Going off to college is a big milestone in any young person’s life. As a parent, you do your best to prepare them in every way you can — including emotionally and financially. But have you ever thought about preparing them … mechanically?
Specifically, we’re talking about cars here. According to data reported to U.S. News, nearly 47 percent of students bring cars to campuses, so it’s important for them to have everything they need on hand in case they experience an emergency or become stranded.
Whether your son or daughter will be relatively close to Cleveland at a school like Ohio State or attending a college outside Ohio, this checklist will help ensure they have all their bases covered, vehicle-wise, as they pursue higher education.
The Top Things to Check Before a Kid Goes Off to College
Before your young adult heads off to Kent State, Miami University, the University of Cincinnati or any of the other fine institutions in Ohio — or in another state — it’s wise to take their car in for an inspection to ensure it’s in tip-top shape. Fortunately, there are several high-quality auto maintenance and repair shops in Cleveland. Here are a few things you should have checked:
- Fluids: You should do more than just an oil change before your child heads off into the great unknown. In addition to motor oil, there are other fluids that are crucial to keep your vehicle running smoothly, such as brake fluid, power steering fluid, air conditioner Freon, windshield wiper fluid, transmission fluid and antifreeze. Whether they’re running low or are dirty, an auto repair shop can identify and address any fluid issues.
- Battery: You want your child to visit you during their winter break, don’t you? They can’t if they try to start their car one cold winter morning and the battery is dead. Have an auto mechanic test and clean the battery terminals to ensure it will last through each semester. An auto repair shop can even tell you how much life a battery has left in it.
- Tires: Are the tires on your child’s car at risk of blowing out or is the car at risk for hydroplaning? Is the tire pressure appropriate? Are there abnormal signs of wear? What about the spare tire? Have an auto maintenance and repair shop check all five tires on the car to be safe.
- A/C and heating: If your child is attending college in Ohio, you know how cold the winters can get here, so make sure the heating system is working, as well as the air conditioning. A heating and cooling inspection may not be the first thing you think about, but it can keep your child comfortable when the weather fluctuates.
- Brakes: Your child probably can’t wait to get going, but you want to make sure they can also stop. Brakes should be inspected regularly to ensure every component in the system is working and responsive. Pay attention to any noises you hear while braking and get them checked out.
- Other components: Your child’s car is a complex system with many components, so a thorough general inspection is recommended, but you should especially do so if you experience things like a steering wheel that shakes, squeaking when turning or strange-colored leaking fluid. All of these are signs that something is wrong with your vehicle, and addressing them can prevent future problems from occuring down the road (no pun intended). Furthermore, you want to make sure there are no items that need to be replaced, such as your car's air filter.
In general, you’ll enjoy better peace of mind if you have a certified, professional auto technician take a look at your child’s car before they head off to college.
What Every College-Bound Child Should Keep in Their Car
In addition to having the above components of your child’s car checked, you should ensure they have everything they need on hand in case they’re in an emergency situation on an Ohio highway or back road. Here’s a checklist of items your child should have on hand or close by in their vehicle at all times:
- Jumper cables
- Tire pressure gauge
- First aid kit
- Bungee cords
- Reflective gear or cones
- Tools (screwdriver, wrench, etc.)
- Tire iron
- Spare tire
- Ice scraper
- Spare change
These are just a few things to think about; you may want your child to have other items on hand — such as a photo of the family, of course.
Knowledge: Another Part of Your Child’s Vehicle Maintenance Checklist
In addition to the physical elements of your child’s vehicle maintenance checklist, you should ensure they have basic working knowledge of their vehicle as well. They should know when to take their car in for maintenance or repair, as well as how to handle minor repairs or maintenance tasks themselves. A good place to start is this e-book on the top 10 parts and systems to service regularly to avoid expensive repairs. Next, consider having them change a tire or show them how to check the oil and teach them what to watch for when it comes to their vehicle.
In the end, you may not be able to physically be there with your child as they head off to college, but you can do your best to ensure their vehicle is in good shape and that they’re as safe as possible on the road.