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Drive Safe: A Guide to Driving Your Car Safely

Our cars are often our lifelines to the outside world. They get us to work, shopping, shuttling our families around town and are our transportation to many far away destinations. However, if we don’t regularly inspect our vehicles and keep them well maintained, all that travel can be put in jeopardy. This is especially true for those just beginning to drive because they do not have the ability to recognize some common problems. Keeping a vehicle in tiptop shape is a dual effort that involves both the owner and those who service the vehicle. Financially it makes sense to personally do most of the maintenance, but don’t attempt it if there isn’t access to the correct tools or the knowledge in which to do it correctly. A qualified repair shop is usually best for more major issues that arise. Some cars have special requirements and may require the use of specially designed tools.

Regularly inspecting your car for any problems and correcting them right away can save not only your pocketbook, but also possibly your life. The consequences of neglect can be many. For instance neglecting the wear on tires could lead to a blowout, which is not only a hassle, but has the potential to cause an accident. Other possibilities could be the loss of the brakes, power steering failure, or seized pistons. Even the weather can affect our cars. Leaking when it rains or cracks in the windshield from rocks or hail can be only the beginning, there is much more to consider. Many cities lay out salt in the winter, which can eventually cause corrosion to the cars that drive on them. Potholes can affect springs and shocks; balding tires can become a danger during slick conditions, low windshield washer fluid and antifreeze levels can under certain conditions be a real problem. Extreme temperatures can create problems for tires directly or from contact with bad road conditions. There are simple preventative measures that can be taken to make an automobile safer. Read the list below for more information and tips on inspection, maintenance and avoiding hazards. This article about car safety is provided as a public service by Action Donation Services® who provides car, boat, RV, and truck donation services to some of America’s finest charities.

  • The first thing every car owner should do is look at the owner’s manual. It will list information on car maintenance geared toward the specific model and it also will list safety precautions. Primary inspections should be done on a monthly basis.
  • Check fluid levels regularly. This would include coolant, oil, windshield washer, brake, and transmission fluid. Make sure all are full and that there are no leaks. The amount of coolant needed is listed on the manufacturer’s label and may vary by season. Oil also varies in kind and weight. Check the owner’s manual or talk to a service shop mechanic to ensure use of the correct type for the vehicle.
  • Regularly replace or service things like brakes, belts, spark plugs, and filters.
  • Make sure all lights are functioning properly. Check blinkers, hazard lights, reverse lights, and headlights.
  • Regularly check the tire pressure. Tire pressure can vary due to changes in the weather, slow leaks, or other issues.
  • Windshield wipers should be changed when they no longer work effectively or are peeling.
  • Keep the car’s outer finish protected by washing and waxing the regularly.
  • Have a mechanic check the vehicle at least once a year.

A well-maintained car will save more money in the long run than one that is not cared for properly. Many of the above issues mentioned can, if unchecked, cause major problems and be very costly. Tire pressure is important. Under inflated tires wear faster; they can cause a vehicle to bottom out and have steering problems. Over inflated tires will also wear faster; they are more apt to blow out when bumped on a curb or other surface and may slipping in wet or icy conditions. Fluid levels are often overlooked in vehicles, but they are also an important safety check. Washer fluid not only keeps windows cleaner, but they can save a life when used to clear away mud or other blinding materials that often obstruct vision. Of course, the fluid is useless unless there are good windshield wipers on the car. Ignoring oil levels and the transmission fluid can also cause great damage to a car. Blown engines and complete transmission failure is not uncommon in vehicles that are not inspected and maintained regularly.

A car’s filters are like a human’s lungs. While they keep soot and other particulates away from the engine or body, when they get clogged, the engine doesn’t get enough air and cannot operate efficiently. It gets bogged down, hesitates and may sputter and cough. Belts too keep the engine running smoothly. Fan belts help keep the engine cool, other belts make sure things like the cars timing are in sync. Spark plugs are what get the car started each time we turn the key. Each small part plays a role in keeping the car moving safely and effectively.

In many places, corrosion is a big issue; corrosion can cause major damage to the vehicle especially on the undercarriage where rust can literally eat through the doors and floor. When a headlight is out it can make a car look like a motorcycle to oncoming traffic, which could be a real hazard if a car were to pass. It also limits the drivers viewing range, so it is important to check them monthly. This goes for reverse lights, blinkers, and brake lights, all if working properly could keep an accident from happening. Don’t assume that if the brake lights work that the reverse lights do as well. Function is not always in the bulb itself, but may be something underlying instead. Finally, check the inside of the car when it rains or after a cleaning. Make sure there are no damp areas or leaks around the seals in windows, sunroofs, or vents. Sometimes doors can fill with water as well, which can cause corrosion or electrical damage.

Keeping a properly maintained automobile will mean less pollution, less major repair costs, and better gas mileage. Gas mileage automatically increases with correct tire pressure, clean filters, and oil levels. Fuel prices fluctuate, but they are not going down any time soon. Maintaining a healthy vehicle saves in many ways.

  • Drive Across Texas pages that help you learn how to maintain your vehicle, how to purchase a clean car, and other helpful information.
  • Donate a car, RV or truck to charity when the vehicle you have is no longer needed and you are ready to buy a new vehicle. You can receive the maximum legal tax deductions and possibly a partial cash payment for your used car.
  • Greener Transportation: Information about going with greener vehicles and the proper maintenance of your vehicle. Plus information on how you drive can affect the fuel consumption of your car.
  • Tire Maintenance: Save money and protect your environment! Information on tire management, oil recycling, and other general tire information.
  • Cars, Trucks, Trailers, and Fire an article on how fires are caused by our cars. What auto maintenance issues create fire hazards?
  • Consumer Reports article: How to maintain your new car.
  • Traffic Police: Maintaining your vehicle: daily and weekly checks.
  • Inflate. Rotate. Evaluate. How to maintain your tires.
  • Rafferty Insurance: A list of topics from auto maintenance to road safety.
  • All Things Automotive
  • Tips for Maintaining Your Used Car Correctly
  • RoadSmart Newsletter includes articles: Is Your Vehicle Emitting a Silent Killer? And They Are Back! Avoiding Those Pesky Potholes
  • Auto Maintenance information on how maintaining our vehicles keep waterways clean.
  • Aging and Driving the use of adaptive devices for safer Vehicles and how to maintain them.
  • Safe Car Frequently asked questions are answered on subjects like tires, air bags and child safety.
  • Car Care News article: Don’t Forget to Check Your Antifreeze

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