First Time Car Owner’s Guide to General Maintenance and Repairs


In the United States, owning a car is a rite of passage for many people, and a shiny new car can be your pride and joy. A car is also a symbol of freedom of movement since it allows you to freely transport yourself anywhere you like. But of course, a car is a complex and expensive piece of hardware that needs regular care and monetary investments, so this first time car owner guide should help a new car owner make all the right decisions. This may be especially true for teenagers who get their first car, and they will certainly want a first time car owner guide for reference. Why refer to a first time car owner guide, even if you already know how to drive and have a license? Bear in mind that a car may end up very expensive to own or even endanger your life if things go wrong, so be sure to keep your vehicle in good shape and spend your money smartly.

Invest In Great Insurance

This first time car owner guide will cover many topics of car ownership, some of which may seem rather boring, but are no less important for it. A car involves not only many moving parts, but also a lot of paperwork, and not just during the purchasing process. In any first time car owner guide, you will see grim statistics about car accidents and damage, and you will want some defenses against auto mishaps. So, be sure to look into some auto insurance options, and browse for a plan that covers all your needs without costing you a crippling amount of money. You will have more than one option for insurance against car accidents, and depending on your car’s condition and how often you drive, you might want some pretty hefty insurance. The more costly plans eat up your budget, but in exchange, you may be greatly covered when it comes to repair jobs at the auto shop. Car repairs can cost a lot, but good insurance can help spare you those expenses.

If your car is fairly cheap or if you are not driving that often (and you’re a careful driver), you may opt or cheaper insurance, such as liability insurance. For some drivers, that is all that is needed. But you should still be careful; any driver might end up in a wreck, and that might include you someday. On average, according to statistics, a driver will have an auto insurance claim once per 17.9 years or so.

Used Cars Need More Maintenance

There is a sort of trade-off when it comes to cars and their age: either you buy a new one at a high cost, or you buy a cheaper, used one that will sometimes need repairs. Whether you get a new or a used car may depend on your budget, preferences, and the availability of a certain brand you want. If you opt for a used car, this first time car owner guide urges you to stay on top of its maintenance needs, from its tires to the brake pads to the windows, and even the air conditioning. Anything that is on or in your car might break, wear out, or get dirty, and you must be ready when this happens.

A good first time car owner guide will suggest that you take your car into the shop regularly, so experts can get their hands on it and diagnose any developing problems early. Like a person, a car may suffer from an ongoing, undiagnosed problem, but spotting those issues early allows you to get your car fixed before the damage becomes more serious. A first time car owner guide will suggest, for example, that you get your car tires rotated to keep them running longer, and car brake repair is a good call to keep your vehicle safe on the road. The interior might need work too, such as a CD player that refuses to eject a disc, or if the air conditioner is busted or emitting oddly smelly air.

Should you visit a brand-name auto repair shop? This might not be incredibly important, but it can help, since a brand name place like a pre owned Ford dealership or a Toyota dealer can help provide brand name repair parts. When it comes to fixing a car, the choice is to either get a brand-name part or an off-brand part. Off-brand parts vary somewhat in quality and compatibility, and if you are a first-time car owner, you might not be able to tell them apart. But the highest quality off-brand parts can be just as good as brand-name parts, and cost less. Inversely, brand-name parts do cost more, but their quality and comparability are both guaranteed, and for some car owners, that is all that matters. Some first time car owner guides may suggest that you stick to brand-name parts, so you don’t sabotage your car with a cheap off-brand part that breaks down. A more experienced and savvy car owner can find good deals among off-brand parts, though. This can be done for new brake pads, car radiator replacement parts, or a new air conditioner unit, among other hardware features.

Luxury Brands Require Special Care

This topic might not even apply to you at all, but if you are on the market for a new car and you are considering a luxury brand, be advised about it. Luxury brands like Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, and Audi are known for looking great but needing a high level of care, and their spare parts may be quite costly if they are brand-name. If you choose to buy a comfortable and gorgeous luxury car, be ready to pay for costly Mercedes-Benz or Lexus repairs, and factor this into your financial plan well before you buy the car itself. Buying the car won’t be the last time you spend some substantial sums of money on it.

Keep Brakes Maintained

This is a small topic, but an important one, and any good first time car owner guide will emphasize the need for fully functional brakes. The last thing you want is your brakes to fail on you, and cause your car to roll out of control and slam into another car or a piece of property. Have your brake pads and brake fluid checked regularly, especially if your vehicle is an aging used car, and be prepared to pay for new brakes pads. This may cost a fair amount, but it is vital for safe driving, and your car will not pass any safety inspection while it has faulty brake systems. In fact, the auto repair crews might not even let you drive the car again until its brakes are in good shape again. So, it’s a good idea to regularly set aside money in your regular budget to afford a repair job like this, since there is really no avoiding it.

Keep an Emergency Key

This is a dreaded issue among car owners: getting locked out of the car at the worst possible time. If you are careful, you can avoid locking your car while the keys are inside, but it still might happen sometime. So, a first time car owner guide will recommend that you have a spare key somewhere if a case of car lockout happens. You don’t want to end up breaking your own car’s window to get inside; give a trusted person the spare key, or hide it somewhere secure on your property. And if all else fails, you can call a car locksmith to open up your car, but this takes time and will cost a fee. Better to have your own emergency key on hand.

Get to Know Your Mechanic

Your people skills can factor into this, too. Car repair experts aren’t just people with wrenches and oil-stained denim clothes; they are quite smart and savvy with their work, and you are bound to talk to them every time you need car repairs. You and the mechanics will discuss what sort of repairs your car needs or will soon need, and the mechanics can recommend certain brands or give you suggestions. So, it is a good idea to be friendly to them and get along, so they can be more enthusiastic about recommending certain repairs and doing a great job. Put another way, you won’t do anyone any favors by acting gruff or dismissive of them, but building a friendly rapport can pay off in some ways. In fact (there’s no guarantee of this), a mechanic might even offer you special discounts or preferential treatment if you are very friendly to them and visit them regularly for car repairs. If you are a polite regular who is easy to get along with, you might end up enjoying some perks. This isn’t guaranteed to happen, but it might.

Restoring a Classic Car Isn’t Always Realistic

This isn’t necessarily to discourage your car restoration dreams, but be aware that restoring a classic car and using hot rod parts may be too tricky or expensive for you. Most first time car owner guides are going to discuss ordinary sedans and SUVs, not ultra-powerful muscle cars or meticulously restored racecars from the 1920s. This topic is best left to the experts and longtime car enthusiasts, who have put a lot of practice, study, and money into restoring and running these cars with an expert hand. By all means, admire the handiwork of these enthusiasts at a race or car show, but it won’t be easy to join their ranks. If you are a first-time car owner, it is probably best to stick to a regular car and getting used to its maintenance and needs first. Later on, if cars are truly your passion and you are more experienced with their care and operation, you can look into joining the hot rod or car restoration scene someday. But it isn’t for everyone.

Keep An Eye on Fluids

Here is another topic that is rather mundane, but quite important all the same: fluids. Your car is going to need more liquids inside its body than the gasoline/petrol, and if any fluids get too low or too dirty, there may be some problems. For example, you need to keep the brake fluids high enough, and neglecting that can hurt your car’s performance and damage its components. Similarly, be sure to keep the radiator fluid level high enough, since radiator fluid is key to cooling down the car’s engine and preventing overheating issues. You are encouraged to regularly (and often) check the fluid levels, and refill that tank if need be. For the most part, you’ll end up mixing in some water with glycol-based, anti-freezing radiator fluid for optimal performance. In warm or arid parts of the country, you may end up using a 50/50 split, and in cooler regions, the ratio may be more like 70% fluid, 30% water or so. You can consult a mechanic to find out what ratio is right for your car.

Finally, don’t forget the window wiper fluid. Your car won’t break down for a lack of wiper fluid, but then again, your vision may become dangerously impaired if your windshield is dirty and you don’t have enough fluid to wipe the mess off. Fortunately, replacing the wiper fluid should be inexpensive and easy, even if you are a first-time car owner. You just have to know where to pour it.

Cleaning Your Car

The final topic concerns car cleaning, both for the vehicle’s inside and outside. On the outside, it’s a good idea to have your car washed regularly not only for good looks, but also to prevent any grime from caking onto it and compromising the paint. You can even have the car detailed, which is a more thorough cleaning job that can remove tiny, embedded dirt particles. During winter, when there is salt on the roads, you will want to visit a car wash that can wash the car’s underside, to remove any salt that will harm the underside’s surface.

Don’t forget the interior, for your own sake. Car carpeting and floor mats can get dirty over time from mud, spilled food and drink, and pet hair, and this can make the interior rather smelly and unsanitary. Fortunately, you can easily have the carpets and floor mats washed and shampooed, and if the mats are damaged or difficult to clean, you can just replace them. Be sure to also clean the trunk’s own carpet and mats, especially if you regularly put groceries in there. Vacuums can be used to suck up crumbs, particles, and hairs from the seats and floor as well.

A car is a big responsibility, and a lot could go wrong. But if you are vigilant, careful, and have money set aside for replacement parts or repairs, you can keep any car looking and performing its best for years to come.

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