At Freedom Insurance, we ensure that our clients have the best auto insurance and are covered after a car accident. More importantly, we want to make sure you’re making every effort to avoid an accindent in the first place. That’s why this post is entirely dedicated to preventative maintenance for your vehicle. Deferring maintenance is never a good idea. In most cases, the repair need just gets worse and requires more money to fix. Sometimes, however, waiting to fix a minor problem can lead to a major accident. That wobble in your wheel might be doing more than spilling your latte; it could be spelling disaster!
Here are 10 things to look for before you turn the key.
Turn signals. Before you take off for your daily commute or that long-awaited family vaca, take a few moments to check your turn signals. The fastest way to check if the bulbs are all working is to put on the emergency flashers and walk around the car. You’ll also want to ensure that the signals work independently, so activate the left, then the right signal, and check to make sure they’re working properly.
Warning lights. When you start your car, usually a whole range of dashboard warning lights will briefly illuminate and then go off. Be aware, however, that if any of the warning lights remain on after you’ve started the engine (or come on while you’re driving), you might have a maintenance issue. Be particularly aware of the Check Engine, Temperature, and Oil lights as these three signal potentially major maintenance issues.
Windshield. It’s bound to happen: you’re driving along and something kicks up from the roadbed and dings your windshield. And it doesn’t take long for a minor chip or a “bulls-eye” crack to turn into a sprawling map of broken glass. The question is: is it dangerous? According to our friends at Cars.com, it very likely is. If you carry comprehensive coverage on your vehicle, a windshield repair or replacement can be done very affordably. Even if you have to pay out of pocket, for around $300 you have the peace of mind knowing that your windshield is up to snuff.
Belts. When was the last time you popped the hood on your car and examined the fan belt? In about 30 seconds, you can determine if the belt is in need of replacement, and you don’t even need to be ASE certified! Examine both sides of the belt (or belts) and pay special attention to signs of wear like cracking or shininess. If the belts look worn, or you just can’t remember the last time they were replaced, ask your mechanic about replacement. A busted fan belt can leave you stranded on the highway with an overheated car, so better to be proactive.
Hoses. Same goes for hoses. A quick glance under the hood can tell you if any of the hoses (like the radiator hose) are cracked, worn, or leaking. If you’re not sure of what you’re seeing, ask your mechanic to take a glance during your next scheduled oil change.
Leaks. Before you take off in the morning, or after your car has been parked for a little while, glance under the car and make sure you don’t see any puddles or oil stains. It’s worth noting, however, that when you’re running the air conditioning in the summer time it’s entirely okay to see water dripping—it’s the condensate from the air conditioner and it’s not a sign of trouble. As long as you don’t see radiator fluid or oil, you should be gold.
Exhaust. When you’re driving—particularly when you’re accelerating—take a look in the rear view and make sure your car isn’t blowing smoke. Thick black smoke can be a sign of an oil leak; blue smoke can mean a radiator leak. Your car’s exhaust shouldn’t linger in the air too long if everything is working properly with your engine and exhaust system.
Brakes. If you hear or feel grinding (metal on metal) when you step on the brakes, you’ll want to have your car looked at as soon as possible. If your brake pedal goes all the way to the floor or you have to pump the pedal to get them to “grab,” DO NOT DRIVE the vehicle, but have it towed to a service station. A lot—literally—is riding on your brakes, so be sure you have them serviced at regular intervals and have any problems looked at as soon as possible.
Tires. At least monthly, take a look at your tires—including the spare. Make sure they are properly inflated, wearing evenly, and that the treads are not worn out. Bald or balding tires are dangerous tires and should be replaced immediately. You can even use a coin to measure tread depth if you want to be certain! Uneven tread wear can be a sign of an alignment problem, so be sure to have your car checked out if you notice the tires wearing unevenly.
Alignment. If your car is hard to steer, pulls to one side or the other, or has a wobble or shimmy at speed, then you likely have an alignment or other serious issue with your car’s suspension. Make sure you have the problem checked out by a qualified mechanic as soon as you notice anything out of the ordinary with your vehicle’s handling.
Drive carefully, take care of your ride, and remember: Freedom Insurance is here to help. Got a car care tip? Tell us in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!