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Driving Tips for Teens

Driving Tips for Teens as They Head Back to School

As kids of all ages head back to school, it's important for young drivers to know the simple things they can do to take care of their vehicles. Whether driving to the local high school or miles from home to attend college, learning how to properly maintain cars can help keep young drivers safer on the road.

"Young drivers are often at risk of getting into an accident or having a mechanical breakdown due to their lack of experience," said Trisha Hessinger, successful automotive television program host, car education specialist and pace car driver. "Firestone Tire & Service Centers has compiled some simple tips to help teach young people the basics of vehicle maintenance - an important part of every driver's education."

First, make sure the vehicle's main fluids are routinely checked and filled to the recommended levels, specifically the window washer fluid, engine oil, anti-freeze / coolant, brake fluid, transmission fluid, and power steering fluid. In many cases, low fluid levels can cause poor performance and premature component failure. Maintaining these fluids at correct levels is vital to the health of your vehicle and can also aid in preventing future performance problems.

Next, pay attention to your tires. Remember, the tires are the only part of your car that actually touch the road, so it's important that they are maintained to allow the most effective driving under any weather and road conditions. For example, stopping on wet roads can take up to four times more than on dry surfaces. Plus, if your tread is worn, tires may hydroplane - skim over the surface of the road with little or no traction. Help avoid this situation by checking your tires regularly.

An easy test to determine if your tread is warn is, place a U.S. penny into a tread groove with Lincoln's head facing down. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head (or 2/32"), you are below the minimum tread depth and the tire should be replaced. Remember, this simple test is only appropriate for tires on passenger vehicles.

You should also check your tire pressure regularly to ensure that all four tires - and your spare - are properly inflated to the vehicle manufacturer's recommended levels. Tires can lose up to one psi (pound per square inch) per month under normal conditions. Proper inflation not only helps prevent excessive tire wear, but also helps maximize fuel efficiency. Use an accurate tire gauge to check tire air pressure monthly and always when the car is cool - meaning it has been driven less than one mile or has not moved in at least three hours.

You can find information on a vehicle's specified tire pressure and more in your vehicle owner's manual. In fact, consider your owner's manual the "textbook" for learning about your vehicle. Consult the manufacturer's maintenance schedule (in the manual or free at your local Firestone Tire & Service Center) to be sure you're servicing your vehicle as needed.

Finally, be sure to keep an emergency kit in your car. Include things like a flashlight and fresh batteries, jumper cables, a first aid kit, a cell phone and charger, a gallon of water, engine oil, an emergency blanket, a small tool kit, gloves, a tire gauge, reflective light sticks, and a jack and lug wrench. Hopefully you'll never need anything in your kit, but should anything unexpected happen on the road, you'll be better prepared.

The start of a new school year brings new opportunities for learning, even beyond the classroom. Through education, drivers can be better informed and safer behind the wheel.

To learn more about driving tips and maintenance or Firestone Tire & Service Center locations, visit