Car safety is not just relegated to having multiple airbags. There are other important aspects and maintenance to consider. So, what can you do to ensure your car is safe to get into?
1. Firstly, ensure you have the car manual or bookmark an online version in case you need to refer to it. This contains essential information on tire pressure levels for your car, types of oil and coolant to use, and what different warning lights mean. This will help identify the problem and relate that to a professional should you need to.
Check your car once a week for:-
2. Tire pressure and tread. There are tire pressure gauges and smart gadgets which connect to your mobile phone to check your tire pressure, and it’s important to keep the tires at optimum pressure as this directly affects handling and fuel consumption. This is a good time to see if there are any tacks or nails sticking into the tires as they cause slow air release resulting in a flat tire. These need to be attended to ASAP.
3. Look around your car lights to check for cracks or breakages, as these may not be apparent at first.
4. Check oil levels. Make sure your car has been parked on level ground for a few hours. You want to check the dipstick when the engine is cold so the level is a true reading. When looking at the dipstick, you will notice either a space between two points near the end where the ideal oil level should sit, or an ‘H’ and a ‘L’ which stands for high and low. If you are driving on low levels of oil, this can lead to engine knocks, loud noises, and eventually your engine blowing up. Not a good idea.
5. While you are checking the oil, also check the coolant/water reservoir levels. You don’t want the car to overheat and breakdown – especially at night or in a dangerous neighborhood. This is easier to check as there is usually a translucent water/coolant reservoir with the different level markings indicated so it’s just a matter of visually assessing this and topping up only if needed.
6. Check under the car for oil or other liquid patches or puddles. Often, using air conditioning can cause harmless condensation. Also check around the engine bay for any oil or coolant leaks. If in doubt, get it checked out by a mechanic.
7. Make sure the windscreen wipers are free from dirt, sand, leaves and twigs as these can scratch your windscreen and cause damage to the wipers as well. Also check your squirters to make sure water is freely coming out of all the front windscreen outlets, and the rear if you have a hatchback or van. I always put a little squirt of dishwashing liquid in the wipers water reservoir (which you should check as well) to ensure a clearer clean. If your car is outdoors most of the time, the rubber can dry out and crack, and if your wipers are screeching, then it’s time to change them.
8. Turn your parking lights, then headlights on against a wall to check all the bulbs are working. Check the rear of the car as well. You can usually check brake lights in a shop window reflection if you haven’t got someone to help you.
9. Keep the car serviced when it requires it. This is a good time for your mechanic to check over other things as well. A major service includes much more than an oil change – namely tire rotation, oil air fuel and pollen filters replaced, brand new spark plugs are installed, brakes are inspected, adjusted, and cleaned where necessary, transmission, power steering, clutch, and coolant fluids are flushed and replaced, the battery is tested, a full safety inspection and road test report, and often new windscreen wipers are installed. This is a great service to do when you have just bought a car (if it hasn’t already been done as part of the sale).
10. Technology is your new bestie. There are various apps available to track your cars maintenance and service schedules, service history, and notify you when things need to be done. Some diagnose a problem. Others help you find the nearest mechanic or find the cheapest fuel prices. Here are some to check out – Fuelio (Android), Drivvo (Android and iPhone), myCARFAX (Android), AUTOsist (iPhone), and Car Minder Plus (iPhone).
By following an easy weekly routine, and having extra services and assistance at hand, you should enjoy many years of hassle free motoring. In relation to this article, and if you’re in the market for a second hand car, be sure to check out ‘The Safest Used Cars Under $20,000 on the Market for Teens’.