How to Get Your Child’s Car Back-to-School Ready

As the fall season sets in with back-to-school supplies and dorm essentials for your college student, don’t forget about the car they drive on campus or to school and back home daily. 

Keeping up with car maintenance is important all year long, but that is especially true when a teenager or young adult drives that car. Our experienced City Auto Repair technicians can perform thorough inspections and service so you can confidently send your child and their car back to school safely. 


Before you entrust a car to your child, have candid conversations with them about general car care, carrying vehicle insurance and registration information, and the need for routine oil changes, tire rotations, and inspections. 


Before you hand over the keys or let your child leave your driveway, check the car to make sure all parts are in good working order. 


If your radio or dash lights are not operating well, or if you have had your car battery for 3-5 years, it’s time to replace it.


Ideally, a brake inspection is part of your regular oil change routine. Worn down brakes can cause car accidents by impeding your ability to stop or stop quickly enough to avoid a collision. And, you can’t always go by the date you last had them replaced. Brakes wear down at different rates depending on how your child drives the car – how much they slam on the brakes or ride them – so check them regularly rather than rely on the replacement date.  

Engine belts and hoses

If your engine hoses or belts have visible cracks or are more than 4 years old, it’s time to replace them. 


In addition to the wiper fluid, check the fluid levels on the transmission, battery, brakes, coolant, and oil and make sure these fluids aren’t dirty, which can damage your car’s engine or transmission.  

Lights and fuses

Headlights allow you to see what is ahead of you, and brake lights allow cars behind you to see that you’re slowing down or stopped. When these don’t work, you are at a higher risk of an accident or flat tire. Put your car in park, then check that all brake lights, headlights, running lights, and turn signals are working correctly. Replace any bulbs or fuses that aren’t, and verify that replacement fixed the issue.


If your child is driving an older model car, check into having the seatbelts replaced with newer and likely safer versions. Ensure that your child wears theirs correctly across their shoulder and hips. They should also understand the importance of seatbelt safety, not just with respect to the law but also as the possible difference between life and death in an automobile accident. 


Make sure the car’s tires are in good condition by doing the following:

  • Get the tires rotated.
  • Check the tire pressure using a tire gauge. 
  • Make sure tires are properly inflated and aligned. 
  • Check for sufficient tire tread. 

To check the tread, insert an upside-down penny in a row of tread, and try multiple rows. If you can always see the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head no matter which tread row you try, you need new tires. If the tread covers part of Lincoln’s head in all the rows, you typically have more than 2/32 inches of tread depth left. 

Tires with insufficient air can negatively affect gas mileage, while tires with inadequate tread can cause the tires to wear at a faster rate and can even lead to dangerous blowouts. 

Windshield Wipers

Check windshield wiper fluid levels and all wiper blades to ensure they don’t need replacement, typically done every 6 to 12 months. While wipers are an inexpensive and easy fix, they significantly impact visibility and safety while driving in nasty weather conditions. 

Prepare for Emergencies

After making sure the car is in good condition, it’s time to teach your child how to call for help, file an accident report, put on their spare tire, or change the oil themselves if needed. Then, help them stock the car with an emergency kit filled with jumper cables, a flashlight, a spare tire, a car jack, tool kit, reflector triangles, a phone charger, a blanket, and anything else you think they may need. 

City Auto Can Help

Sending your child off for school is stressful enough without also worrying about avoidable car problems. By staying on top of routine maintenance and regular inspections before they leave home, you can be reassured that the car is in good shape and as safe as it can be. Contact us today if you’re ready to have our expert City Auto Repair mechanics help your child’s car pass the test!