As summer winds down and young adults prepare to head back to college, NAPA AUTO PARTS recommends that parents assemble an "Auto Care Package" to send with their students. Planning ahead will help keep the car operational and may prevent breakdowns that could leave students stranded along the roadside.
"No parent wants to think of his or her child broken down on a busy highway or stranded along a deserted street while away at college," said Jeff Walker, 2005 NAPA Technician of the Year and owner of Walker’s Automotive Services in Pleasantville, NJ. "An auto care package is simple, inexpensive and contains items that will help students do necessary preventive maintenance. Essentially, it helps them make simple repairs so they can keep their vehicles moving when they are on the road."
A basic auto repair kit should contain the following items:
– Tire pressure gauge.
– Jumper cables.
– Extra oil.
– Antifreeze, which serves as a coolant during hot weather and keeps fluids from freezing during cold weather.
– Windshield wiper fluid.
– Mechanic’s wire (to wire up an exhaust system or sagging bumper).
– Wax to protect the vehicle from salt (this is especially important for students attending schools near the coast or in areas where salt is used on the roadways during winter).
– Flashlight with extra batteries (which should be checked periodically).
– An assortment of tools, including a lug wrench, hammer, standard and Phillips screwdrivers and an adjustable wrench.
– Duct tape (to tape a mirror in place after a minor accident or temporarily cover a hole in a hose).
– Extra money (for car washes, tolls, or to pay a towing company that may not accept checks or credit cards).
NAPA advises parents to have their student’s vehicle checked by a certified automotive technician before the student heads down the highway. The technician should inspect fluid levels, belts and hoses, tire pressure, filters, windshield wipers, brakes, lights and battery. If the vehicle’s battery is more than four years old, it will likely need to be replaced.
"Parents may also want to develop a ‘cheat sheet’ indicating when to add more oil, how much air to keep in the tires and how to attach the jumper cables to the batteries," said Walker. "Of course, they will also want to instruct their students on how to check the oil and antifreeze levels, how to check the air pressure and change a flat tire, and how to use the jumper cables."
Students should also learn how to use the tools in their auto care package. For example, a student should know how to use a hammer to remove a tire rim that might be slightly rusted when changing a flat tire.
"Preparing students and their vehicles for the trip to college can help assure students’ safety because a well-maintained vehicle is generally a safer vehicle," said Walker. "Advance preparation can also give parents peace of mind."
Finally, parents may want to have their students join organizations with roadside assistance programs, such as AAA, and/or obtain a NAPA credit card.