Back-to-school car maintenance checklist 

Tires

Take a look at your tires and make sure they’re properly inflated and in decent condition. Improperly inflated or worn-out tires can lead to all sorts of problems, including lower fuel efficiency, poor traction, and decreased stopping ability. 
Grab a penny and place it upside down in a tread groove. If you can see the top of Honest Abe’s noggin, it’s time for new tires. Don’t forget to check your spare as well! 

Brakes

This is one area that’s best left to a professional. Have your brakes inspected regularly and replace them as recommended. Worn-out brakes can result in a car that can’t stop quickly or in the worst-case scenario, at all. 
Squealing or grinding sounds when using your brakes are a sign that you need them checked out. Feeling your car vibrate, shake, or pull to one side when you brake are other indications that there might be trouble. 

Battery

Most car batteries last three to five years, so if yours is older than that, you might be due for a new one. Cars in extreme climates (think Fargo in the winter or Phoenix in the summer) go through batteries faster than average. 
If your car is slow to start or you hear a clicking sound when you try to start your engine, you might have battery trouble. Dim headlights or flickering dashboard lights may also indicate a battery that’s on its way out. 
It’s also a good idea to pop the hood and look at the battery itself. Excessive corrosion around the battery terminals is a red flag. Learn how to keep your battery happy—nothing makes a long day longer like a dead battery. 

Fluids

Fluids should all be checked, changed, and topped off as needed to ensure smooth running. Regular oil changes are a must—and don’t forget to check your wiper fluid, brake fluid, and power steering fluid. You can get this done at an area garage or learn how to do it yourself. 

Lights

Run a test of all your car’s lights, including headlights, rear lights, turn signals, and hazard lights. Walk around your car when it’s in park to make sure all lights are bright and working properly, and enlist a friend (or a mirror) to make sure your brake lights are readily visible. 
Replace any broken or worn-out bulbs. Headlight bulbs can be found at an auto parts store and are usually priced in the twenty-dollar range. There are many different kinds of bulbs, so consult your car’s manual or ask the folks at the store to help you find the right one. 
Dirty or foggy headlights can be easily cleaned at home with equipment you likely have on hand.  

Wiper Blades

A good rule of thumb is to replace your wiper blades every six to twelve months. As wiper blades age, the rubber on them deteriorates. This means they don’t make good contact with the windshield, which can lead to streaks, smears, and that annoying chattering sound.  
They’re easy to forget about, and it’s not fun to realize you need new ones in the middle of a downpour. 
Replacement blades will run you about 20 to 50 bucks at an auto parts store, and they are typically easy to install yourself. 

Seat belts and door locks

Take a minute to make sure your seat belts are in good shape, especially if you’ll be having passengers. Connect the buckles and give them a good yank to make sure they’re holding firm. Check the belt itself for any wear and tear, including twisted or frayed areas. 
Seat belt laws vary by state, so make sure you know the rules for where you will be driving. 
Double-check that door locks are secure and functional. Do they all lock and unlock correctly? Are your automatic door locks all working? Do the locks hold when you try to open the door from the outside? Not to sound like your parents, but safety first. 

Emergency Kit

Speaking of safety, it’s vital to be prepared for the unexpected. Jumper cables, basic tools, and a first aid kit are all worthwhile investments. Assemble and keep a good emergency kit in your car at all times. Hopefully, you’ll never need it, but you’ll be glad it’s there if you do. 

Heating and air conditioning

Depending on where you’re located (or where you’re headed), this may not be that big of a concern. But if you’re anticipating being in some extreme climates, it’s worth your time to make sure your air conditioner and/or heater are up to the task. 
While in park, turn the fan up high and then turn the temperature settings to the coldest (or hottest, depending on what you want to check) temperature. If you don’t feel cold (or hot) air, you might want to have your car looked at by a mechanic. 

Make sure you have good car insurance

There’s a lot to remember when heading back to school, and your car needs are a big part of that. Perhaps one of the most important things to check before you head back to school is that you are protected with the right car insurance policy. 
Chances are, however, you might be overpaying for your current insurance. Jerry can help you find coverage that meets your needs and saves you money–we all know textbooks are expensive enough! 
If you want to save money on car insurance, the Jerry app is a good place to start. A licensed broker, Jerry does all the hard work of finding cheap quotes from the top name-brand insurance companies and buying new car insurance. Jerry will even help you cancel your old policy.
 “I’m a college student, and I was struggling to find cheap car insurance. I was just about to buy insurance when I saw the Jerry ad. It literally saved me over $300 compared to what I would’ve purchased.” —Talia B.