Camping and hiking information
with tips for parents
Camping and hiking information
with tips for parents

Mary's Guide to Quick Car Maintenance for the Automotively Impaired

I used to think that cars were complicated and mysterious in their workings. The idea that I could do my own basic repairs was laughable. I did not know how to check the pressure in my tires and had no idea that my transmission needed fluid.

After killing off a few innocent cars, my husband changed all that. He enlisted my help in fixing his cars and I actually learned something!

  • Things you should always keep in your car - This is information everyone with a car should read. I also provide tips on things you should do and things you should never do.
  • How does my car work? This feature is not done yet!This is not a complicated schematic or anything. I explain the basics of how a car works that any 10 year old could understand and walk you through solving really basic problems. If you understand how your car works - you will be able to make some sense out of it when it doesn't work. Most repair garages are honest and hard working - but there are some out there that are not. Understanding how your car works may save you some time and money at a disreputable shop.
  • Basic car trouble-shooting guide - This feature is incomplete at this timeThis page gives tips to common problems. I am not a mechanic and this page will not tell you how to do anything complicated - but it may keep you from paying an expensive bill to fix something silly.
  • Drivers to Aviod - A humerous look at a serious problem. Learn to recognise problem drivers and avoid them.
  •  Things you should always keep in your car 
    For a copy of the list below that is simple to print out just Click Here and send message. This is an automated service so please do not include a message as I won't get it here. 
    To contact Camp-A-Roo Click Here! 
    • Car Water - My family drinks bottled water but we bring a milk container full of tap water along for the car.
    • A Screw Driver - Both a philips head and a regular screwdriver are recommended.
    • A Spare Tire - It may sound obvious - but if you have had a flat recently you may still be driving on your spare.
    • A Can of Fix-A-Flat - Why change a tire if you don't have to? This stuff is great for fixing those slow leaks and small punctures.
    • A Lug Wrench and Jack - You won't be able to do much without these! Many cars have special jacks that are fairly model specific so don't count on borrowing a friends.
    • A Hubcap Key - Many cars have hub caps that lock onto the rim. If you don't have the key or your key is worn you will not be able to change your tire and neither will anyone else - you can only get these keys from a dealership.
    • Duct Tape - You can use this stuff for an amazing number of things. You can tape a leaking radiator hose (dry it first). My muffler fell off on a trip and I taped the exhaust pipe to the bumper to keep it from dragging on the ground.
    • A Bike Pump - You can pump up your tires with this. It is more work than at the gas station, but tire pressure is only measured correctly when the tires are cool - before you drive it.
    • Jumper Cables - These are very simple to use but make sure you put them on the right terminals of your battery!
    • Extra Fuses
    • An Air Pressure Gauge - My hubby found a digital one for under $15 bucks - he loves it!
    • Motor Oil - at least a quart.
    • Transmission Fluid and a funnel - Most cars are a nightmare to get transmission fluid into. A good funnel and a rag will make the job much easier.
    • Pliers and/or adjustable wrench
    • Knife/Razor blade
    Things to check before a trip 
    (once a month is a good idea too) 

    • Check your oil
    • Check your transmission fluid - For automatic transmissions only! You have to check the fluid level when the car is running and is warmed up. Some cars require that you check the fluid while the transmission is in park - others recommend you check it while the car is in neutral. This information is sometimes found on the dip stick - otherwise check your owners manual.
    • Check your power steering fluid
    • Check your brake fluid - This fluid is quite acidic so use caution and wash your hands when you are done! If you find yourself adding brake fluid on a regular basis, you have a problem!
    • Check your brake pedal - If you push down on your brake pedal and it feels much softer than normal or seems 'mushy' get it checked!
    • Check your air cleaner element - Hold your air cleaner up to the sun and try to look through it. If you can't see daylight - it's time for a new one.
    • Check your coolant level - Never open the radiator when the engine is hot!
    • Check your tire pressure
    • Check your tires for unusual wear - You can avoid costly tire bills by checking your tires regularly. If you see wear on the inside or outside edge of your tire you probably need an alignment. A good alignment will extend the life of your tires a great deal.
    • Check your windshield wipers and wiper fluid
    • Check your lights - Make sure headlights, high beams, tail lights, emergency hazard lights, backing lights, and turn signals all work.
    • Wash your wind sheild - Some products like Rain-X will actually treat the glass, and will make travel more enjoyable (the bugs roll right off)
    • Check your childs car seat - Many injuries occur each year because parents don't use car seats for their children - but did you know that there are plenty of injuries caused by improperly installed car seats? I read that almost 50% of car seats are not installed correctly or do not fit the vehicle correctly. My hubby and I have several cars and had to buy a second car seat so we could safely transport our children. 
    A car seat that becomes loose in an accident becomes a dangerous projectile. Car seats should never be in the front of the vehicle - if you have air bags or not. It is reccomended that all children under the age of 12 ride in the rear of the vehicle at all times. Car seats are not designed to face the rear of your vehicle or be on a side-facing bench. The seat is simply not designed to handle impact from these positions and you put your child at risk when using the seat improperly.
    Some car problems can't be anticipated or avoided - but many can. 
    Don't spend half of your vacation with your car in the shop because you forgot something simple! 

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