Driving can be expensive if you lack basic car-care knowledge or proper insurance. Regular maintenance can prevent costly breakdowns and extend your car’s life, and the right coverage can protect your wallet in the event of an accident.
Here are five need-to-know basics:
1. Know car insurance basics. Before getting behind the wheel, know these terms:
• Liability. Every state requires you to carry liability insurance, which covers injuries to others or damage to others’ property. You may hear it referred to as Property Damage (PD for short) or Bodily Injury (BI for short).
• Collision vs. comprehensive. Collision pays for repairs to your car if you hit another vehicle or crash into an object. Comprehensive covers other incidents. For example, hitting a deer, hailstorm damage, vandalization or theft.
• Deductible. This is the amount you’ll pay out-of-pocket for repairs before insurance kicks in.
• Endorsement. Sometimes referred to as a “rider,” an endorsement refers to a change or addition to existing coverage. For example, Erie Insurance has an endorsement called ERIE Rate Lock which customers can add to policies so their rates will increase only if they change their policy, drivers, vehicles or their address, even if they file a claim.
“Car insurance can be complicated, so we don’t expect drivers to know everything, but we do recommend understanding a few basics,” says Jon Bloom, vice president, personal auto, Erie Insurance. “Working with an insurance agent can help you get the right coverage for you, based on your car and budget.”
2. Read the owner’s manual. Learn the car’s bells and whistles and how often to rotate tires, check belts and hoses and change the oil. Check dashboard warning lights. Red typically indicates your car may be unsafe to drive. Yellow or orange usually means you should get it checked but it’s not urgent. Green generally indicates a feature is working.
3. Check tires monthly. Proper tire pressure promotes good gas mileage and can extend tire life. Reference the sticker found inside the driver’s door for the recommended pressure. Don’t over inflate. Consider learning how to change a tire, a handy skill when assistance isn’t available.
4. Get regular oil changes. Some companies, like GM and Ford, equip vehicles with oil monitors so owners know when to change oil. If you don’t have this feature, reference your owner’s manual. Most manufacturers recommend changing oil between 5,000 and 7,500 miles, while synthetic oils are likely good for 10,000 to 15,000 miles.
5. Master the jump-start. Usually a car battery needs to be replaced every five years. While a dead battery is never convenient, it’s easy to jump start a car. Attach one red clamp to the positive terminal of the dead battery. The other red clamp goes on the positive terminal of the live battery. The black clamp attaches to the negative terminal of the live battery. The final clamp goes onto an unpainted metal surface on the dead car’s engine block to prevent hazardous sparking. Turn on the live car. Allow the dead car to run for at least a half hour to charge. Always double-check your owner’s manual to be sure your vehicle doesn’t require special jump-starting procedures.
By knowing the basics, you can hit the road with confidence.