How To Prepare Your Car for College

July 30, 2010

Sending a child off to college sometimes means turning over one of the family vehicles as well. The car may not need a meal plan or $500 worth of books, but whether it's a new 2010 Kia Soul or something a little more used, it's going to take some planning to make sure its trip to college is a round-trip one.

You have to estimate what the demands of going to college mean for the car. How many miles away is the school? Is it going to be driven while on campus? Where will it be housed and when will it next return home are some of the questions you should answer to discover how to prepare the car for college:

Are all the vitals up to date? If the weather conditions at school require different equipment than that at home you might have to upgrade the tires for example or replace the wiper blades in preparation for a severe winter. Will the car’s state inspection expire during the semester? If so, have it checked out and stickered before its departure.

Safety comes first. Do a safety check of the car and think about the fact that you won’t be around to provide assistance. There needs to be accessories available like an ice scraper, tire gauge and supply of spare fluids and motor oil. If you haven’t had "the talk" with your kid, now is the time to have it. I’m talking about what happens under the hood of the car, of course.

Show them around. Raise the hood and point out all the refill locations of at least the brake, power steering, and transmission fluids. Show the student where and how to add coolant and emphasize the danger involved in all that is going on under the hood like the moving parts (belts and pulleys) and the pressurized cooling system.

Teach them to stop, look and listen for trouble. Encourage them to be aware of what is going on with the car and point out where they might find evidence of leaking fluids if one of the systems should fail. See the AllCarAdvice article Monitoring The Fluids In Your Car for tips. Let your student know that early detection is a key way to stay out of trouble and that it is a function of the sights, sounds and feel of the vehicle and that they should alert you of any deviations from the norm.

Be prepared for the worst. Next is the part no one likes to think about -what happens when something goes wrong with the car? All you can do is be prepared. Buy an auto club membership with the car miles from home it is a sound investment. Try to track down a fair auto repair facility near campus. My daughter’s college was two hours from home and I had found a shop with good credentials. Luckily in four years I never had to use it. But having a backup plan gave me some peace of mind.

At an orientation for the parents of incoming freshmen the administrator said that one thing she could guarantee was that our kids would never be the same after going away to college.

Unfortunately, the same could be said for the family car. Happy learning.

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