5 Ways Kids Can Help with Car Maintenance


My first car was a 1976 Honda Accord wagon. It was a little four-cylinder that my parents bought me for $500. It had plenty of miles on it but still had plenty more to give as long as I took care of it. It was the perfect first car to work on as there wasn’t much in terms of electronics and the engine had a carburetor, manual steering and roll down windows. All the basics.

I’m no gear head but at 16 I replaced the front struts, installed an audiovox tape deck and speakers and regular changed the oil.

It was all a learning experience that to this day has made me feel more capable around vehicles. But I’ve found modern vehicles much more difficult to work on. Changing the oil can even be a chore depending on what type of car you have and if your engine light goes on it seems that the only way to track down issues is to take it to a mechanic so they can plug it in their machine.

Despite these hurdles there is still regular maintenance you can do on your car that is a great way to introduce your kids to understanding how a car operates and what it needs to keep running smoothly.

1. Changing the oil
With proper supervision, kids can help change the oil. First you should know how to properly change the oil in your car and be aware of hazards such as heat, spills and dealing with toxic oil. Teaching a child to help you change the oil in your car is a great way to teach them how an engine works and what the oil is for. Kids can pour the oil into the engine and help you recycle and dispose of used oil.

2. Checking the air filter
Air filters should be checked regularly and your kids can help you remove the air filter element and check to see how dirty it is. Often times if you can see light through the air filter its OK but if not and you can visually see dirt/dust you should replace it.

3. Checking tire air pressure
This is one of the most fun and easiest tasks. You just need an air pressure gauge. You can do this once a month and by keeping your tires properly inflated you’ll save a bunch of gas.

4. Washing the car
If you’ve got the space, washing your car in your driveway is a fun afternoon but you can also take your kids with you to the self wash places and they’ll love to spray and use the brush.

5. Keeping records
Letting your kids help you keep maintenance records keeps them involved and they can write down the numbers and figure out when you are due for the next oil change or other maintenance.

photo: patterbt

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  • Built by Kids
    29 Nov ’11 at 12:02 am

    Great tips Se7en! Thanks for sharing.

  • ~Amoureux de café~
    29 Nov ’11 at 12:30 am

    When I was around 8 years old, I remember my dad working on the motors of a couple of old ’65 Mustangs that he and mom had bought to restore.  My dad was a true shade-tree mechanic during his time off and still enjoys working with his hands.  My mom wanted her daughter (me) to become familiar at a young age with “car stuff”:  to this day I can remember things about drive shafts and oil pans and what new and worn brake pads should look like, and I can change windshield wiper blades and check and fill up all manner of car fluids.  In theory I know how to change a tire…I just hope I never have to! 

    Thanks to my dad’s patience, I came to know the difference between tools, what they did, how to use them, and how to clean them up and put them back where they belong.  I’m certain I was much more of a hindrance than a help (although I was really good at “fetch and carry”), but I’ll always remember him explaining cork and seals and gaskets and engine blocks and oil pans.  I also learned that it was ok to get dirty – it’ll wash off.  This was all a big deal to an 8-year-old girl!

  • Karla
    29 Nov ’11 at 7:13 am

    I love working on things with my kids. All three of them help with taking care of the car.  The girls are 8, so they get to do more “big kid” stuff like helping change windshield wipers, adding brake fluid, checking oil levels, and changing fuses (where their small fingers are actually a big help), that sort of thing. The little guy is 5, so one of his jobs are to check the tread on the tires using a penny. If he cant see Lincoln’s head “we’re good to go Mom!”. He also gets to pour the windshield fluid and put in filters.

    All three love to help wash and vacuum the car.  They hand me things when its time to change the spark plugs, tires or headlights. They don’t think its a “boy” thing anymore than they think cooking is a “girl” thing. They just love doing grownup stuff with mom.  And even if they don’t do their own repairs when they’re grown, at least they’ll understand what the mechanic is talking about.

  • Built by Kids
    29 Nov ’11 at 4:49 pm

    Great to get the boys and girls involved with car maintenance. Thanks for sharing Karla!

  • Built by Kids
    29 Nov ’11 at 4:50 pm

    That’s awesome your dad got you so involved and you have such great memories from the experience.