Regular maintenance on your car significantly helps its road performance, especially in potentially hazardous driving situations. You can’t drive a car defensively if its tires are in need of air, windows, rearview mirror, and signal lights are dirty, and brake pads are worn to shreds. Here are a few steps you should take to keep your car running safely and efficiently:
- Check Your Tires Make sure your tire pressure is where it should be. The recommended pressure for your car’s tires will be in your owner’s manual or in the driver’s side door jamb. When it comes to purchasing new tires, take into account the weather in your part of the country. Four snow tires total is the safest way to go if you anticipate driving in snow and ice.
- Align Your Tires If while driving your car seems to drift to one side or the steering wheel vibrates, you may need to have the tires aligned. Alignment actually refers to a car’s suspension, which can move out of alignment over time due to normal driving, a minor accident, or bumping against a curb. Check your owner’s manual to see how often your car’s manufacturer recommends aligning your car’s tires. Alignment helps to insure better handling, which is crucial for good defensive driving, as well as better gas mileage.
- Clean Your Car A dirty windshield or rearview mirror will prevent you from scanning and visualizing the road for potential dangers. And grimy signal lights or head lights will prevent other drivers from seeing you in bad weather or at night, which pretty much negates any effort you make to be a good defensive driver.
- Change Your Brake Pads If when braking, you hear squeaking or grinding, your brake pads may be worn out and in need of replacement. Knowing how and when to brake, especially in inclement weather, is a crucial skill for defensive driving. If you have an antilock brake system and need to stop in on an icy road, stomp on the pedal and when you feel the system’s pulses or hear it working, ease up a bit on the pedal until it’s only pulsing about once a second. If you don’t have ABS, you should push the brake hard and when the wheels stop turning, lift your foot so the wheels turn and rapidly press the brake again.