While distracted driving, cell phone usage, and driving under the influence of an illegal substance continue to be implicated in a large percentage of serious traffic accidents each year, the condition of the car may also play a corresponding role. This is because worn tires, faulty brakes, and many other common vehicle maintenance issues can prevent drivers from keeping control of their cars and avoiding crashes.
Additionally, vehicles that have not been properly maintained may stall with no warning, leaving drivers in potentially perilous situations or at risk of being struck by other vehicles. A good way for drivers to reduce the risk of their vehicle being involved in a crash or leaving them stranded alongside the highway is for drivers to become proficient in checking for and recognizing potential condition issues before a serious problem develops.
Simple System Checks to Perform Each Month
A good way for drivers to become more familiar with their vehicle and better able to spot problems when they occur is to learn to do a simple visual inspection each month. This maintenance check-up should include visual examinations of:
- The drive belts and hoses. Ensure there are no signs of cracking, leaks, or splits that could cause them to fail when the engine is being operated.
- The windshield wiper fluid tank. Make sure to refill as necessary so that it will be able to keep the windshield clean and clear while driving.
- The windshield wipers. Check for cracking or damage that could make these ineffective at clearing the windshield
- The fluid levels. Check oil, coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and transmission fluid.
- The tire pressure. Ensure that all pressures are within the safe driving ranges listed on both the sidewalls of the tires and in the owner's manual.
- All lights, including brake lights, turn signals, and head lights. Ensure that all are operating correctly.
While it can seem redundant to check fluid levels on newer cars equipped with dashboard warning lights, these lights can fail without the driver noticing. Learn how to manually check each fluid type and refill them as necessary to help make your vehicle last longer and make driving safer.
Vehicle Check to Perform Before Starting the Car Each Day
In addition to doing a more comprehensive monthly assessment, spend a few seconds each day checking the condition of your vehicle to help prevent unpleasant surprises while driving. To do this, start by taking a quick walk around the vehicle each day before driving to check for visual indicators of potential issues.
As you walk around the car, bend and look underneath the engine and drive train areas of the car to check for puddles of liquid or freshly discolored areas that may indicate a fluid leak. If you notice a puddle of fluid, pay attention to the color of the fluid to help determine where the leak originated.
In most car models, puddles of dark brown fluid will likely be motor oil, while liquids that look pink, green, or red in color will likely be coolant or transmission fluid. Clear or light brown fluids usually originate from leaks in the power steering or braking system.
Next, be sure to look closely at the visible portions of the tread pattern and sidewalls of each tire for any signs of wear or damage that could mean a blowout is imminent. If the tires appear to be low, take time to check the pressure and refill them as necessary in order help prevent blowouts and flat tires while driving.
If any of the tire's tread appears to be unevenly worn, cupped, or flat in spots, the car may have serious steering, braking, or drive train issues that could make it unsafe to drive.
If you see signs of unusual tire wear, fluid leaks, or other condition concerns, get them immediately checked by a qualified care car specialist, like the certified professionals at White's Automotive Center in Columbus.