When we think about vehicle maintenance, we typically ponder the steps to take to keep our cars healthy and attractive. For example, regular engine maintenance is essential if you want to avoid expensive problems as your car ages. And promptly cleaning bird droppings and tree sap from your car helps preserve its paint job and keep it looking new for many years to come.
But maintenance plays a different role: It helps to foster safer driving. All drivers recognize the importance of staying safe on the road, and this kind of safety can have a direct relationship with the condition of your vehicle. If you haven’t provided regular upkeep for your car in certain crucial areas, you could be placing yourself at higher risk for an accident every time you get behind the wheel.
With this in mind, here are three maintenance tips that will help keep you safe while on the road.
1. Watch your windshield wipers. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Transporation concluded that weather-related car crashes were responsible for 16 percent of all vehicular deaths between 2005 and 2014. Most drivers know that rough weather can hamper safe driving by causing slick roads. But harsh weather can present another challenge: It can create hazardous conditions by impeding visibility.
Snow and rain can gather on your windshield and make it difficult for you to see. In situations like this, you rely on your car’s windshield wipers to clear precipitation from your vehicle’s glass. But your wipers need proper maintenance to provide this essential assistance. Wipers with bent frames or cracked rubber will do a poor job of cleaning your windshield.
Visually inspect your car’s windshield wipers every month. If the frames are bent, or if the rubber is cracked or loose, get them replaced.
Also, keep in mind that snow and ice can be especially hard on your windshield wipers. If you live in a cold clime, it’s a good idea to install winter-friendly windshield wipers at the start of the season. These wipers are built to be durable enough to withstand the rigors of clearing snow and ice.
2. Practice responsible tire care. To operate safely, your vehicle’s tires need to keep a steady grip on the pavement. That’s why driving in rain and snow can be treacherous. These conditions create slippery roads that can prevent your tires from maintaining a safe level of traction.
From a safety perspective, your tires are among your vehicle’s most important components. Tires that are old and worn will leave you with a compromised level of traction that can cause critical problems in emergency situations. Hydroplaning and skidding are common causes of accidents, and you’re more likely to experience these situations with worn tires. Also, worn tires could trigger a tire blowout that causes you to lose control of your vehicle.
It’s essential to inspect your tires at least once a month. Look for bumps and cracks, as these things indicate a tire that’s at risk for a blowout. It’s also important to check the tread of your tires. If the tread isn’t deep enough, you won’t get good traction. The easiest way to check tread depth is to use a gauge, which can be purchased at most automotive stores.
3. Check your headlights. According to the National Safety Council, 50 percent of traffic accidents happen at night, even though we only do 25 percent of our driving after dark. It’s harder to see the path ahead after the sun sets, making effective headlights crucial.
If only one headlight is functional, it will be more difficult for you to maintain visibility. Check your headlights at least once a month to make sure both lights are in good working order. It’s also important to keep your lights clean, because headlights covered in grime or dust will be less effective at providing illumination.
Finally, make sure your headlights are correctly aligned. Minor or major accidents, as well as the jolts caused by rough road surfaces, can cause headlights to slip out of alignment over time. This will make them less effective at lighting your path. A mechanic can check headlight alignment and make the necessary adjustments. It’s a good idea to have this inspection done every few months, and it can cost as little as $20.
A Proactive Approach to Safety
Accidents can be avoided with proper vehicle maintenance.
Keeping an eye on things such as your car’s tires, windshield wipers and headlights can help make sure your vehicle is adequately equipped to steer clear of mishaps on the road.