Your car's safety and fuel economy isn't just something printed on a spec sheet. How your car works depends on you. Here are Jalopnik readers' picks for the ten things that even your know-nothing, non-gearhead friends need to know about their car.
It's your job to educate them.
Welcome back to Answers of the Day — our daily Jalopnik feature where we take the best ten responses from the previous day's Question of the Day and shine it up to show off. It's by you and for you, the Jalopnik readers. Enjoy!
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10.) What side the fuel door is on
Suggested By: CocheseUGA
Why it's essential: We're going to start things off easy, like the part in the SAT where you bubble in your name. Learn what side of your car the fuel door is on, so that you don't hold up the line at the gas station. Most cars have a little arrow on the fuel gauge that reminds you.
Photo Credit: Mike Chaput
9.) Wipers are consumable parts - know when to replace them
Suggested By: fortneja
Why it's essential: If your windshield stays streaky when you turn on your wipers and it's hard to see, it's time to replace your wipers. You can change them yourself; it's so easy it's self-explanatory. Just swap out the old blades for new ones and you'll be much safer on the road.
Photo Credit: Christine Krizsa
8.) What the car's driven wheels are
Suggested By: ranwhenparked
Why it's essential:If you don't know if your car is front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive, or all-wheel-drive, you'll end up doing all sorts of foolish things like putting snow chains on the wrong wheels. At 1:20 in the video you will see a Seattle driver putting chains on the rear tires of his front-drive Corolla. This is wrong.
7.) Where to find the spare tire and jack
Suggested By: rawtoast
Why it's essential: Cars get flats, but if you know where your spare wheel and jack are, along with how to change a tire, you won't be stranded. First, find out where your spare tire is and where your jack is. Then, learn how to change a tire. If you've never changed a tire before, find someone who has (one of your friends or your parents will be able to show you) and have them show you how. Alternatively, follow these simple steps on WikiHow.
Photo Credit: Tomasz Wagner
6.) What all the lights and gauges mean
Suggested By: Klic
Why it's essential: This one is a bit simpler than tire-changing, but it's still very important. Cars these days have lots of little "idiot" lights on the dash to tell you when something is wrong with your car. The symbols, however, are by no means self-explanatory.
Reach into your glovebox, pull out the manual, go to the table of contents and find the page that explains your dashboard. There will be drawings that make things very easy to understand, so you won't be turning off your stability control when you mean to be turning on your defroster and you'll learn that the weird squiggly thing is actually the check engine light and you should go to a mechanic as soon as possible.
Photo Credit: Simon Carrasco
5.) Where your jumper cables are and how to use them
Suggested By: JackTrade
Why it's essential: Sometimes your car just won't start. It's probably because your battery is dead. To get the car going again you'll need to find the jumper cables (they're in your trunk, most likely) and learn how to jump a car. The other car you flag down to help you will probably know how to do it, but you should read these simple instructions to learn how. The short version is this:
Connect one red clamp to the positive (+) terminal of the dead battery.
Connect the other red clamp to the positive (+) terminal of the good battery.
Connect one black clamp to the negative (-) terminal of the good battery.
Connect the other black clamp to a piece of grounded metal on the dead car.
Turn on the working car, let it run for a few minutes, turn on the dead car, then remove the cables like so:
Disconnect the black clamp from grounded metal on the dead car.
Disconnect the black clamp from the negative (-) terminal of the good battery.
Disconnect the red clamp from the positive (+) terminal of the good battery.
Disconnect the red clamp from the positive (+) terminal of the dead battery.
Replace any positive (+) red post protective covers if applicable.(You have had to remove or open these in the beginning)
Photo Credit: Kyle Johnston
4.) When your tires are worn out
Suggested By: Trochoid Moon
Why it's essential: Too many people drive around with worn-out, bald tires. Check the tread with the penny test. Put a penny into the tread, with Abe's head down. If you can't see the hair on his head, your tires are fine. If his whole head is showing, get new tires pronto.
Photo Credit: David Pitkin
3.) What your car's tire pressure is
Suggested By: ejp hates automatic transmissions
Why it's essential: This is a multi-step process, but improperly inflated tires waste gas and in extreme cases, they're not safe to drive on. First, you have to find out what your tire pressures should be. You can find this information in the manual or online or often in the little badge stamped or printed inside the driver's side door.
Next you have to check the air pressre. Any gas station will have a place to put air into your tires, and most of these will have built in gauges. If not, buying a gauge costs about a dollar.
Photo Credit: Fuschia Foot
2.) Where your oil is/how much is in the car
Suggested By: Joe_Limon
Why it's essential: There is a little cap under your hood. It says either "710" or "OIL." Now find the dipstick, and lift it up. When you pull out the dipstick, look for how far up the oil went. Is it between the two lines on the dipstick? If so, you're good. If it's less, you need to unscrew that cap and add a quart of oil. Don't overfill.
Photo Credit: kitsu
1.) When should the car next get serviced
Suggested By: SilverBulletBoxer
Why it's essential: Your car has service intervals. Find out what they are in the manual or online, and take your car to a mechanic at these times. New cars often remind you when they need to be taken in, but you should mark down when the service intervals are on a calendar or on your phone's calendar so you don't have to try and remember the dates yourself. You'll have a safer, more economical car if you do.
Photo Credit: rainy city