The Oil Change and the Overprotective Dad

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jul 25, 2013

Dear Tom and Ray:

Am I putting my 24-year-old daughter in harm's way by teaching her to rotate the tires and change the oil on her car? She is strong, capable and willing. I would take it very hard if anything were to happen to her as a result of this endeavor.

-- Joe

RAY: Well, everything has some risk attached to it, Joe.

TOM: For instance, if she weren't changing the oil on her car, she might be hanging out with Bernie, the nursery-school dropout down the street, in his van, looking at his etchings. And that's riskier.

RAY: So while there is some risk associated with car repair, the jobs you've selected for her are relatively low-risk, if done correctly.

TOM: So that means when rotating the tires, you don't want her using the jack that comes with the car. Those are notoriously flimsy, in our opinion, and really only for use in roadside emergencies -- if that.

RAY: So if she's going to be yanking wheels off a 3,000-pound car, you want to buy her a real, hydraulic floor jack and a set of four jack stands.

TOM: After securing the car on flat ground, she'll jack up the rear end and put two jack stands under the frame there, and let the back of the car rest on the stands. Then she'll do the same in the front. At that point, she can push and pull all she wants and rotate the tires diagonally, and the car shouldn't go anywhere.

RAY: When she changes the oil, you'll show her how to unscrew the drain plug and filter without pouring hot oil down her arm and giving herself a tattoo in the shape of the River Nile.

TOM: But the greatest danger she'll face is the risk of having a car fall off its jack. So that should be the focus of your paternal risk-management program, Joe. But with some reasonable care, and the right tools, she'll impress the heck out of all the boys (hope that doesn't cause you to reconsider, Joe).

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