Top Ten Car Prep Tips For College

August 3, 2010

The goal when you send your car off to college is for it to be a non-issue from at least August to December. You want it to transport your student from home to campus and back again. It may find other uses at school like being used as a pool car for your son or daughter’s living group. This is not a happy thought considering liability considerations. But we’ll leave advice about those issues to legal experts; here we’ll concentrate on 10 prep tips to head off to college with.

Study The Rubber: The tires on the car have to make the round trip to school and back. First consider the tread depth, make sure you can evaluate the inside of the tire as well. Look for the wear bars between the tread, if the tread is worn down to that level, forget about sending the car off to college until you find an appropriate set of tires. Check out Car Advice: Shopping for Tires for help. You can also use the Lincoln’s Head test to determine the worth of your tires. Place a penny headfirst between the tread if any part of Abe’s head is obscured the tire is safe at the present time. Always gauge the tire in an area with the least amount of tread.

Also look for signs of cracking or dry rot and try to determine the age of the tire from the DOT number which is stamped into the tire with four numbers, the first two are the week of manufacture and the second two are the year. DOT 0210 means the tire was manufactured the second week of January 2010. NHTSA says that tires over five years old should be checked on a regular basis.

Take The Safety Test: You want your student to see and be seen. Start with the wiper blades; are they frayed, do they move smoothly and do they clean? If you answered no, replace them with a frame and rubber blade assembly (called exact fit type by some manufacturers) this makes for a better job and less frustration during installation.

Check all the lights, front and rear including the turn signals. In the case of the headlights make sure that a frosted lens isn’t cutting down the output of the headlight. Kits are sold to remove the yellowing or graying which can cause poor visibility on an older car’s headlight lens.

Think On Your Feet: Take a walk around your car looking for trouble. Take note of any fluid stains or puddles that might lead you to the source of a problem. Look for anything hanging down from the underside of the car like splash pans, air dams or loose exhaust or tail pipes. Take another look at the tires and check the air pressure.

Do The Hearing Test: Start the engine and listen for unusual noises. A squeal upon first starting may be the sign of a worn serpentine belt or possibly a bad belt tensioner or idler pulley. If the starting process sounds badly you might have a loose starter or need a new starter motor. Move the steering wheel back and forth for a possible whining power steering pump. At this time make sure that none of the instrumentation is indicating a problem with a check engine light or a rising temperature gauge.

Raise The Hood: With your student standing by go over all the fluids that can be monitored from under the hood and show him or her how to check each. Point out the danger the turning pulleys and the pressurized cooling system present and emphasize filling the fluids to their proper level with only the specified type of product. While you have the hood up look for cracked belts or bulging or oil soaked cooling hoses and leaks of any kind.

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