Four Things AAA Says Parents Should Teach Teens Before Sending Them, And Their Vehicle Off To College

Photo credit: Brian Moore

HAMILTON– Preparing college-bound teens for life away from home can be an anxious and task-filled time. While many parents will be teaching and reminding their teens about diet, laundry and personal safety, they too frequently forget the important subject of car care and repairs before sending their teen and vehicle off to college.

“Learning the essential points of car care is something that ideally should be part of the process of learning to drive,” said Tracy Noble, Spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “But often those key points are never taught or only briefly reviewed and never utilized because the teen’s vehicle is maintained by someone else while they are living at home.”

Before sending their teen and vehicle off to college, AAA encourages parents to review four main areas about properly maintaining a vehicle and preparing for the unexpected.

Check and Maintain Tires:

· Parents should make sure their teens have a tire pressure gauge in their vehicle, know where it is located and how to use it properly.

· Show teens where to find the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure—which is located on a label on the driver’s door jamb or in the glove box. It’s important that teens know they should not use the inflation pressure found on the tire sidewall. That is the tire’s maximum pressure level, but it might not the correct pressure for the tire when used on their particular vehicle.

· Make sure teens know they should also check the tire pressure in the spare tire as well as the four tires on the vehicle.

· Explain what to look for when examining the tread of their tires. Look for any nails or other objects that might be stuck in the tire and mean it’s in need of repair. Inspect the tire for bulges or other abnormalities that would signal the need for replacement.

Know the Maintenance Schedule:

· Performing the manufacturer’s regularly scheduled maintenance on a vehicle will greatly extend the life of the vehicle and ward off costly repairs down the road. While it’s a good idea to make sure their teen’s car is current with all maintenance items prior to sending them off to college, its possible some items will come up while they are away.

· Make sure the owner’s manual is in the glove box of the vehicle.

· Explain the recommended maintenance schedule outlined in the owner’s manual. Many teens may only be aware of oil changes as regular maintenance, so be sure they see other fluids and items must be regularly checked and maintained.

· Make the teen aware of what their current mileage is and at what mileage mark it’s time to perform maintenance again.

Find a Repair Facility Near College:

· Depending on how frequently teens return home or how far away their college is located, they might be able to have regular maintenance performed at their families’ usual auto repair shop while at home visiting. However, even if this is the case, it’s important for parents to help teens identify an auto repair shop they can trust near their school in case an unexpected repair is needed.

· If unfamiliar with the area around the college, look for a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility. As a free public service for all motorists, AAA inspects auto repair shops around the country and only approves those that meet and continually maintain high professional standards for equipment, customer service, cleanliness and training. To search for a AAA Approved Auto Repair shop nearby, visit

Prepare for Roadside Emergencies:

· It’s important for parents to prepare their teens for a breakdown or other roadside emergency—especially if they are attending college too far away to ‘call home’ for help.

· Make sure the teen’s vehicle has a well-stocked roadside emergency kit, and it’s updated based upon the season. A few key items the kit should include are a flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, a first-aid kit, bottled water, rags or paper towels, a tire pressure gauge, a blanket, granola or energy bars, a flathead and Phillips head screwdriver, an adjustable wrench and pliers. During the winter months in areas with inclement weather, add in an ice scraper, snow brush and kitty litter or other material to increase traction if stuck in snow.

· In addition to making sure the spare tire is in good condition and properly inflated, be sure the vehicle has a working jack and tire iron. Also, if the vehicle uses locking lug nuts, explain how they work to the teen in advance and where the key is located.

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