Teaching your teen to drive can be a nerve-wracking experience. Done in an unreliable vehicle or one bearing unnecessary distractions, it can be even worse. That’s why you need to do some essential car maintenance before you let your teen get behind the wheel. Knowing that you can count on the car to behave the way it should will make you and your new teen driver feel more confident.

Brakes

The brakes are the first, and perhaps most important, thing that should be checked out and repaired or replaced as needed. New drivers are still learning how to judge exactly when and how hard to stop. The last thing anyone wants is for those brakes to fail when your teen is still figuring it out. You don’t necessarily have to replace the brakes but you do want to make sure they’re still in good shape, with no leaks or squeals. If the car vibrates when you step on the brakes or the pedal is spongy, you should definitely get the brakes checked out.

Tires

Flat tires and sudden blowouts are only two concerns with tires. Before your teen relies on those four tires to get them from place to place, make sure the tires are in good condition and fully aired up. It’s also a good idea to get a wheel alignment to ensure the steering is straight and quiet, the tires wear evenly and don’t squeal, and the car doesn’t pull to one side or the other. Remember that your teen driver may not realize these things aren’t normal.

Fluids

From oil that might need to be topped off or changed to windshield wiper fluid that allows your teen to clean the windshield and see clearly, there are lots of fluids in the car. Ensure the car has plenty of antifreeze, oil, transmission, and brake fluids. If any of these need to be changed, have that done before letting your teen behind the wheel so they’re starting off with a clean slate.

Battery and Air filter

The average lifespan of a car battery is about three years. Air filters should be changed every 15,000-30,000 miles, depending on your typical driving conditions. If it’s been a while since you checked either of these, or if you bought a used car specifically for your teen, it’s smart to check both and make sure they’re still in good condition so your teen doesn’t end up sitting on the side of the road, afraid they did something to cause a problem.

It’s important to remember that what we might naturally realize is a problem may seem totally normal to a new teen driver. So it’s important to do some thorough maintenance before letting your teen take the wheel. This decreases the chance of car damage and increases your confidence in your new driver as they learn to navigate the world of driving. You can really make the most of this by including your teen as you get the maintenance done, explaining why you’re doing it, the signs of trouble, and what’s being done. Create a driver who is responsible and safe behind the wheel and you’ll feel better about handing over the keys.