Motoring Parenting

4 essential car checks for your teen’s first car

First Car
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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Buying your teen’s first car is exciting. Ensure they always stay safe on the roads with these four essential car checks.

Mark Barclay is from car part supplier, GSF Car Parts. Here, he shares four essential checks you should be performing when picking your teen’s first car…

When your teen passes their test, it’s bound to be an unforgettable time. And, even more so when they’re picking their first car. But if you want to ensure they’re safe on the roads, it’s key that they know how important it is to check for and monitor any problems with their vehicle.

From comparing the car’s condition against the disclosed mileage to looking out for grinding gears, I’m going to be sharing four of the essential car checks you should be performing when picking your teen’s first car.

Inspect before you buy

To keep your teen safe now and in future car purchases, it’ll be important to talk them through the process of what to look for before buying a car, whether it’s brand new or second-hand. While doing this, you should also make them aware of the consequences that come with not thoroughly scoping out the vehicle, including the increased risks of serious injuries and fatalities. These pre-sale checks could include taking the car out for a drive with the salesman and checking that there are no warning lights or obvious signs of danger, such as loose brakes or faulty headlights.

It’s also a must to check any official documents like MOT certificates and owner history, as well as comparing the details of the car against the information held by the DVLA. If you’re buying second-hand, you should also make sure that the condition of the car matches the stated mileage — a car that has done 100,000 miles isn’t likely to look brand new, so trust your gut instinct and avoid the dealership if you think something is wrong.

Watch out for grinding gears

You should ensure that your teen knows what their gear changes should sound like and when it’s necessary to report any issues. It’s important that they know manual and automatic cars use different gear systems, so the signs of grinding gears are different.

When driving a manual, grinding gears could be a sign of many things, some more serious than others. This can be from something as simple as forgetting to engage the clutch, to something more complicated like worn out synchronisers or chipped gear teeth. But any recurring problem with your gears should be checked out.

For automatic cars, the gears are controlled electronically without the help of the driver. If your teen will be driving an automatic, make sure they are familiar with how the gear changes feel, and to report any sharp switches or shakes in between gears.

Inspect tyres regularly

Tyres can be costly to your teen if they’re not cared for correctly, so be sure they know how to regularly inspect their tyres for any potential problems. Although there are general wear and tear issues that can’t be avoided, sensible and gentle driving will generally keep their tyres in good condition for longer.

For tyres, there are strict UK laws to adhere to, to make the maintenance of them simpler:

  • They should be the right size and type for your car, as advised in the manual.
  • They should have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm to avoid skidding or aquaplaning.
  • They should be inflated to their recommended tyre pressures.

When inspecting your teen’s tyres, you should keep an eye out for any cuts, tears or bulges, as these could cause a tyre blowout. You should also look for any potential hazards, such as stones or nails in the tyres, which could penetrate and cause damage. If you’re checking tyre pressure, make sure that the tyres are cool before doing so, as this will give the most accurate measurement.

Check the headlights

Even if it’s light when you go to the dealership, you should make sure that all of the external car lights are working. The headlights, fog lights and brake lights are all there for an important reason, so check that these are all operating as you would expect before buying the vehicle.

If the lights seem to dip in and out, it’s important that the car is taken to a garage to be looked at. Driving without lights can be particularly dangerous in weather where the visibility is reduced, as well as in the darkness — both which could cause serious accidents and injuries. It’s crucial that your teen knows to check these before all journeys.