Improving Safety Through Vehicle Maintenance
The month of April has been designated National Car Care Month. But it’s not too late for you to do some preventive maintenance on your own vehicle. Not only can taking care of your car lengthen its serviceable life, it can lengthen your own life. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) about one out every five motor vehicle accidents is caused by faulty maintenance or vehicle defects.
What kinds of maintenance issues can contribute to accidents?
- Inadequate tire pressure. When a tire is underinflated by more than 25%, it greatly increases the chance that the tire will overheat and fail, especially at high speeds during hot weather – and hot weather is just around the corner, friends.
- Worn tires. When the tread on a tire is worn down to 2/32 of an inch, there is not enough tread left to provide safe traction on wet roads, resulting in the risk of hydroplaning. An easy way to check it is the penny test: Place a penny into several tread grooves across the tire. If part of Lincoln’s head is always covered by the tread, you have more than 2/32″ of tread depth remaining. Anything less than that and you need to replace the tires. You should also check for treads that are unevenly worn, an indication that a wheel alignment is in order.
- Deteriorated brake system. All of the salt and brine solutions put on Indiana roads this winter also wound up on your vehicle, corroding the brake parts. Even in spring, summer and fall, your brakes are getting a workout, and the more you drive, the sooner the brakes will wear out. If you notice the car pulls to one side when you brake or if you hear squeaking or grinding noises, have the brakes checked. They’re essential for helping you avoid collisions.
- Steering and suspension system problems. Can you imagine suddenly losing the ability to steer? This can happen if the tie rod ends or coupling between the steering column and steering gear fail.
- Non-functional wipers, headlamps or brake lights. Ever try to navigate through a downpour with wipers that make a lot of noise but don’t do much to clear the windshield? Ever drive behind a car or truck whose brake lights are burned out? Ever forget until after dark that one of your headlamps is out of kilter? It’s no fun, and it’s dangerous for you and everyone else on the road.
The non-profit Car Care Council offers a free 60-page reference guide about vehicle maintenance, which you can read on-line or order here.
When we investigate a motor vehicle accident, one of the things we look for is signs that the negligent party did not take care of their car or truck, making it a menace on the road. If you cause an accident on the highway, you can bet that someone will be going over your vehicle as well, trying to determine if your laziness or procrastination led to someone else’s being injured or killed. Taking good care of your vehicle isn’t hard – just do it.