I’m sure we’ve all seen shit cars on the road. These people have their bumper duct taped haphazardly to the hood and quarter panels, and others have decided to secure various parts to their vehicle with bungee cords. It can be a bit difficult to steer if your alignment is so bad that you can’t drive in a straight line, and it’s just as difficult (and dangerous) to drive when you have a shaky steering wheel. Broken windows limit visibility, as does half an inch of dirt on all your windows.
Granted, not all of us are fortunate enough to be able to afford “unnecessary” maintenance. As long as the car runs, maybe it’s not getting any kind of investment. However, a lot of things are actually necessary for that vehicle to be safe on the road. It will be much more expensive if you end up in a crash. The following list includes some helpful hints on how to keep your car happy and healthy.
- Maintain your tires: Your car is connected to the road by a small contact patch on your tires. That’s it. If your tires are bald and unable to grip the road, you are fucked if you need to make any kind of quick maneuver… eventually any maneuver will become hazardous. Especially so in wet or snowy conditions. A popular way to measure your tread is the penny rule (see here). When you replace your tires, replace all four. DO NOT mix and match brands or sizes (unless you have a staggered set-up, in which case you still don’t want to mix and match brands). Replacing all four tires at the same time also guarantees that you’ll have the same tread wear all the way around, and driving will be safer.
- Check your brakes: You know that part of your vehicle that helps you come to a complete stop? That’s a wear part. You have to replace those at some point. Typically you’ll know when you need to replace your brakes when you hear a loud metal-on-metal scraping sound when you apply the brakes or when you have to press the brake pedal down to the floor just to get any sort of response. Getting your brakes done can be expensive (depending on the vehicle you own), but it is a must.
- Replace broken windows: Whether it’s a massive crack on the windshield or a shattered driver-side window, these should be replaced ASAP. You see out of your car through these windows. If your side window space is occupied by garbage bag, you can’t see out of that window, and that is dangerous. Usually your insurance company will replace your windshield for free, so call and ask if that’s something they’ll do for you.
- Double check loose parts: I mentioned bumpers being secured by duct tape and bungee cords earlier in this post. While you may have thought I’d be complaining about these temporary fixes, I far prefer a bumper be attached that way than blowing in the wind on the highway just waiting to fly off and potentially cause an accident.
- Check your oil: This isn’t entirely a safety issue, but it is a critical thing for your vehicle. If you run out of oil or leave a fill in super long, you run the risk of completely obliterating your motor. And that is really not a cheap fix. Check your oil level every other time you get gas, or make a habit of checking your oil a couple times per month. There’s a lot of debate over how long you should leave a fill of oil in your car, but that’s not really the concern here. Just pick whatever length you like and go with that—just make sure your car has oil.
It seems like people think that vehicle maintenance is a scam. To be fair, there are going to be shops that will try to overcharge you for an oil change or brake service (and some of them might do a shitty job on that service), but maintenance itself is incredibly important. Not only will your car last longer, but your car will also be safer on the road for you and everyone else around you.