One thing you likely have in your car at all times is your owner’s manual and, if you don’t, you should keep it nearby. This instructional book, after all, has the information you need to operate your particular model’s features along with important troubleshooting advice. At first glance, however, all of this informative content in one little place can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve compiled the 10 most important things you can find in your owner’s manual. Get ready to become a lot more auto savvy.
How to Initially Set Up Your Car: With every year, cars are adding on more technological features, many of which require a little setup on the owner’s end. These systems include things like keyless entry, delayed lighting, and even sound system decibel thresholds. Without guidance from your manual, this initial setup can be baffling; however, with it, setup can be a thing of ease.
How to Check Your Fluids: Reading a dipstick may not be rocket science, but some fluids should be checked hot while others give more accurate readings cold (for example, check your oil with the car off and your transmission fluid with it on). More importantly, owners often need help locating where to measure fluids because the location can greatly differ between models.
Advice for Better Driving Practices: Since every vehicle has its own foibles, there is an ideal way to drive your car that may or may not fit your current driving style. This is especially important during a car’s “break-in period,” which typically applies to the first 1,000 miles put on your car’s engine. Your manual likely outlines the dos and don’ts of this period, as well as valuable advice on how to optimize your gas mileage or increase safety in all the miles to come.
How to Troubleshoot Common Problems: If you find yourself stranded in the parking lot or on the side of the road, help may not be within easy reach, especially if you are in a remote area without cellular service. Your manual covers, in layman’s terms, how to deal with common emergencies, such as changing a flat, jump-starting your car, or even how to manually open an electric window.
Access Technical Data Easily: At some point in your car’s life, you are going to need to retrieve more technical information about its components, ranging from your vehicle’s dimensions for a paint job estimate to what size engine you have. This information and more can be found in your manual’s section for technical data, covering a wide array of facts and figures about your car. Armed with this information, you can quickly provide vital information when something goes amiss.
How to Achieve Ideal Tire Pressure: Even if you know how to operate a tire gauge, you need to know your car’s ideal tire pressure to fill them up properly. Although this information is often on the side of each tire, you can always find it in your owner’s manual along with step-by-step instructions to ensure you don’t over- or under-inflate them.
How to Clean and Protect Your Car’s Surfaces: Naturally, you want your paint to always shine and your interior to look new. Although there are general cleaning methods that apply to most vehicles, the particular leather or fabric upholstery in your car may have special needs. Your manual may even outline how to properly clean areas you don’t usually think about, such as your side mirrors, windshield wiper blades, or chrome accents.
What Does This "Gizmo" Do: Since every car is different, you can’t automatically know what every knob and lever controls in your vehicle. Although you could start flipping switches or pressing buttons just to see what happens, you could accidentally do something you regret or can’t easily reverse. If you don’t know what function a particular switch has in your car, simply check your manual to be illuminated on the subject.
How to Decipher Warning Lights: When lights that you’ve never seen before light up on your dash, it can be frustrating, and they aren’t all so self-explanatory. Sure, a little oil icon probably means your oil is low, but some lights are more of a mystery. If you find yourself in doubt about what a warning light means, consult your owner’s manual, and then make an appointment with one of our certified mechanics to diagnose the issue.
What Your Warranty Covers: When issues on your vehicle arise, you may be tempted to simply approve any repairs a mechanic recommends. Certain parts or issues, however, may be covered by your warranty. You should also check that you do not do anything to void that warranty. If you have trouble deciphering what is or isn’t covered by your warranty, don’t hesitate to book a consultation with one of our technicians.
There are scores of other noteworthy items you can find in your car owner’s manual, but these are highlights with which every vehicle owner should be acquainted. Take the time to get familiar with what your manual has to offer, and it can greatly enhance your driving experience and extend the life of your car.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as The 10 Most Important Things in Your Car Owner’s Manual and was authored by Elan McAfee.