complete auto maintenance

A Guide to Complete Auto Maintenance for New Drivers

Getting your driver’s license enables independence and a new way to travel. Whether you earn your license after completing driver’s education in high school or as an adult after taking classes at a driving school, no coursework teaches you to complete auto maintenance.

Driving courses teach how to drive the vehicle and the state’s traffic laws, but they do not handle auto maintenance. That topic a new driver must. study on their own. This article covers the topic broadly, hitting the highlights of maintaining your automobile. We’ll start with customizing your vehicle, then move on to insuring it and caring for it.

Vehicle Accessories

No complete auto maintenance guide would provide comprehensive information without a section on using auto accessories to enhance your vehicle and make it better suit your personality. A vehicle owner has two choices in auto accessories – original equipment manufacturer parts (OEM parts) or aftermarket parts. The same company that makes a car, truck, SUV, or van, also makes the OEM parts for it. These parts perfectly fit the make and model of the vehicle because the manufacturers make them specifically for that vehicle.

Aftermarket parts differ because an aftermarket auto accessory company makes one part that the consumer alters to fit their vehicle. For example, OEM truck bed covers only fit the vehicle for which they’re made, such as a Ford F-150. An aftermarket truck bed cover would fit all trucks but require the consumer to trim the cover to fit the truck bed. This results in an imperfect fit and this type of bed cover would not provide a watertight fit because of it.

Whether you purchase a new or used vehicle, you can buy OEM parts for it at the nearby dealership service center. A dealership can also order parts for you if they lack a local service center. Having the parts installed at the service center can enhance the warranty of some parts because they get installed by a manufacturer-trained technician.

Many new vehicles offer packages and trim levels that allow the consumer to customize their auto before driving it home. When you purchase used, you can still add to the vehicle using OEM or aftermarket parts. Having a dealership service center technician install the parts ensures that you maintain your vehicle warranty.

Car Maintenance

The next step in complete auto maintenance comes from daily, weekly, and monthly maintenance, plus manufacturer-recommended maintenance visits. The latter occurs on a schedule based on the years the vehicle has been on the road or the number of miles driven. For example, maintenance might occur after 20,000 miles or one year of driving. Some manufacturers now include the first year to three years of vehicle maintenance in a plan that accompanies the purchase of a new vehicle.

Maintenance plans do not include auto repair but a vehicle owner can take their vehicle to a dealership service center for such repairs. This type of repair comes out of the auto owner’s pocket or from their auto insurance coverage. Not all auto insurance policies cover damage to the owner’s vehicle, but we’ll cover that in the next section.

Except for dealership service centers, typically an auto body repair shop only fixes dents and other exterior damage. A mechanic’s shop usually specializes in the repair of electrical and mechanical parts. This means that each vehicle owner usually has two go-to automotive shops they use for vehicle repairs if they don’t live near a dealership service center.

Car Insurance

We couldn’t call this a complete auto maintenance guide if we didn’t cover auto insurance coverage. Each U.S. state requires its drivers to purchase auto insurance. Most states only mandate liability coverage, but some states also require uninsured motorist coverage or personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. Which coverage the state in which you reside legally requires depends on its laws.

Contact the state Department of Motor Vehicles to find out which coverage your state requires and at what level. In addition to varying the types of auto insurance required, each state sets different minimum monetary levels of coverage. For example, in Oklahoma, a driver must purchase bodily injury coverage in the amount of $25,000 per person per accident and a total of $50,000 per accident and property damage coverage in the amount of $25,000 per accident. In Florida, however, a driver only needs to carry a policy with $10,000 of bodily damage coverage.

It’s a bad idea to only purchase what the state requires though. Most states do not require coverage that protects the driver’s medical costs or vehicle damage. If you choose only minimum coverage, you will pay out of pocket for any damages to your own vehicle. That could cost thousands of dollars.

Contact a few auto insurance companies for quotes on full coverage, the auto insurance term for a policy that includes every type of coverage available. In most states, full coverage refers to a policy with bodily injury, property damage, comprehensive, collision, and roadside assistance, but some states also include uninsured motorist and PIP. Although full coverage costs more in premiums, it pays off to have it if you incur damage to your vehicle or self in any type of accident or peril.

Let’s consider what each type of coverage provides.

    • Bodily injury pays for the other injured parties’ medical bills and/or funeral in an accident that you cause.
    • Personal property pays for the auto repairs to another person’s vehicle due to an accident you caused.
    • Uninsured motorist protects you by paying your medical expenses and property damage if another individual causes an accident that damages your person and/or property and does not carry insurance.
    • Collision pays for damages to your vehicle caused by a single-vehicle accident, such as a collision with a fence or an animal running out in front of your vehicle. Deer notoriously do not carry insurance and frequently causes vehicle damage.
    • Comprehensive coverage of damage to your vehicle caused by a peril, such as a fire, vandalism, or hurricane.
    • PIP covers your medical bills caused by a single or multiple-vehicle accident.
    • Roadside assistance dispatches help you wherever your vehicle breaks down. It also provides you coverage when you drive someone else’s vehicle or a rental vehicle.

Carrying full coverage provides you with coverage for every situation. It pays for your health care if you incur injury, repairs to your vehicle, or replacement of the vehicle, even if it gets stolen.

Minor Repairs

How should you deal with minor repairs, you ask? For complete auto maintenance, as mentioned, the dealership service center remains your best option. If you need Toyota repair, the best source of mechanics comes directly from Toyota. If you lack a dealership near you, you can learn to do essential maintenance yourself by taking a class at a nearby vocational school or online.

Make sure that your self-maintenance does not negate your warranty. Check that taking the vehicle to a local auto body shop won’t adversely affect the warranty. For truly minor repairs, such as minor dent pulling, nearly any professional auto body shop can fix it.

Theft Protection

Although carrying comprehensive coverage in your auto policy covers theft, you can usually lower premiums by having theft deterrent technologies installed. For complete auto maintenance, consider installing auto anti theft GPS tracking, a steering wheel lock, such as The Club, and a car alarm system. Technologies such as these alert those in the surrounding area and yourself when a thief approaches your vehicle. Have your local mechanic install these devices for maximum impact on your insurance premiums.

Truck Maintenance

No complete auto maintenance guide would actually cover everything without a section on trucks. Why? Trucks differ from typical sedans, sports cars, SUVs, and vans because they come with many fuel variations, such as diesel engines. A vehicle with a diesel engine requires different repairs than one that uses typical gasoline, also called petroleum or petrol.

In recent years, major automakers have also begun manufacturing electric trucks, like the F-150 Lightning. That means when you look for local truck repairs in an area without a dealership service center, you need to make sure they offer fully qualified mechanics who can fix a truck regardless of its engine type. These technicians should also service both light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles.

Larger trucks, such as chassis cab trucks and semi trucks, require complete auto maintenance, too. The mechanics who specialize in these commercial vehicles don’t usually service other types of vehicles. Ask for recommendations for mechanics from the dealership from which you purchased the truck.

Maintaining Your Vehicle Properly

While we’d love to be able to provide a universal complete auto maintenance guide, automakers preclude that. Each automotive manufacturer builds at least some of the parts for its vehicles, others it purchases from other manufacturers. That’s why you sometimes find a Chevy engine in a vehicle from a different manufacturer.

Each automotive manufacturer creates its own ideal service schedule, based on the typical wear and tear of each vehicle’s standard parts. For example, a Lexus that uses 0w-20 oil for its engine needs an oil change every 10,000 miles or 12 months, whichever comes first. However, a Lexus that uses 5w-20 oil for its engines needs more frequent oil changes – one every six months or 5,000 miles, whichever comes first.

The vehicle owner’s manual includes the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule. Following it vigilantly results in the best outcome for your vehicle. Also, learn essential weekly maintenance, such as checking your vehicle’s oil levels and adding fresh oil when the reserve runs low. Check the PSI of the vehicle’s tires before each road trip and at least once per week, but visually inspect the vehicle before driving it at all, even a couple of blocks to the corner store.

Accident Lawyers

Although car accident attorneys don’t actually help you complete auto maintenance, they can help you recover funds to repair your vehicle when it becomes damaged in an accident. These lawyers typically specialize in personal injury and maintain a subspecialty in auto accidents and/or trucking accidents. The laws regarding accidents involving commercial vehicles, such as semi trucks differ from those for involving personal vehicles. If involved in an accident involving a commercial truck or semi, contact a personal injury attorney who specializes in trucking accidents.

For all other accidents, a personal injury attorney handles personal vehicle accidents. Within this category though, the attorneys also specialize. These specialties include bicycle accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, fleet vehicle accidents, and others.

Personal injury attorneys handle contacting the insurance company of the individual who caused the accident and processing the paperwork needed to obtain a settlement for you. They also handle filing a lawsuit and representing you in court if it becomes necessary. Typically, this occurs if the individual at fault did not carry insurance, carried too little insurance, or if their insurance company paid out fully to their policy maximum, but did not cover your property damage and medical bills. Each state passes a law that sets a statute of limitations on the period of time that can pass before an injured person loses the right to file a claim, so contact an attorney as soon as possible after an accident.

Most individuals on the road carry minimum insurance, but that offers a low amount of coverage. A single night’s hospital stay costs about $8,000, so even a minor accident that requires a weekend stay in the hospital can cost more than the minimum insurance payout per person. The $8,000 figure only covers the room and board, not the x-rays, reading of the x-rays, medications, surgery, etc. That means that finding a personal injury attorney that you can trust happens more often than one would like.

Learning to Care for Your Automobile

Congratulations on becoming a licensed U.S. driver! You already know the rules of the road and the vehicle’s controls. Take time to learn how to conduct minor maintenance on your vehicle and to locate the best possible mechanics and technicians to service your vehicle. The care you put into maintaining your car, truck, van, or SUV pays you back in the long run because your vehicle will provide you with reliable service.

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