There are so many things to take care of when students begin to move away from home and into college dorms or first apartments. Making sure they have the right clothes and all the little essentials that will make the transition as smooth as possible often takes weeks and months to get right.
However, one big item often is overlooked, according to auto mechanics.
Many students head off to school with their own car, and for the first time in their lives, they don't have the accessibility or knowledge of their parents in case of an emergency.
It is important for parents to make sure the car that they are sending their children to college with is ready for the unexpected. As part of this, it is a good idea to help inform the driver of the car on many of the basics surrounding their vehicle, mechanics said.
The first item to be addressed should be the car's tires.
''You need to check your pressure every month, and rotate your tires once every 3,000 to 5,000 miles,'' said Jim Handel, owner of Wholesale Tire Co. in Warren.
Check and maintain tires
l Make sure there is a tire pressure gauge in the vehicle
l Check tires at least once a month when the tires are cold.
l Know the vehicle manufacturer's recommended tire pressure.
l Practice adding air to tires from a gas station air pump
Know the maintenance schedule
l Have owner's manual in the glove box at all times.
l Know the recommended maintenance schedule outlined in the owner's manual.
l Be aware of the current mileage and what mileage mark it will be to perform maintenance.
Find a repair facility nearby
l Parents should accompany their teen to the shop and allow them to be introduced to shop owner.
Prepare for roadside emergencies
l Make sure the car is stocked with a roadside emergency kit - flashlight, jumper cables, first-aid kit, etc.
l Make sure the spare tire is in good condition and properly inflated, and that the car has a working jack and lug wrench.
HOW TO CHANGE A FLAT:
l Find a safe place to pull over.
l Set the car in park and set the emergency break.
l Place a brick or large rock behind one of the undamaged tires to prevent rolling.
l Locate the spare tire and tools, typically in the trunk.
l Remove the hubcap and lug nuts using a wrench or tire iron.
l Jack up the car. The owner's manual will direct where to place the jack.
l Remove lug nuts.
l Remove the tire.
l Place spare tire onto the prongs, air valve facing out, and replace the lug nuts and tighten slightly.
l Lower the car with the jack so that tire cannot spin.
l Tighten the lug nuts.
l Lower the vehicle all the way and remove jack.
l Replace hubcap.
l Return all the tools to the car
Properly inflated and maintained tires are essential for safe travel. Every driver should make sure they have a tire pressure gauge in the car. Underinflated tires can lead to blowouts or failure - they may simply go flat. Any of these can lead to an accident.
''To be able to install a tire safely is important,'' Handel said.
It is also important to take note of the age of the tire, he said.
''Every tire has a DOT number on it, and that number tells who made the tire, and the last three or four digits tell the age of the tire.
The DOT number is a code that will tell the manufacturing plant, the tire size, the type of tire and the date code. The four-digit date code at the end of the DOT number will tell the week of the year the tire was made and in what year.
''Some tires look good but they are old,'' Handel said. ''After five years, a tire begins to delaminate and self-destruct.''
Parents should make certain that their young driver knows how to change a tire and that the spare is in good usable shape.
By familiarizing the driver with their car, they will be able to easily find items such as the spare and jack.
According to Bill Walls, owner of B&B Automotive in Warren, it is essential that students find a mechanic in the school's area they can depend on.
''The biggest thing is to take it to someone you can trust, an automotive technician,'' Walls said. ''Ask your friends ... ask around. When the student gets settled, they may want to make some contacts in the area, maybe someone's parents who live in the area and find out who they take their car to.''
Walls said it is very important that students do this long before they encounter car trouble.
According to Mark Fordeley, owner of Buff-N-Stuff in Warren, there are some easy items to check before letting a student head off with their car.
''Make sure the tires are safe. Make sure there is antifreeze in the car,'' Fordeley said. ''Make sure there is an emergency kit in the car - first aid kit, flares.''
Items such as a flashlight with extra batteries, tire gauge, warm blanket, first-aid kit, bottled water, jumper cables and simple tools should be in the car at all times.
Other items to inspect are the radiator and thermostat.
''Make sure the radiator is nice and clean,'' Fordeley said.
''Make sure they have a thermostat that is only a couple years old,'' Walls said. ''If it's over two years old, they should have it replaced.''
Walls also advises drivers to have their radiator and heater hoses checked.
These types of inspections can easily be done by a reputable mechanic. However, it is important for these drivers to understand the basics of their car. They should be able to locate their dipstick in order to check their oil and how to add oil if necessary. They should also be able to properly place jumper cables on a battery in case of a dead battery.
An understanding of their vehicle and a knowledge on simple repair will help to ensure the safety of the driver, no matter how old they are, according to the mechanics.