Maintaining a vehicle to keep it safe on the road can be costly, especially if you drive a lot. Aside from the recent stream of massive automotive recalls involving faulty airbags, ignition switches, and other components prone to failure, do you know if your vehicle is mechanically safe to drive on Texas highways? If not, are you willing to risk your safety and higher auto insurance premiums by getting into an accident because of poor maintenance or dangerous neglect?
Imagine your vehicle for a moment and consider this – when you cruise along the highway at Texas speeds of 75, 80, and now 85 miles per hour…you better hope your car or truck is in the proper mechanical condition to handle the demands you’re putting on it. And, bad things can happen in the virtual blink of an eye that could be devastating to you, your family, or an innocent driver heading in the opposite direction.
Even the smallest safety issue could cause you to lose control. That’s why safety should be your main consideration when you hit the road. Fortunately, there are ways you can reduce your vehicle’s risk of causing you or others harm.
We put tires at the top of the list because you can’t go from Point A to Point B without them, and they also happen to be the most important factor when it comes to safety. Tires that are worn, misaligned, improperly balanced or under inflated can compromise your steering’s effectiveness.
Furthermore, worn and under inflated tires can lead to a dangerous blowout. And, at high speeds, handling can become erratic, resulting in an unexpected rollover accident. So, check the tire pressure regularly and take a peek at the tread depth from time to time. If they get beyond the state’s minimum tread depth for safety…replace them. Should the tires appear to be wearing unevenly, have them balanced and align the front wheels.
You really don’t want to ignore worn brakes either. When brakes wear out, they can cause the vehicle to pull to one side or the other. A panic stop while speeding at 85 mph could be catastrophic. The biggest problem with worn brakes is that, eventually, they’ll make it more difficult to stop your vehicle, requiring more braking distance and resulting in a potential accident. Have your brakes inspected when rotating your tires or having the oil changed. Also, if you notice brake fade, difficulty in stopping or unusual noises when applying the brakes, have them checked out immediately.
Headlights and Taillights
Your vehicle’s lights play an important part in your safety, especially at night. They not only allow you to see what’s ahead of you on the highway, but they also let other drivers know of your presence on the road. On the other hand, taillights protect you from being slammed into from behind by another car, as well as indicate your next move when using your turn signals. Periodically check all your lights to make sure all are working…and replace the burned out ones as needed.
Your vehicle’s fluid levels are not only vital to the life of the engine, but to yours as well. The engine relies on the oil to be at proper levels and clean to keep running right. Rule of thumb is – change the oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles as recommended by your auto maker. The importance of brake fluid goes without saying. Keeping it at the maximum level will permit you to stop your vehicle when needed. The transmission fluid needs to be clean and at the levels required to help the engine shift gears as you accelerate. Your ability to turn and steer effectively depends on the power steering fluid. Without it being full, squealing will be heard, not to mention making it possibly difficult to control the vehicle. Finally, radiator coolant maintains a safe engine temperature. A low or seriously insufficient amount of coolant can cause the engine to overheat. Check all fluid levels regularly to avoid unnecessary expenses.
Hoses and Belts
Aside from fluid levels, hoses and belts are probably the least checked components under the hood. Belts can wear and break, while hoses can crack and leak. Over time, like any other part, they wear out and need replacement. The idea is to catch them before they take a nasty turn, which can happen anytime. However, with regular inspection you might notice the fraying of a belt or a possible leaky hose. Changing them isn’t always cheap, but it’s a lot cheaper than replacing them once other damage has been done to the engine.
Most drivers take mirrors for granted, while some hardly use them, relying on luck more than anything else. If your mirrors aren’t properly positioned to see other vehicles behind and on your sides, you can easily change lanes into another car. Use your rearview mirror when backing up, as well as turning your head.
You never realize how important a safety feature a horn can be until an incident requires you to use it and it doesn’t work. Letting others know you’re there if they start drifting or merging into your lane can make the difference between avoiding an accident and getting into one.
While you can’t prevent all automobile accidents, maintaining your vehicle’s fitness for the road can help reduce your chance of injury from a crash caused by mechanical neglect.
Also, don’t neglect to check that you’re getting the best rate on your auto insurance. Why not get a free auto insurance quote today?
Do you regularly check the mechanical components of your vehicle? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.