Our family experience has shown us that most college students will not do anything to maintain their car while at school.
by Doug and Jamie Beachy,
Our family has sent four children off to college, with a variety of vehicles to get them through the school year. Unfortunately, this sometimes comes with late night phone calls regarding car “emergencies” that could have been prevented. As I write this in June, [quote_box_right]
Now is the time to get your son or daughter’s car ready for the upcoming college year:
Test drive the vehicle
Get a vehicle inspection, including battery test and operation of the heater
Identify upcoming recommended maintenance items including timing belt if necessary
[/quote_box_right]it’s hard to believe that it’s time to start thinking and preparing vehicles so they are ready to go back to school in August. Our family experience has shown us that most college students will not do anything to maintain their car while at school. Putting gas in it is the only attention the car will likely get between now and Christmas. Here are a few tips to make sure that your child is driving a safe, reliable vehicle this fall.
A good idea is to take a test drive with your child driving, going on both city streets and on the highway. Young drivers are often very accepting of potentially unsafe conditions. They do not have experience and judgment on what sounds and sensations are normal versus what should be looked at. On your test drive ask and make note of any noises or other concerns being experienced.
Following the parent test drive, take the car to a facility where you can get an overall inspection of the vehicle’s condition. Discuss your own observations from the test drive with your service provider and ask them to prioritize needs based upon probable usage.
Don’t wait until a few days before your student is supposed to head off, have the car inspected at least two weeks in advance. A comprehensive condition check will look at the tires, brakes, battery, belts, and hoses. It will also identify fluid leaks and the condition of the various fluids in the car. You also want to allow time for the car to be driven after repairs are made to ensure there are no follow-up repairs necessary. If you wait until the last minute your student’s departure could be delayed or plans for which car they take could suddenly change.
Ask for a free battery test. The car may be starting fine in the heat of summer, but when cooler weather comes in the fall, the battery may not be reliable. A name brand battery is usually good for four to five years. A discount store battery is often only good for two years. Last year we replaced the battery in our child’s car, even though it tested “good”. It was four years old. It is much less expensive to replace the battery on a planned basis rather than dealing with the costs of a no-start condition while miles away.
[quote_left]One of our children broke into his own car, damaging the driver’s door, when the keys were locked inside. . . but that’s a story for another day.[/quote_left]Ask your service center to check the operation of the heater. Does it get as hot as it should? Remember that while it is summer now, two thirds of the time that the car is away will be in cooler weather.
Look in your records to see if the timing belt has been replaced yet. Most manufacturers recommend replacing the timing belt at or around 105,000 miles. The timing belt is not the belt that is visible when first opening the hood, it is buried behind several covers and obstructions. Many times the student vehicle is a hand-me-down from the parents and the timing belt replacement fell through the cracks. If the timing belt breaks while your student is away you will be dealing with an expensive repair in a location where you don’t know any of the service providers.
Lastly, consider getting roadside assistance coverage for your son or daughter. In addition to towing, this usually covers flat tires, running out of gas, jump starting dead batteries, and keys locked in the car. One of our children broke into his own car, damaging the driver’s door, when the keys were locked inside. . . but that’s a story for another day.
Spending a little time and attention now will give you peace of mind and help your child have a safe, reliable car while away at college.
“Keeping your car humming” is written by Doug and Jamie Beachy, owners of Christian Brothers Automotive – Loveland at 6379 Branch Hill Guinea Pike.