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Saturday, January 11, 2014

4 things to teach your teen driver about cars

Seventy-three percent of teens have their driver's license by their senior year of high school, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accident rates for teen drivers are higher than other demographics, but it's not just driving behavior that creates a challenge. Many teens are unfamiliar with their vehicles, so they get stranded by run-of-the-mill problems. There are things I taught my oldest daughter when she started driving that your teen should know as well. Here are four tips to save your teen money and keep her out of danger:

Safely change a flat

Changing a flat tire is a fairly simple process, although some teens may not be strong enough to wrench the wheel bolts loose. In that case, it's best to call a towing or roadside assistance service. Make sure she knows how to properly pull over, though. It's critical she move the car a safe distance from the side of the road, completely out of the way of oncoming traffic, even if that means pulling off into grass or roadside brush and ruining the flat tire in the process. She must create as much space as possible to avoid a possible collision.

Photo by Alicia Jijdam-Jones via Flickr

In addition, educate your teen on the different types of tires available. This way, she can purchase the right tire if she needs a replacement while traveling or far from home. Use online tire inventories at and other sites to explain the different options, including the pros and cons of each.

Get fair quotes from mechanics

There are good mechanics and sleazy mechanics, and the latter will try to take advantage of clueless teens. Even if your teenager doesn't know much about cars, she can reduce the risk of getting conned by finding well-reviewed mechanics online. Tell her to get quotes from a number of mechanics before committing to one's service. The best choice, however, is a mechanic you normally use. Make sure she has all the necessary information stored in her phone.

Free car from snow

Living in Georgia my daughter, Amber, hasn’t encountered this problem, but it’s something I taught her when we talked about hydroplaning. Quick accelerations and spinning tires won't get teens unstuck from snowy situations. In fact, all this will do is create friction that turns malleable snow into rigid ice. According to Car and Driver Magazine, teens should try to free their vehicle from snow by rocking the vehicle back and forth—going forward slightly, then reversing, and repeating this process over and over to eventually ease the vehicle out of the snow. Not every situation will be conquerable, but the rocking method will build up momentum and pack down snow without creating high amounts of friction, maximizing your chance of freeing the car.

Photo by emilydickinsonridesabmx via Flickr

Check fluids regularly

Cars require a variety of fluids to properly function, and many breakdowns and malfunctions that occur on the road can be traced back to inadequate fluid levels. Once every couple of months, have your teen check all fluid levels and fill up where necessary. Show her the dip stick that measures the level of engine oil in the car and how to check transmission, brake and power steering fluids, as well as radiator coolant and even window washing fluid. Explain that the containers housing these fluids have max-fill lines, so low levels of fluid can be corrected by filling the container up to these lines.

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