tire jack, lug wrench,  flashlight, flares, a hazard triangle, ice scraper, and a small tool kit with a Philips and flathead screwdriver, hammer, and an adjustable wrench. You should also include a first aid kit with bandages, hand sanitizer, and alcohol pads. Many big box store offer pre-packaged emergency roadside kits.


As your kids go back to school following these helpful tips will get your kids through the school year safely. It will also give you peace of mind, knowing that their vehicles are in top shape and they’re prepared if an emergency happens on the highway.

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