Boomer Memories: 5 Car Tips I Gave My Kids

A row of new cars and suvs

Be Sure to Teach Your Young People These Basic Car Tips

While everyone typically needs a car, the extent to which they view it is purely subjective. Some dote over their car ad nauseam (guilty as charged). Others view it simply as a tool. Either way, there are some basic car tips that are useful to pass along to the young people under your influence. Note that these are not really mechanical car tips per se, but general tips that can serve them regardless of whether they have a junker, a classic car, or a modern automobile.

1. Keep Your Car Clean, Especially Before Taking it to the Shop

Like any piece of equipment, keeping your car clean is important. With cars, a cleaner car reveals potential issues, hopefully before they get too bad. Loose trim, bad tires, burned out marker lights or taillights…dirt, mud, and grime can hide a lot of things.

Keeping it clean inside is important as well. Preventing old Sonic cups from rolling around your floorboards eliminates an unwanted and dangerous distraction. Likewise, throwing away fast food trash can prevent unsolicited science projects from springing up unannounced.

Girl washing red car is following important car tips.

Obviously both of these car tips have their roots in safety, which is the number one concern. Outside of that however, making sure your car is clean inside and out before taking it to the auto shop or service center is vital. A clean car, regardless of its overall mechanical condition, shows that you care and will have an awareness of your vehicle that others may not.

This should put the service writer and mechanic on notice that they won’t be able to put anything over on you, and you will scrutinize and question any recommendations with a careful eye.

2. Learn How To Change A Tire On Your Own Car…and Practice

Some car tips are handy, others can help you get home. Your young new driver may have the general concept of changing a tire down, and may have actually seen it done. The question is, have they actually practiced it on the car they drive? This is one of those car tips you have to follow up on, and perhaps even instigate. It might be a pain, but if they ever have to do it, they will thank you later (in their head…they won’t actually thank you out loud).

Along with that of course is keeping tires properly inflated, including the spare. Fortunately tire pressure monitoring systems have been the OEM standard in America for cars produced after September, 2007.

3. Never Let the Fuel Get Below a 1/4 of a Tank

Admittedly, as far as car tips go, this is less concerning on today’s modern cars that it was a few decades ago on older cars. Still, if your teenager’s phone is constantly hovering at a 1% charge, there is a good chance they will have the same mentality towards the fuel tank. Letting your fuel get that low doesn’t give you much leeway in the event of a traffic snarl, a route change due to construction, or that last minute run to Sonic.

Those drivers in Northern climates that are letting their tanks get down to almost empty do potentially face freeze issues if there is enough water or condensation in the tank, but it isn’t near the concern it was when my 1969 Chevy beater was tearing up the roads.

This is one of those car tips that is as much of a “don’t forget your sweater” or “don’t forget your homework” tip as anything else. We’re just trying to protect those kids from their own ignorance and forgetfulness sometimes.

4. Don’t Neglect the Oil Changes….Ever

Some things simply have to be done no matter what the cost or circumstances. This really belongs in car mandates rather than car tips, but you must get that oil changed on time. Nowadays that’s every 5,000 or 10,000 miles depending on the oil and the car. There simply is no excuse…it must be done.

Fortunately, most of these kids are growing up with cars that have idiot lights to protect them from themselves. While us gauge-focused baby boomers looked at those lights with a negative eye, they can be a saving grace to these kids, especially those with no mechanical acumen whatsoever.

5. Prep For a Road Trip

As a “driving family”, road trips were always on the agenda. As the kids got older, they relished the opportunity to take their own road trips. Fortunately, one of the car tips we always instilled in them was to prepare for their road trip. While this often involved garnering bag fulls of snacks and beef jerky, car prep was not overlooked either.

Every kid knew to check wipers, fluid, tires, oil, coolant, and brake fluid. If I was around we did this together. I also tried to make sure that they had a flare or two, phone chargers, blankets in the trunk in case of cold weather, maps, and our phone numbers on speed dial.

Obviously as mobile technology improved, some of those were a given…or even redundant. Some items still elicited the occasional “aww Daaaad”. Still…there was time when trapped in a huge overnight traffic stoppage due to ice, those blankets were a Godsend. I did refrain from the requisite I told you so.


As times and technologies change, so with the car tips. A few of these will be applicable to electric cars, some of them will not. As long as there are automobiles of some type however, there will be knowledge to pass on. Someday, perhaps we’ll be talking about 5 Tips for Flying Cars.

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