Whether you’re an expert mechanic or a newbie to the automotive world, you always want to make sure that your vehicle is in tip-top shape before heading out for a drive.
That in mind, there are a few DIY safety checks that even the brightest at-home mechanics out there seem to forget, or simply assume aren’t worth checking, and this can cause problems down the road — quite literally.
It is good to keep in mind that a lot of safety checks, and issues with your car’s reliability are sometimes hidden from view. This means you won’t really be able to tell there’s an issue until it affects your driving, or overall experience in the car, and so we have a few DIY car safety tips below that are often overlooked.
Take a look at our DIY overlooked car safety checks below.
1. Start With the Tyres
As you will already know, tyres can be incredibly deceiving when it comes to their pressure and tread condition.
With that noted, it is important to get down and take a proper look at your tyre’s tread on both the inside and the outside of the tyre and make sure that there is no uneven wear here that could reduce traction in wet situations.
On top of this, it might also be a good idea to have someone roll the car forward or back — safely of course — so that you’re able to check whether there are any lumps or protrusions from the tyre.
Added to this, when it comes to inflation and tyre pressure, you’ll need to get a hold of your trusty pressure gauge and use this to make sure that your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure, which is outlined on the side of the tyre.
Once all of these checks are done, then double check your replacement tyre pressures and run these same checks and you’re all good to go.
2. Coolant, Oil and Brake Fluid Leaks
Given that you’ll already be taking a look at your tyres, it’s a good idea to also take a quick look down there for any sorts of leaks coming from your vehicle.
We suggest parking your car on a concrete or solid surface, rather than lawn or grass, given that you will be better able to spot any leaks or brake fluid issues with ease. If there are any leaks, you’ll know right away and be able to work to repair these before heading off on a road trip, or just a drive to your local supermarket.
One thing to note here is that sometimes you may feel your brakes being a little doughy or unresponsive. This is typically an issue with brake fluid and air bubbles being present, and so you may want to consider dealing with these as a precaution before heading out on a long drive.
3. Light Checks
A third overlooked safety check are the lights on your vehicle.
There’s a good chance that when you’re driving at night that you won’t really notice if a non-essential headlamp blows, or a brake or reverse light, for example. And with that said, we suggest to double check that all of these lights are operational — but also not showing any signs of age.
To test the headlights and high beams, you can easily switch these lights on and get out to check that they’ve been turned on, though for rear lights, you’ll want to try something a little different — or have a friend help you out.
Either reverse close to a wall that is reflective or light toned and watch for the reflection of your brake lights and reverse light. If you can’t see these, it might be time to swap them out for new ones.
One final thing to note is that sometimes lights flicker or one can be a little more dull than another, and with that, this is your vehicle letting you know that these lights need to be swapped out as soon as possible.
4. Checking Panelling for Damage
Unless you are quite pedantic about checking all of your car’s panels and consoles, you’re likely not too aware of whether they’re looking a little loose or might come off.
This is another one of our essential safety checks.
Although this might not be a direct safety hazard for you as a driver, it is a major safety hazard for those driving behind you or beside your car on a freeway, given that these panels may come loose and cause an accident.
If you have noticed that there are loose panels, or something is looking a little out of whack, you can work to repair this on your own by taking a look online for some tips or checking your user manual, or just get multiple quotes on platforms like DingGo to help you out.
All that said, it is important to ensure nothing is dangling loose from your vehicle, regardless of whether it affects your driving or not.
5. Checking Wheel Alignment
Another often overlooked safety check is the alignment of your vehicle’s tyres and uneven tread wear on the front and sometimes even the rear tyres.
You will likely already know the importance of an alignment check, though for those who don’t, a vehicle that has tyres out of alignment will pull to the right or left and have you keeping your steering wheel on an angle to keep it driving straight.
This is unsafe and rather frustrating too, and so you will want to make sure that your vehicle’s wheel alignment checks are all done, or have been done by yourself prior to heading off on any sort of long journey.
To test this for yourself, you can take a look at your front tyre tread and look for signs of wear on only one side of the tyre. If this is quite clear, then it is worth heading down to a local mechanic to have your wheel alignment adjusted.
You may also notice a little (or a lot) of vibration in your steering wheel as you’re driving, which is another sign of a wheel alignment problem with the car.
6. Changing Wipers and Fluids
When it comes to driving safely in unsavoury conditions, there isn’t anything much more frustrating than crappy wipers.
Our biggest tip here is to actively check your wipers when your city’s local rainy season comes, or if there is a weather warning in the next day or two. You don’t want to be stuck with poor wipers, or wipers that have ‘hardened’ over the summer and no longer work properly.
To add to this, it is also important to make sure that your wiper fluid is kept topped up prior to any sort of long drive, and so make sure that you check your wiper fluid tank as part of your safety check.
7. Checking the Air Filter
Another often overlooked safety check is the air filter that feeds air to your engine.
As you’d expect, you want to make sure that your vehicle’s engine is kept cool and also getting enough airflow to improve and sustain fuel efficiency, and so taking a look over your air filter is another safety check that ensures you’re not running the risk of overheating or breaking down on a freeway.
To check your air filter, you will only need to take a look at your user manual and locate the air filter and take a look at how clean or dirty it is. It’s always a good idea to simply clear the air filter out on a routine basis simply to make sure there isn’t any sort of debris build up that can get out of control.
8. Shock Absorbers and Struts
For the safety of your vehicle and an optimal driving experience, it is important that you take a look at your shock absorbers.
You might have noticed that your vehicle has become a little poorer to drive, or rougher when you hit bumps or uneven road surfaces, and with this in mind, you could be dealing with worn or essentially inoperable shock absorbers.
To test these at home, you can press down on the corner of one of the front bumpers on your car. You will want to do this with a little bit of force, and then watch your vehicle’s response.
If you spot that the car bounces more than one time, or continues to mildly rock a little after you’ve pressed down and released weight from this bumper, then you’re going to want to consider a shock and strut replacement.
With all of those safety check tips listed, we’re confident you’ll be able to get a little more in depth when it comes to looking over your vehicle prior to a road trip, or just before any sort of drive in general.
It is important to keep in mind that although we may be well-versed in understanding our vehicles and knowing what to do when something goes wrong, we shouldn’t overlook some of the simplest safety checks.
Our safety and the safety of others is imperative when we’re on the road, and taking a good look at your vehicle is the best place to start to reduce the chances of an accident.