Basic Car Maintenance Every New Driver Should Know

Car maintenance was common knowledge a few decades ago, but today it has become a rare art form, even with everything online to help you fix your car. But new drivers can be left scratching their heads when their car breaks down or need to change a tire. So, in order to ensure that new drivers know the ins-and-outs of their vehicle, here are the essentials for car maintenance.

1. The Holy Handbook - Your Owner’s Manual

Your owner’s manual is a lifesaver in tight spots. It has information on your operating parts and specific features of your car. When your teen or new driver reads through it, they'll know what their car gauges mean, how to check their oil, oil type, tire pressure and more.

For other maintenance tips, you can use the manual to ensure your engine oil and filter, tire rotation, hoses and belts are all being maintained regularly and when needed.

If you can’t find the manual, don’t panic. You can contact your vehicle’s dealership for an extra copy.

2. Changing the Oil

Oil is the lifeblood of your engine. It prevents all of the moving parts from grinding against each other. If it’s not changed on a regular basis, there are contaminants that will build up. Make sure this doesn’t happen by following these simple steps:

  • Drain the oil
  • Undo the oil filter and empty it
  • Replace the oil filter and drain plug
  • Remove the oil filler hole cap
  • Add fresh oil (preferably 100% synthetic oil for most engines)

3. Changing Spark Plugs

Spark plugs ignite the gasoline to start your engine. And because they wear out every 25,000 to 30,000 km, it’s important you know how to replace them.

It’s easy as follows:

  • Find your spark plug
  • Remove the wire
  • Take out the bad spark plug, insert new plug & replace wire

Here’s a DIY tutorial

4. Changing a Tire

From slow leaks to sudden bursts, getting a flat is unpredictable. But replacing a flat tire is easier than you might think.

  • Loosen the lug nuts with a wrench (using the Star method where you loosen the lug nuts in order of the shape of a star)
  • Use a jack stand to lift the car off the ground (this should come with your vehicle)
  • Remove the lug nuts completely
  • Put the spare tire on
  • Replace the lug nuts and tighten them after you drop the car

Here’s a video demonstration to help.

5. Replacing Wiper Blades

Although they keep your windshield clean to improve visibility during snowy and rainy seasons, windshield wipers are often neglected. If they start to wear out, it’s best that you replace them. Lucky for you, it takes virtually no time at all.

  • Lift the wiper arm
  • Press the tab that removes the blade
  • Attach the new wiper blade to the arm and push the tab tightly

Here’s a tutorial video just in case you need it.

6. Replacing a Tail light or Headlight

Your headlights help you see what’s in front of you, and your taillights are your means of communication for drivers behind you.

So, having either go out puts everyone on the road at risk. To replace these lights, you:

  • Remove the screws attaching the headlight to the bracket
  • Unplug the wiring
  • Remove the bad bulb and replace it with new one
  • Plug the connector/wiring back in and then replace the frame

7. Replacing Air Filters

Air filters keep your cabin clean from road dust, exhaust fumes, and other contaminants. It’s pretty cheap and easy to replace, ideally every year.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Open the hood
  • Find the air filter
  • Remove the cover and filter itself
  • Clean the housing
  • Add new filter and close the cover

Voila! Out with the old and in with the new.

8. Jumpstarting Your Battery

Jumper cables are basically defibrillators for your car battery. Typically your car battery will feed your alternator and vice versa to keep your car running. When your alternator or battery starts to give up, you’ll need to break out the jumper cables.

What You’ll Need:

  • red and black jumper cables
  • 2 cars
  • 2 batteries

How It Works:

  • Pull both cars next to each other (so the cables can reach), put them in neutral, and turn them off
  • The red clip attaches to the positive terminal of the battery
  • The black clip attaches to the negative terminal of the battery
  • Wait a minute, turn the ignition, and the car should come back to life

If nothing happens after a few tries, it may be something else that’s wrong, like a dead alternator or battery. You’ll then need to call road-side Assistance, like AMA Road-Side Assistance or CAA, an affordable and reliable option.

9. Replacing Your Battery

If you don’t know the signs of a faulty battery, you may need a tow truck when your battery dies. If your battery is rusting or you see your battery light flash on your dashboard, follow these easy steps to replace it:

How it Works:

  • Remove covers from the battery
  • Disconnect the cables and move the clamp away from the post
  • Repeat for the positive and negative cable clamps
  • Remove the screws
  • Replace with a brand new battery and attach the clamps back on again

10. Budgeting for Maintenance

A vehicle is a person’s second largest expense in North America and it’s estimated that for every 20,000 km placed on a vehicle per year, there is $1,000 spent on car maintenance. Make sure to budget a bit higher than this for your new driver’s vehicle and be sure to have it inspected and serviced every 40,000-50,000 km (30,000 miles) When a new driver knows basic car maintenance, they are more confident in otherwise worrying situation. If they want even more healthy tips, they can try the Carrot app to be scored on driving well and get rewarded for it.


Carrot is as easy to use as 123:

  1. Enroll with InsureMy (plus get a 10% discount)
  2. Connect your vehicle to the Drive With Carrot App
    a. (Download it on iTunes or Google )
  3. Buckle up and start getting cash rewards for driving smart!

Want to Get Started? Click ahead!

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