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Checking Under the Hood Illustration

The Canadian summer is infamously short. No one needs to be reminded of that.

So when these warm and sunny days come along, it’s not uncommon to feel anxious about making the most out of them.

It’s also a great time to practice a few of those outdoor skills that are a lot less pleasant to undertake once winter makes its arrival.

So here at Driving Change Auto Group, we thought we’d put together a little challenge to help inspire some of our readers to finally grasp some of those essential garage skills that are just otherwise not so urgent.

The Simplest Skills Are Often the Most Overlooked

It’s quite possible you already have these skills down pat. If that’s the case, why not share this article with someone you know who could use a little subtle encouragement; help them gain the same confidence you have with your car or truck.

But it’s also just as likely that the reason why you’re not as confident as you would like to be with any of these skills is that you haven’t taken the time to practice them. That’s an easy fix…in theory.

Here’s what I recommend: Choose three consecutive weeks in the summer and master one skill each week.

When you’re done, I wouldn’t be surprised if you became so motivated that you started changing your own headlights, switching out your wiper blades, operating a manual transmission, and swapping out a fuse or two.

Now start your engines!


3 cars parked in parallel

1. Parallel Parking

For many people, the last time they worried about parallel parking was when they were training for their road test. Once that was out of the way, the skill fell by the wayside.

Well, sweaty palms, observation apprehension, and muttered apologies don’t need to reign supreme when you’re backing into the curb or switching gears for your 20th adjustment.

The following video by MyRide on Autobytel does a good job outlining the basics:

No, you don’t need to learn a handful of easily confused rules of thumb in order to learn to parallel park (“Once the right rear bumper lines up with the passenger headrest, check your right side mirror—or was it the rear seat window??…”); plenty of practice is enough to develop the intuition of how your vehicle handles.

Spend a quiet weeknight evening performing 25 consecutive attempts, using either the curbside vehicles on a quiet residential street, or two goalposts of your own creation.

Now get out and master the skill!

Already a Master?

  • Try parallel parking to the left
  • Try it out in a bigger vehicle
  • Try perpendicular parking in reverse


Changing a tire

2. Changing a Tire

The lingering worry that one may get a flat tire is enough to get many Canadians to buy an expensive roadside assistance plan they might not otherwise need. Not only that, but not knowing one of the handiest, hands-on skills can feel a bit shameful.

The reverse can also apply: One can memorize an instructional how-to and feel adept at the skill, but stumble in practice as they discover that their lug nuts have a locking mechanism they don’t have the key for. Or maybe the jack and tire iron that come with their vehicle are not fit for the job—or are missing entirely!

If you need a refresher on how it’s all done, here’s a classic video from Howdini to help you out:

Of course, you don’t need to practice this 25 times in order to feel comfortable when it comes time to do it when a tire goes flat, About five times overall should suffice. Give it a shot on a few different wheels.

Yesterday did you say you’d get to it tomorrow. Try it out now!

Already a Master?

  • Learn how to rotate your tires
  • Learn to how to evaluate tire tread


3. Checking the Oil Level

For the third event in the Summer Skills Trifecta, it’s time to brush up on something you should be able to do every second time you visit the gas station. Park on a level surface, turn off your engine and let it cool for about five minutes before checking your vehicle’s vitals.

It was actually quite difficult to find a non-obnoxious video demonstration of this last skill, that is until we found help across the pond from SEATUK’s YouTube channel:

Already a Master?

  • Learn how to change your oil
  • Teach someone one of these three handy skills


Why Not Start This Week?

Well that all seems pretty manageable, doesn’t it? Just think, in three short weeks you could find yourself with more automotive skills and a stronger sense of self-reliance than ever!

All it takes is the commitment to get started.


Share your thoughts

  • What keeps you from acquiring the skills you know you should have by now?
  • Who is the handiest person you know when it comes to cars?
  • What other skills would you add to the list for those who have already mastered the basics?


2 Responses to “Complete the Trifecta: 3 Basic Automotive Skills You Should Master This Summer”

  1. Emily

    These are all skills that anyone with a license should have. I work in the industry and find it phenomenal how little people know about their vehicles. I get people who don’t know how to check their air pressures. Parallel parking is park of a drivers test, and changing a tire and checking the oil should be as well.

    • slucci

      %100 agree, Emily! It’s amazing how quickly people forget how to parallel park after practicing for their test, especially if they mostly drive places that don’t require them to do so very often. I, too, am constantly surprised at how many people I meet who can’t execute any of these three basic skills, and I’ve learned to no longer make assumptions even with veteran drivers. Yes, a test should be in order!


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