When was the last time you read the owner’s manual for your car? Yeah, that’s what we thought. That’s okay; we’ve been guilty of the same thing. But, like it or not, there are some things all car owners should know. To make things easier on you, we’ve compiled a list of ten of those things, including some that aren’t even in “The Manual.”
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How to jump start a car
There are two instances when not knowing how to jump start a car can be unnerving; One is when your battery dies. The other is when someone says, “Hey, man, can I get a jump?” At least in the latter scenario, the person with the dead battery may know what to do. But, you should know as well, and it’s really simple. Connect the positive cable (red) to the positive terminal of the dead battery then do the same for the working battery. Connect the negative cable (black) to the negative terminal of the working battery then to the negative terminal of the dead battery. Start the working car, and after a few minutes, start the car with the dead battery. Once you get it to start, be sure to drive around for fifteen or so minutes so it can recharge.
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How to check your tire pressure
First, you need to find out the recommended tire pressure level for your vehicle, which can usually be found on a sticker in the driver’s side doorjamb, as well as in that pesky owner’s manual. The number given is always for cold tires, so you’ll want to check the tires after they’ve been sitting for at least three hours. Once you have the number, remove the valve-stem cap, and press your pressure gauge against the stem. As long as you have a complete seal (no air hissing out of the valve) you’ll get an accurate reading. If it matches up with the recommended pressure, you’re good to go. If not, add air and recheck until the pressure is correct.
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How to change a flat tire
If you get a flat tire when you’re on the freeway, it’s worth it to drive slowly to the next exit rather than attempt tochange it on the shoulder as cars zip by. Once you do find a safe place, turn on your hazard lights, loosen the lug nuts and jack up the car about six inches off the ground. Finish taking off the lug nuts and then remove the tire. After you put the spare on, hand-tighten the lug nuts and lower the car back to the ground. Remove the jack and tighten the lug nuts one by one, in a star pattern, until each is as tight as it can be. Also, if your spare is a donut, be sure to adhere to the maximum miles per hour and get your tire fixed as soon as possible.
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What to do if you’ve been in an accident
No one ever wants to be in an accident, but if you are, there are a number of things you should do, including, 1) Starting with yourself, make sure no one is injured. If anyone is injured, call 911. 2) Share names, addresses, phone numbers and insurance info with the other drivers involved. However, it would be a good idea not to admit any guilt at the time. 3) Take photos if possible of each car, license plates, etc. 4) File a report. If no police are involved at the time, do it when you get home. 5) Contact your insurance company.
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How to replace your windshield wiper blades
Changing your wiper blades is one of those super easy tasks that can make even the most do-it-yourself-averse person feel like a champion. But, the problem is that they are often overlooked and are not changed as often as they should be. Some of the signs that you need to change the wiper blades include smearing, screeching and streaking. (You’re having flashbacks to college, aren’t you?) To change the wiper blades, all you have to do is lift the wiper arm and remove the old wiper blade by depressing the small tab and sliding the blade off the arm. Then, attach the new blade and make sure it clicks in place. One thing you’ll want to make sure to do is use the correct wiper blades. If you visit a NAPA Auto Parts store, they will be able to look up your car and give you options.
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How to check your fluids
You should be checking your fluids once every 1-2 months and there’s no good reason not to, since it’s an easy task. If you thought changing the wiper blades made you look cool, wait until you have your hood up and are moving things around under there. First things first, make sure you’re parked on a flat, level surface. Then, pop the hood and find the oil dipstick. Pull it out, wipe it down, replace it, then take it out again. If the level is low, add the appropriate oil to the car. The same dipstick approach is also used for the transmission fluid, although it’s usually done with the engine running and warmed up. Brake fluid, power steering fluid, coolant and the fluid for those awesome new wipers can usually be checked by simply looking at the reservoir.
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How to tell which side of the car the gas tank is on
There are few things more embarrassing than pulling up to the gas pump, getting out, and then realizing that the gas tank is on the other side. Sure, this is more likely to happen in a new car, or a rental, or the morning after your office holiday party, but it’s a bummer nonetheless. Thankfully, more and more vehicles are including a triangle next to the gas pump, which lets you know which side the gas tank is on.
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How to drive in hazardous conditions
Sometimes we can’t choose our driving conditions, which means that sooner or later, we’re likely to find ourselves driving in conditions that are less than ideal. Since you can’t be sure that other drivers will adjust their driving behavior in these situations, it’s imperative that you adjust yours. The number one thing you should do no matter if you’re caught in rain, sleet, snow or fog, is reduce your speed and leave more room between yourself and the drivers in front of you. After that, there are other things you’ll want to do, depending on the condition. For example, in snow, sleet and ice, be sure to drive in the tracks of other cars, since there will be more traction in these areas and in fog, turn off your high beams and use your fog lights.
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What to do when the “Service Engine Soon” light comes on
Okay, so maybe it seems like a no-brainer when it comes to what you should do when your “Service Engine Soon” or “Check Engine“ light comes on. Yes, the lights tell you exactly what to do, but, if you’ve recently purchased gas, don’t be so quick to call the mechanic, since the light may be letting you know that the gas cap is loose. As long as the car is driving normally otherwise, tighten the cap and continue driving. The light should eventually turn off by itself. If it doesn’t, well, then it’s time to do what it says!
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How to drive safely while talking on a cell phone
Wait, did you really think we were going to tell you there’s a safe way to drive while talking on a cell phone? No way! Not only does using a cell phone while driving reduce the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37%, according to a University of Utah study, distraction from cell phone use while driving (hand held or hands free) extends a driver’s reaction as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. And you can forget about texting too, since that makes the risk of crashing 23 times worse.