Besides your home, and maybe your college degree, your vehicle is probably the most expense thing you own. For many of us it’s an essential piece of equipment we use in our daily life to work, eat, travel, transport families and for any number of leisure activities.
And due to time, expense and other factors, many of us are driving around in vehicles in various stages of disrepair, some dangerously so. Basic vehicle maintenance can be easy, much easier than repairing something when it fails completely.
Below is a list of some basic vehicle maintenance basics that most of us can do ourselves, or should be getting done by someone else. These items are important not only because your vehicle may fail to work properly, but also they are important to the safety of you, your passengers and others on the road.
- Lights – How many times out driving at night do you see someone driving with a headlight out. Or suddenly drive up on a slow moving car in a snow or rain storm with taillights not on or burned out. Vehicle lights are an important safety feature that often get taken for granted. If brake lights, blinkers, headlights or others are not functioning properly it can put you and other drivers in danger. Most bulbs are less than $10 and can be changed yourself. It’s also a good idea to change like bulbs in pairs, or in the case of taillights, even replacing all of them inside the housing at once to avoid another change soon.
- Tires – Tires can be expensive on some vehicles so most of us try to get as much life as possible before making a change. Some tips on extending the life of the tires include proper inflation, rotating them on a recommended schedule, and making sure nuts are properly torqued. Choosing the right tire for your driving needs is also important. Some tires disperse heat better than others, some are better on wet/icy roadways, and some are rated for heavier vehicles and loads. Take a few minutes to watch this video and see how many lives were put in danger due to tire issues.
- Spark Plugs and other Ignition Systems – Does your car stall on occasion or just stutter a bit when the gas pedal is pushed. At the speed traffic moves today getting stalled in an intersection or getting on a freeway could be very dangerous. Have these items checked immediately to ensure good vehicle working order. Your gas mileage will thank you for this as well.
- Brakes – The universal indicator many drivers use to tell brakes are worn is to wait until a grinding noise is heard from one or more of the wheels when brakes are applied. There are some things you can do before that happens to tell if your brakes are getting close. If the vehicle wants to swerve to one side when brakes are applied it may mean that one side is significantly worn more than the other. If the brake pedal feels “mushy” or you have to pump the brakes to stop, that could indicate low brake fluid or even a failure in the system. And of course the earlier mentioned squeaking or squealing of the brakes may indicated a need for replacement. As the guys from Gas Monkey Garage on the Discover Channel say, “lots of GO means you need lots of WHOA!” Make sure your brakes work!
- The Driver – On the the greatest safety features on your car… is YOU! Ensuring you are in good condition to drive is another necessary check. Have you been drinking? Are you too tired? Are you so focused on work or interacting with friends that someone else should drive so you can use your phone? Are the conditions too much for you to handle? All of these items are basic driver maintenance items to make sure YOU are in good working order and not a hazard to anyone on the road. For more information on safe driving, and safety driver training schools provided by Ford Motor Company, check out the Ford Driving Skills for Life website.
Vehicle safety maintenance isn’t just for your safety. Other drivers are relying on your vehicle to be able to operate in traffic as certain speeds, stopping power and safety. When your vehicle is not able to work within these expectations it puts you and others in potential danger. Check what you can by yourself, with a friend or family member, or take your vehicle to a certified mechanic to help stay safe on the roads.
Drive safely, everyone!