Graduating from college brings on many new challenges. One thing young women don't take into consideration when moving away from home is car maintenance and driving conditions. Many of the women I know, including myself, relied on dads, brothers, boyfriends, or roommates to handle the maintenance of their cars or to drive during harsh conditions. But what happens after graduation when they are not there to help? Taking the time to understand car maintenance and driving conditions can save you more than just money.
Growing up in Los Angeles, I never really experienced driving on ice, snow or in heavy rain, except for the occasional snowboarding trip. After graduating, many of my girlfriends packed up their cars and moved to San Francisco, New York, Chicago and a variety of other places whose climates are certainly different from Los Angeles.
One of my friends had called me last winter and told me that she felt like her car was floating every time she drove in the Chicago snow. This is somewhat true. Car tires just barely grip the road when it's icy or covered in snow or water. This means that drivers must anticipate all turns, stops and the potential mistakes of other drivers. When your tires have less traction, driving slowly, and keeping extra distance between cars is a great start as well as using tire chains and snow tires in heavy snow.
For those who are used to driving in the sun like me, it is important to understand how to regain control over your vehicle when it spins out or hydroplanes. If your rear tires lose control because of oversteering or hydroplaning, the best thing to do is to turn your wheel in the direction of the skid and ease off the accelerator. Sounds crazy, but it actually helps to create more friction and will help your car to slow or stop. Once the tires regain traction, you can turn the wheel back to straighten. If you turn the wheel in the opposite direction, your car will speed up, making it more difficult for you to regain control.
The Oil Change Myth
Every time I go get my oil changed, the mechanics put a sticker on the windshield indicating either a three-month or a 3,000-mile mark or both. When I first started driving, I got paranoid thinking that my engine was going to burn up if I didn't change my oil by the indicated time or mileage. When I hit 4,000 miles and the engine was still intact, I began to wonder.
The truth is that there is no exact science of measuring when to change the oil in a car. Ask ten people, receive ten answers. With the advent of newer and better oil as well as more efficient cars, 3,000 miles is too soon so save your money.
The California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) released a 3,000 Mile Myth website earlier this year indicating that 75% of Californians change their oil too soon. This leads to 153.4 million gallons of waste each year. I can only imagine the waste percentage in other states where the temperatures aren't as high.
I change my oil every 5,000 miles give or take, which is a good modern day rule of thumb; but it's best to check your Owner's Manual for the recommended mileage for your car.
Tires are another part of your car that is important for maintenance. When I took Driver's Ed at 15, one thing that stuck was how to use a penny to check the tire tread. I thought it was absurd at the time, but pennies really are a useful gauge. If you stick a penny in the tread and it goes past Lincoln's head, you are good to go. If there is space between the tread and his head, it's time to get new tires. Another thing to check tread wear: If there is more wear on one side of the tire than on the other, you need to get your wheels aligned.
Also make sure to check the tire pressure every few months, especially in the summer. This is important because a tire that has too much pressure can wear more easily, brake poorly, or blow out under extreme conditions. Tires with low pressure will also wear more easily. Check your Owner's Manual for the recommended pressure or look for n information plate on the vehicle it self. This is not to be confused with the maximum tire pressure indicated on the side of the tire. Make sure all tires have sufficient pressure, including the spare. Keeping the correct amount of tire pressure can save you gas mileage.
Diving headfirst into the big bad world after college is hard, but knowing basic car maintenance and good driving techniques can help save your life and that embarrassing extra phone call home.
By Alyse Speyer
Alyse Speyer has a degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a BA in Literature from the College of Creative Studies. She has several published poems in the 2008 Spectrum and a short story published on UnderThisRedRock.com. She was also an editor for Into the Teeth of the Wind, a UCSB poetry publication. After studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain, Alyse developed a taste for traveling and with that an interest in travel writing. She speaks Spanish, French, and has an understanding of Catalan. Alyse currently works as a freelance copywriter and blogger for the web, writing for a variety of fields including credit repair, marketing, real estate, health, and nutrition. She specializes in Search Engine Marketing, web copy, and editing. She researches new and effective ways to drive traffic to her clients' websites as well as helping their businesses offline by writing newsletters and workbooks for them.