Getting to know a new car.
The first time you sit in a new car – whether it’s a rental car, test drive, or a brand new car you’re bringing home – there are a number of essential features to check. We’ve all had that “new car giddiness” that makes us want to hop in and go, but you won’t fully enjoy your new ride if you’re trying to figure out the climate controls while driving on the highway, or pulling up to a gas station without knowing on which side the gas tank is set.
What to do before putting a new car in drive!
- Check the basics: Seat, steering wheel and mirror position, window controls, lights, wipers, and navigation. This should be a no-brainer, but always check that you can see properly out of all three mirrors and that your seat and steering wheel are in a position that allows for maximum comfort while driving. Take a beat to find the controls for windows, lights and wipers. Set your destination into the GPS, if needed. Many navigation systems will not allow you to alter anything while the car is in drive.
- Locate the gas tank. Which side of the car is it on? Where is the gas tank release, or does it open from the outside?
- Adjust the climate control. You may be perfectly comfortable when you start driving, but if it gets colder, or hotter, you need to know how to use the climate control. Does the driver have separate controls than the passenger? How do you turn on the windshield defroster? Do you want the heat or a/c blowing in your face or on your feet? Figure it out before you start driving in two lanes at the same time.
- Open the sun roof. Within minutes of driving the 2016 Kia Sorento Turbo, I asked my son to open the sun roof. We hadn’t realized the Sorento had a panoramic, double sunroof – one of my favorite features in a car. My kids oohed and aahed and I admit that my head snapped up to take a look. If your new car has a sunroof, check it out before driving!
- Don’t neglect backseat features. If you have kids in the back seat, it’s critical to help them understand features they may need. My daughter nearly had a meltdown while I was driving when she couldn’t figure out how to raise the sun screen on her window. Show them how to adjust their own climate controls, plug in electronic chargers, or turn on a DVD.
- Get familiar with cruise control. While cruise features are fairly standard – on, set, and resume – it’s a good idea to find them and know your new car’s cruise capabilities. I was taken aback the first time I drove with adaptive cruise and my car started slowing down as I approached a car in front of me. But now it’s number one on my wish list for a new car!
- Preset the radio. While the radio is not essential, fiddling with dials continues to be a leading cause of accidents. Preset a few stations into memory before driving and know one or two buttons you can easily access to change to, or scan for, a new station. Better yet, assign that task to a passenger if you have one!
Additional precautions in wintry conditions
When driving a new car in the winter, there are even more features you should familiarize yourself with. According to General Motors, you should be aware of the traction, stability, and braking controls. Most new cars are equipped with electronic stability control (ESC), traction control (TCS) and anti-lock brakes (ABS). The idea behind ESC is that it can detect when the car starts to “spin out” and will apply individual brakes to counter the spin and help maintain control of the car. With ESC “off” it is very difficult to steer and maintain directional control on slippery surfaces. With TCS “off” the tires will spin up and lose traction. ABS prevents the tires from locking up and provides better stopping and steering capability during a panic brake. If a car has ABS brakes you do not “pump” the brake pedal when stopping. If the car does not have ABS brakes and you are skidding, go ahead and “pump” the brakes.
Driving a new car, or a rental car, can be exciting, but be sure to put safety first and familiarize yourself with your car’s awesome, new features before driving.