Your family probably looks to you, the patriarch, when their vehicles start making funny noises. Meanwhile, you’re wondering what part of Parenthood 101 you skipped — when were you expected to become a mechanic?
Please have no fear. You don’t have to qualify as a pit crew member to maintain your loved one’s perspective of you as the master of all things automotive. Here are six things for dads to know about cars that will have you at least talking a good game.
1. A Little Trivia
You might remember that Henry Ford gets credit for inventing the assembly line. However, you can wow friends and family on pub trivia night by sharing how the Model T’s availability of parts and service led to the birth of the first uniform mechanic shops.
Your trivial knowledge of all things automobile might come in handy for more than scoring your pub team points. Dropping tidbits such as how the 1955 Corvette was the first one with a V8 engine makes you sound as slick as Marisa Tomei in “My Cousin Vinny” when you hit the mechanics shop. It may also instill confidence that you’re getting the best deal, even though most shops offer uniform pricing and a complete breakdown of your bill.
Are you able to answer questions like the following:
- What model car has sold more vehicles than any other? It’s the Toyota Corolla.
- What was the first car with an automatic transmission? It was the 1948 Oldsmobile.
- When was the first vehicle patent issued? Carl Benz received the first one back in 1886.
2. Basic Engine Terminology
Do you know what a solenoid is and what it does? If you understand it plays a role in operating your car’s pistons by converting electrical energy to mechanical, you’re miles ahead of many laypeople.
You don’t necessarily need a garage stocked with high-priced specialty tools to look under your hood and understand what’s happening. However, you should have a basic understanding of how an engine works.
This vital know-how can help you identify minor issues and sound knowledgeable when you head to the shop. It could potentially spare you from paying more than necessary when the check engine light appears on your dashboard.
For example, a car that doesn’t start in the rain might only need a jump start, not a new battery. Cleaning any corrosion away from the terminals should prevent the problem from recurring. The problem may also lie with your spark plugs or distributor cap, issues you can DIY in many cases.
3. How to Find a Reliable Mechanic
Sometimes, you need to take your car to the shop because you lack the tools, knowledge, or time to DIY. When you do, finding a mechanic you can trust is a must.
Start by talking to your network. Your friends and family are often the best resources, especially if they drive a similar make and model. Check your shop’s credentials. They should hold certification through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).
Another place to check reviews is with the Better Business Bureau. This organization investigates all complaints, so you won’t have to worry about internet trolls giving intentionally false reviews. Also, ask what type of warranties the shop you choose extends. A lifetime guarantee on parts can save you a bundle if you get a faulty clutch installed.
4. Tips for Scoring the Best Deal
You might think that you negotiate with the skills of a camel trader. However, it doesn’t hurt to hone your knowledge of cars before you head to the lot to seek a new ride for yourself or your soon-to-be 16-year-old.
You might know that you should keep emotions off the negotiating table, but that trick alone isn’t sufficient to score the best deal. Understanding that your provider may offer a seemingly fabulous bargain by manipulating the value of your trade can save you money on your monthly payments.
5. What Supplies to Keep Stocked
Even if you fix cars for a living, you probably don’t roll around with a trunk full of tools. Plus, you aren’t always behind the wheel. Every dad should know what emergency supplies to stock in their vehicles in case of breakdowns on the road:
- A first aid kit: Even minor fender-benders can result in bleeding that you need to stop before responders arrive.
- Flares and reflective warning triangles: You want to ensure other cars can see you, especially if you break down in an area with little to no shoulder.
- Water and food: You can dehydrate quickly if you break down in desert regions. You probably won’t starve to death — but a snack can quiet a fussy toddler in the backseat.
- Snow supplies and blankets: If you live in a region that sees winter weather, you should have an ice scraper and snow brush, kitty litter for traction on ice and perhaps a set of tire chains. Extra blankets and socks prevent hypothermia.
6. Those Handy Pit Crew Skills
Finally, it helps to learn how to change a tire if you never mastered the knack. Remember to loosen the lug nuts before you crank up the jack. You should also tackle how to drive on a donut to avoid multiplying your problems before getting to the shop.
You don’t have to become an automotive expert to earn your parenting stripes. However, it pays for dads to know these six things about cars.