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10 Mistakes First Time Car Owners Make

Driving and owning a car is a lot of responsibility and mistakes can be costly. Here are 10 things every first-time car owner should know.

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Parking John McLenaghan/Shutterstock

Ignoring Parking Restrictions

You know you parked it right here, so where’s your car? Many first-time car owners ignore, or simply don’t notice, parking signs and restrictions. When this results in their car getting ticketed or towed, they are unlikely to make the same mistake again. Here are 13 signs that your car is about to die.

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MechanicAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Not Checking the Oil

Having the right amount of engine oil is critical to a car’s performance, and not checking oil levels is one of the most common first-time car owner mistakes. To check the oil, pull the dipstick out, wipe it off with a rag or piece of paper towel and stick it back into the tube. “Then, pull ‘er out again and read the level. If the oil shows between the ‘Low’ and ‘Full’ marks, you’re good to go,” according to

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tirePakpoom Phummee/Shutterstock

Ignoring Tire Pressure

When your tires are under-inflated, you waste gas and the tires can wear out faster. “No routine maintenance task is more important than keeping your tires properly inflated,” according to Consumer Reports. They suggest checking tire pressure at least once a month and before any long trips. The correct tire pressure should be printed on a placard that is usually found inside the driver’s door jamb, or on the inside of the glove-box or fuel door. Learn how to check tire pressure with a digital gauge.

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filterBurdun Iliya/Shutterstock

Not Replacing the Air Filter

“The best example of the snowball effect of missed car repairs is the air filter,” Business Insider reports. “It costs about 20 bucks to replace, but if left alone, a dirty filter can bust oxygen sensors in cars, which cost as much as $250 to replace.” First-time car owners need to check out their owners’ manual to see when their car’s air filter should be replaced for the first time—it’s generally between 15,000 and 30,000 miles. Learn how to change your air filter in just 10 minutes.

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Skipping the Car Wash

Regular car washing and waxing can help protect your car’s paint from salt and road grime to bird droppings and dead bugs. “Despite what the ads may say, though, no wax job lasts more than a few weeks at best,” notes Consumer Reports. If you live in an area where there’s lots of dust, road salt in the winter or you park outside, you may want to hit the car wash at least once every two weeks.

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loosening Viacheslav Nikolaenko/Shutterstock

Not Knowing How to Change a Tire

Every car owner should be able to change a flat tire, according to “The ability to jack a vehicle up, remove an offending flat and install a spare is an important skill to have, especially if you get a flat where cell-phone service is not available,” the website notes. Follow these steps to safely change a car tire.

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car tommaso79/Shutterstock

Leaving Valuables in the Car

Never leave valuables, such as computers and other electronics, jewelry or cash in your vehicle as it can take thieves just a few seconds to smash a window and rummage through your belongings. Another rookie car owner mistake is to leave the car unlocked. They need to get in the habit of closing the windows and sunroof and locking the doors, no matter where the car is parked.

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Maintenance welcomia/Shutterstock

Not Rotating the Tires

Those who’ve never own a car often don’t know that they need to rotate their tires, as this will help the tires wear more evenly. The owners’ manual will have recommendations, but most tires should be rotated every six months or 6,000 to 8,000 miles, according to Michelin.

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wiperWhat Photo/Shutterstock

Not Replacing Wiper Blades

When it starts to rain, there’s nothing more frustrating than not having good wiper blades. Luckily, replacing them is an easy task even for first-time car owners. “To release a blade, there’s often a small button that you push, other times they slide into a hook on the end of the arm. In either case, the blades shouldn’t be overly difficult to swap out, so give it a try next time they’re smearing rather than wiping,” according to

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garageMinerva Studio/Shutterstock

Choosing ‘Just Any’ Mechanic

Word of mouth means a lot, especially when it comes to a good mechanic. First-time car owners should ask family members and friends for recommendations. “Shops with well-qualified mechanics often display a sign or certificate from ASE, a national certification organization. But, that doesn’t ensure all workers have the same certifications or that the person wrenching on your car is certified,” says Consumer Reports. “Garages affiliated with AAA are good bets.” Developing a good relationship with a well-respected mechanic benefits both the car owner and their vehicle. You can do these 100 car maintenance tasks on your own.

Rachel Brougham
Writer and editor with a background in news writing, editorial and column writing and content marketing.