Vehicle Safety

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Rotate your tires

Every 5,000 miles or 8,000 miles. Think about it: the tyres begin to wear in a pattern, however good or bad, that matches their position on the car. Overall equal tire wear

Clean brake dust off regularly

Brake dust contains all sorts of nasty stuff. If you leave it too long, the combination of road grime, moisture and heat from your brakes will bake it on to your wheels. Brake dust normally clings to wheels with static electricity so a damp sponge and clean cold water is the best way to get it off.

Check your tyre pressures

Check your tyre pressures regularly - once a week is ideal. Bad tyre pressures can affect fuel economy, handling and comfort. It's easy to do and there is no excuse not to. Checking your tyre pressure.

Check your tread depth

Bald, slick tyres might be good for motor racing but they're no good on the road. Most tyres come with tread wear bars built into them now - find one, examine it and if your tread is too low, replace your tires. Four new tires might seem expensive but they're cheaper than a fine or an accident. Tread wear bars.

Check your engine belts

At the front of your engine there will be a series of rubber drive belts that loop around various pulleys, driving everything from the alternator to the a/c compressor. Rubber perishes, more so in extreme conditions like those found in an operating engine bay. Get your timing belt and accessory drive belt checked every 25,000 miles, preferably replacing it every 50,000 miles.

Disconnecting and reconnecting your battery

If you're going to do electrical work on your car, disconnect the battery first.
  1. Loosen the connector for the negative/ground terminal first, and wiggle the terminal cap off. Use a wire-tie or similar to tie the cable back out of the way. If you need to take the battery out, you can now take off the positive connector.
  2. Do not disconnect the positive side of the battery first, the negative side will is still connected to the entire car. If you drop a tool and it lands on the positive battery terminal and touches anything else on the car, you'll have an electrical short.
  3. By disconnecting the negative first, you're cutting off the return path for the current. Now, if a tool drops on to either of the battery terminals, it doesn't matter if it touches part of the chassis or not - there's no continuous path for the electrical current.
  4. Reconnecting your battery. Connect the positive terminal first, and the negative second - the reverse of removal, and for the same reasons. When you slip the negative connector on, there will be a spark as it gets close and makes contact with the negative battery terminal.
  5. Make sure the terminal caps are done up nice and tight.

Check your battery terminals

Most modern cars run on a 12 volt negative ground electrical system. If your battery terminals or contacts aren't clean, you're making it more difficult for the current to pass around the electrical system. Remove the terminal caps as described above and clean each contact post with a wire brush to get a nice clean metal contact surface. Do the same to the terminal caps, then reattach them as described above.

Lights

One indicator or blinker is flashing faster than the other, it means one of the bulbs has blown. Auto parts store will be able to help you find the right bulb Most headlight bulbs now are filled with halogen and have special coatings on the outside of the glass. If you pick the bulb up by the glass with your fingers, you will leave trace amounts of oil and grease on the glass. When the bulb is used, that area of the glass will get hotter than the rest and it will eventually cause the bulb to crack.

When changing headlight bulbs

Only hold the metal bulb holder at the base, or make sure you're wearing rubber surgical / mechanic's gloves (clean ones) if you're touching the glass.

Dashboard Gauges

Dashboard

The check engine light: When the check engine light comes on, it can mean many things. There arese tools can read out the fault code and/or reset the system to contain no codes. P0440 OBD-II code is the most common code you'll find and it's the first thing you should check. It is the code for Evaporative Emission Control System Malfunction which covers a multitude of sins. The one thing it covers that you can check is your gas cap (petrol cap). If you've filled up with petrol and not twisted the gas cap until it clicks, you've not sealed the fuel system. Is so common they'll actually have some way of telling you to check the gas cap. So if you get a check engine light, check the gas cap first and see if the light goes off. There are a lot of places that will do it for free - find one. Alternatively, if you're into maintaining your own vehicles, buy a reader and do it yourself.

The electrical fault light: Every car has an alternator (the charger)and a 12v battery to supply power to the electrical system. If the alternator becomes faulty or the drive belt to it snaps, then it will not be able to do its job. The longer you drive, the more your car will use up the remaining juice in the battery and eventually the engine will die. This almost always requires a new or refurbished alternator.

Brake Warking: It's important to note that this light normally comes on when you start the car and then switches off a few seconds later. If it stays on, blinks, throbs, flashes or in any other way draws your attention to itself, take note.

Coolant warning light: If this comes on it means that the level of coolant in your radiator is low and needs topping up. DO NOT OPEN THE RADIATOR CAP WHEN THE ENGINE IS HOT! The coolant system is pressurised and it could easily release pressure and spray you with boiling coolant. Do it when the engine is cold. Top up the system with either a pre-mixed coolant bought from a shop, or with distilled water. Don't use tap water - the mineral deposits in it boil out in the cooling system and calcium gets depositted around the inside of the radiator making it less efficient (which will eventually cause it to fail). It's always best to use pre-mixed coolant, or to mix your own rather than using neat water. The coolant mixture behaves as an antifreeze in winter as well as a corrosion-inhibitor to stop your engine rusting from the inside out.

Oil warning light: Typically this light will come on if your oil pressure is too low. Low oil pressure is serious and if you continue to drive with this light on, eventually your engine will die. Low oil pressure can be caused by a failed oil pump, a blocked oil filter or strainer in the sump, or by low oil levels - for example if your engine is burning oil. Either way, you need to get it fixed, and fast. Low oil pressure will lead to a big problem if left untreated.

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