Hello, my name is Walt Brinker. My hobby is assisting stranded motorists, which I have done free-of-charge over 2,000 times. Empowering drivers to prevent and contend with breakdowns has become my crusade. My book, Roadside Survival: Low-Tech Solutions to Automobile Breakdowns, is full of easy-to-read wisdom and advice for all drivers, new and experienced. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially with teen drivers.
Here is some priceless advice for parents, which can help them prepare their new teen drivers for common causes of vehicle breakdowns. Ninety percent of breakdowns do not require a mechanic; I am not a mechanic. However, I can offer advice on how to avoid breakdowns and how to deal with them when they arise. Check out six of my “Top 10 Roadside Survival Tips” from my book. Seventy-five percent of the motorists I have helped had tire-related issues – reflected in the first five tips:
- Prevent tire failures by having tires inspected and balanced by tire professionals every 5,000 miles. Replace tires that are worn out, damaged or older than six years.
- Prevent tire failures by regularly checking air pressure, especially before long trips. Teach your teen to use a tire pressure gauge (the only accurate method) to ensure correct pressure. Under-inflation of tires causes most blowouts.
- Do not drive around without a serviceable spare tire (maximum six years old), designed for your vehicle (spare tire rims are designed for specific vehicles). Ensure it is fully inflated—or that you have the means to inflate it, such as a 12-volt compressor (make sure your teen knows how to properly operate the compressor). Eighty percent of my tire-related assists involve a spare that is flat or with too little air to use.
- Do not drive around without a proper jack and tire changing tools. Verify they work on your vehicle and its wheels.
- Practice with your teen before the flat tire occurs. Remove the spare tire from stowage and mount it on your car’s wheel using the vehicle’s jack and tire changing tools. Be sure to check: Are the lug nuts too tight? Jack functions OK? Know the correct vehicle lift points, have the key to locking wheel lug nuts and have key to security lock for spare tire.
Tip Number 10 is too good to not list here: Listen/pay attention to your vehicle. It will “tell” you when it is about to fail:
- Wheel vibration/pulling to the side/mushy handling
- Weak engine starts
- Dim lights
- Engine temperature gauge reads hot
- Warning lights
- Unusual noises from brakes, wheels, transmission or engine
- Funny odors; excess or white exhaust
- Fluid leaks
Teach your teen to “listen” to the car and get problems fixed before they become failures on the road.
Tire-related issues are huge, but not the only reason for breakdowns. Next time I’ll address common reasons for the other 25 percent of breakdowns: running out of gas, electrical issues, engine overheating and vehicle lock-outs.