It’s so easy to buy a car these days. However, it’s more difficult to understand what makes your car work, let alone know how to keep it in tip-top shape. Is this list going to teach you how to rebuild your engine? Not quite. But it’s a start. 

  1. The Owner’s Manual. You don’t have to be a certified mechanic, but knowing a few little things about your car can save you time and, more importantly, money. You’ll be surprised at how many things you can do yourself if you simply open up the owner’s manual.
  2. How to Jump Start a Dead Battery. Knowledge is power, and power is not being stranded in a parking lot with a dead battery.
  3. How to Change a Tire. There’s no sound as disheartening to a driver than the flop flop of a flat tire. It always seems to come at inconvenient times, too. Just like knowing how to jumpstart a car, knowing how to change a flat tire is a skill every car owner should possess. It will save your own butt when you’re out on some lonely stretch of highway.
  4. How to Check Tire Pressure. If you want to make your tires and the gas in your tank last longer, regularly check the pressure in your tires. It’s one of the easiest things you can learn on this list. It’s actually one of the most important safety features on your car.
  5. How to Check the Fluids. I’m not just talking about the oil — I’m talking power steering fluid, windshield wiper fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid — all of it. If you want to keep your car running smoothly, make sure to check them regularly.  
  6. How to Change a Headlight. While it’s not rocket science, it’s not quite as simple as screwing in a light bulb. If you can’t figure it out on your own, that’s what the owner’s manual is for. If you have no owner’s manual, Google it — that’s what smartphones are for. 
  7. How to Parallel Park. This is probably the single most important thing you should be able to do with your car. If you can’t parallel park, you might as well not even be driving it. It’s 98 percent formula, 2 percent flair.
  8. How to Back Up a Trailer. The best advice came from my dad — simply grab the bottom of the steering wheel and move your hand in the direction you want the trailer to go. The principles are the same whether you backing a 53’ rig or a rented 8’ U-Haul trailer.
  9. How to Drive a Stick Shift. True, the manual transmission is slowly becoming a thing of the past, but I recommend everyone go ahead and learn how to drive it. And while the initial learning curve is often stressful — practice makes perfect.
  10. Know a Good Mechanic. A skilled, honest-to-goodness mechanic is hard to come by, but if you find one, hang on to them — tightly. Don’t just pick the first one you come across because they give you the cheapest rates. Take your time here and do your research.