Keep your car “healthy and strong.” Everyone knows the importance of having good health in order to enjoy a good life. Unfortunately, many people don’t put the focus on taking care of the “little things” in their personal health and, when left unattended for long periods of time, the body can break down, creating lots of different health issues.
Similarly, taking care of the vehicles that are responsible for getting you from place to place over thousands and thousands of miles only makes sense. Having an unsafe and unreliable vehicle not only sets you up for inconvenience and increased costs for repairs, but it also puts you and those in your vehicle at significant risk of being involved in an accident that could cause SERIOUS injury.
Here are some common-sense vehicle tips to help you Get Home Safe:
1. Tire Pressure: Your tires are the ONLY thing that connect you and those in your vehicle to the road beneath you. Roads can have a variety of conditions ranging from dry and smooth to rutted and icy, and while tires can’t “drive” the car, they can assist in playing an important role in stopping efficiently and avoiding potentially dangerous obstacles.
When checking tires, the primary things to look at are the air pressure and the tread depth. On the side of each tire is a suggested air pressure at which the tire is meant to function best. Purchase a tire gauge from any auto parts store and keep it in your glove compartment, then check your tires at least once a month when stopping for gas (most all gas stations have an air compressor in case you need to add air to one or more of your tires). Tires also have “wear bars” that indicate when it’s time to consider replacing them to keep function and safety at maximal levels. If you’re not sure where the “wear bars” are located, stop into any tire store for help and they can show you how much tread life you have remaining.
2. Pay Attention to Your Vehicle’s Gauges: All vehicles are equipped with basic gauges that tell the overall “health” of your vehicle. Depending on the make and model you drive, the number and types of gauges will differ but every vehicle has a way to signal issues with the motor, the temperature and other important features. Whether your car has just a few basic gauges or is loaded with “all the bells and whistles,” it’s important to pay attention to what your dashboard is telling you and to take the appropriate steps to get those items fixed.
3. Look, Listen and Feel: Part of being a great driver is to be an OBSERVANT driver. By paying attention to your vehicle, you can oftentimes find issues when they are small. By taking care of them shortly thereafter, you assure the best chance of getting home safe for you and everyone who rides with you. Examples of looking, listening, and feeling include:
a. Look for defects in your car such as cracks in your windshield or headlights that have gone out. Any impairment in your vision puts you at a much higher risk for getting into an accident. This also includes issues with your windshield wipers, defrost system, or anything else that could impair your vision while driving.
b. Low tire pressure can indicate air leakage or even tire damage. Walk around your car regularly to be sure there are no obvious issues and have your tire pressure checked monthly using an air pressure gauge.
c. Listen for odd or unfamiliar noises. If you’ve been driving your car for a while, you will be familiar with “how it sounds.” If you hear an unfamiliar noise, take the time to have your vehicle checked to be sure nothing serious is going on that you could leave you on the side of the road or, worse, lead to you having an accident.
d. Feel for any differences in the way your car handles. If your vehicle pulls to one side, shakes/vibrates, or has any unfamiliar feeling while driving, have it checked immediately.
4. If You Find Yourself on the Side of the Road: We hope you never find yourself stopped on the side of the road with a mechanical issue, but if you do:
a. Be sure to pull over as far as you can so you leave ample room for traffic to get by you safely. Tragically, there are people who are injured or killed every year across our country just because they were stopped on the side of the road and were hit by an oncoming vehicle. Sometimes these people are the vehicle owners who are standing alongside their car, and other times it’s a good citizen or law enforcement officer who is on the scene and then is struck down while trying to help.
b. If at all possible, get off of any major highway before pulling over and look to stop your vehicle in a residential neighborhood where streets are not busy or, better yet, in a parking lot. If you have to stop on a busy thoroughfare, ALWAYS get over to the right side as far as possible and be sure the scene is safe for you to get out of your vehicle.
c. Call the appropriate person.
i. If you are in an emergent situation, call 911 and stay in your car or find a safe place to be until police arrive.
ii. If you are not in danger and your car is safely parked, call a service such as AAA, a tow truck, etc. to get the help you need. Also, always be sure to call a friend/relative to let them know what’s happened and that you are safe.