As the new school year begins, parents and students across the country are gearing up for a fresh start. But before hitting the books, it’s essential your vehicle is ready for the road ahead.
In 2019, nearly 2,500 teenagers lost their lives in car accidents, many of which involved teenage drivers. Another 250,000 were treated for vehicle-related injuries due to driving mistakes and vehicle problems.
With these staggering statistics in mind, taking time at the beginning of the school year to revisit vehicle maintenance and safety is crucial. In this guide, we will help you hit the NY Tri-State roads with confidence by sharing our top tips for back-to-school vehicle maintenance and safety.
What Are the Top Items to Check Before School Starts?
While there are many general vehicle maintenance items to keep in mind, autumn brings various unique driving challenges, from increased road traffic to changes in the weather. Here are some of the top things you should check before heading back to school:
As one of the most critical components of any vehicle in terms of safety and accident avoidance, your brakes should be the main focus of your back-to-school maintenance. Over the summer months, your brakes may have taken a beating from stop-and-go traffic in cities, construction zones, and summer road trips.
Know the symptoms of worn or failing brakes and make sure you have them checked by an experienced auto technician. If you notice unusual noises, burning smells, or feel vibration when depressing the brake pedal, it’s time to take your vehicle in for service.
The increased traffic and pedestrians associated with the back-to-school season means you’ll stop and start more frequently. And as you drive in and around the many NY Tri-State schools, crossing guards and families will rely on your brakes to work properly.
Don't forget about animals! The fall season brings out more deer, making accidents more likely, especially at dusk. Be extra vigilant and make sure your brakes are in top shape to avoid hitting these creatures.
Second to brakes are your tires. Your brakes cannot work properly without those four black rubber discs being your only connection to the road, so it’s important to make sure they can handle whatever driving conditions come your way.
Start by checking the tread depth and tire pressure. Over time, tread depth wears down, leading to decreased traction and a higher hydroplane risk. As the pressure in your tires decreases, so does the tire’s ability to grip the road. This means that autumn rain and falling leaves can pose an even greater risk to your tires.
You should also look closely at the sidewalls for cracks or bulges, as these can indicate serious problems.
You can check tread depth using the simple quarter test. Just insert a quarter upside down into the tread. If you can see the top of Washington’s head, it’s time for new tires. Do this test at multiple points of your tire in case you have uneven wear (which could be indicative of underinflated or overinflated tires, worn and misaligned suspension parts, or a damaged suspension system from potholes).
Don’t forget your spare tire! When was the last time you checked the air pressure and condition of your spare tire? This check includes ensuring you have a jack and the correct tools to raise the vehicle in case of a flat or damaged tire.
Visit a Tri-State AAMCO Center to get a professional tire and suspension inspection.
Fluids and Filters
Your vehicle’s fluids are vital for keeping everything running smoothly, from the engine oil to the transmission and power steering fluid. It’s essential to check all of your fluids before heading back to school, especially if you haven’t done so in a while.
What fluids should you check? Here’s a quick rundown:
- Motor oil: Check your owner’s manual to see how often to change your engine oil. Most professionals recommend an oil change every 5,000 miles.
- Power steering fluid: If your power steering feels stiffer than usual, it may be time to check for leaks and add more power steering fluid.
- Transmission fluid: Transmission fluid is responsible for keeping your gears shifting smoothly. If it’s low, you may notice grinding, slipping, or harsh shifts when changing gears. This is also a condition related to a transmission fluid leak.
- Coolant: Check your coolant levels to help keep your engine from overheating and your heater working properly, especially in the colder months.
The school year means shorter daylight hours and more driving in the dark. So, it’s essential to ensure all your lights are working properly—from the headlights to the taillights, brake lights, and turn signals.
Make sure to know how to use your high beams to help you see farther down the road and help other drivers see you. If you must drive through fog, know where your fog lights are, if you have them, and how to use them.
And don’t forget about your emergency lights! If you get stranded on the side of the road, you’ll want to make sure your hazard lights are working so that other drivers can see you.
Windshield Wipers and Washer Fluids
The NY Tri-State area is known for its unpredictable weather, so it’s important to be prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws your way.
Make sure your windshield wipers and washers are in good condition and ready to clear away any leaves, rain, sleet, or snow. Even a slight glare from dirt or debris can lead to decreased visibility, so it’s essential to have a clear view of the road and any other pedestrians or vehicles making their way to school.
Driving Safety Tips for Straights A’s
When you take the proper steps to prepare your vehicle for the school year, you’re helping to ensure a safe ride for everyone. But there are also steps you can take as a driver to ensure everyone arrives safely.
Anticipate longer commute times and delays: School means more traffic on the roads, so plan for longer commute times. And be patient—with other drivers and with yourself.
Watch out for school buses: Make sure you know what to do when driving behind or near a school bus. Allow a reasonable and safe distance between your vehicle and a school bus. Never pass a school bus on either side of the road if it is stopped, and watch all around you for riders, students, and pedestrians crossing the street.
Be aware in school zones: Pay extra attention in and around crosswalks, especially in school zones. Obey the posted lower speed limits and watch for crossing guards and children.
Don’t use your phone: Distracted driving is dangerous, so put down your phone and focus on the road. Pull over to a safe location if you need to make a call or send a text.
Prepare for the unexpected: You never know what the NY Tri-State area weather will bring, so be prepared for anything. Keep an ICE (In Case of Emergency) kit in your car, including a first-aid kit, fully charged cell phone, flashlight, water, snacks, and warm clothes.
Stay Safe This School Year with Proper Vehicle Maintenance
The back-to-school season is here, which means it’s time to start thinking about preparing your vehicle for the commute. From checking your brakes to making sure your lights are working properly, a few steps can help ensure a safe and smooth ride.
And remember, driving safety is a team effort. By taking the time to prepare your vehicle and brush up on your driving safety skills, you can help make sure everyone arrives safely!
If you want to ensure your vehicle is in top shape for the school year, stop by your local AAMCO NY Tri-State Center. A trained technician can help you with all your back-to-school vehicle maintenance needs and help you kick off the year at the head of the class!
Expect the Best
AAMCO has over 50 years of experience delivering total car care, from the transmission to tune-ups for more than 20 million vehicles. Customers depend on us for:
- Exceptional customer service
- The latest technology for diagnosis and repair
- Expert technicians who “fix it right the first time.”
- Best warranty coverage available
- Convenient payment options with up to 12 months of interest-free payments
AAMCO Centers of the NY/NJ/CT Tri-State Area represent trust, quality, and value. If you’re having an issue with your vehicle, call us today!