But just because you can pay someone else to change your oil and rotate your tires and keep your engine purring, that doesn’t get you off the hook for everything. Like performing a quick DIY car safety check every time you hit the road. It may sound like a bit of an inconvenience, but admit it. You’d much rather find out your car’s leaking radiator fluid while you’re still parked in your driveway, and not ten miles from home on the side of a noisy road.
Here are the most important things to complete in your DIY car safety check:
- Check your tires. Don’t worry, you don’t have to get down and dirty. All you really need to do is to give your tires a quick once-over to make sure you don’t have a flat, or a badly under-inflated tire. As a word of caution, you should never try to judge if your tires need air just by looking at them – but by comparing them to one another, you can immediately tell if you’ve got one that needs some pumping up. Also check for unusual bumps in the sidewall or for the presence of any nails in the tread while you’re at it. You may even consider purchasing an air gauge for a few dollars. Check air pressure levels on all four tires.
- Look for leaking fluids. Again, you don’t have to get dirty by taking to your hands and knees. But it is important that before you slide behind the wheel, you’ve ensured that there aren’t any unusual pools or puddles underneath your car that could indicate a serious problem. Engine oil is black or dark brown; antifreeze can be either red or green and is thick in consistency; transmission fluid is also red, but you can usually tell if you’ve got a transmission leak if you detect a strong odor. Other possible fluid leaks could be power steering or brake fluid
- Check your headlights, tail-lights, and brake lights. A good way to check your headlights is to aim your car at a reflective surface. All you’re looking for is to make sure they’re operating properly. Likewise, consider checking your tail-lights – identifying a tail-light that’s out could save you from being pulled over and getting a fix-it ticket. If you’re solo driving, checking your brake lights may not be as easy during the day, but if you’re taking a night cruise, check to see that the area behind your car is illuminated when you tap the brakes.
- Take a quick look at your windshield wipers to make sure they’re connected. The last thing you want to happen is to find yourself in the middle of a sudden downpour with a missing wiper that’ll obstruct your vision and lead to unsafe driving conditions.
- While you’re at it, give your windshield a good once-over. If you see any hairline fractures or spider cracks. If you do, take your vehicle to an auto repair shop. Small nicks and spider cracks can spread, dangerously weakening your windshield.
- Check to make sure your gas cap lid is screwed on tightly. Sometimes, a loose gas cap can cause your “Check Engine” light to turn on. It can also leave you wide open to spilling gas as you drive, which can be a major drain on your wallet – especially with gas prices as high as they are and as high as they’re going to continue to rise.