Yesterday I looked at motorcycle safety as the winter months draw nearer. Today, I’ll concentrate on what checks motorists can implement to help them in avoiding a car crash and ensure both their safety and the wellbeing of their fellow drivers in the darker, wetter weeks ahead.
Check your tyres and pressures
If any of the tyres on your car have only 3mm of tread or less left, then they need changing. It is both illegal and dangerous to drive with tyres with any less tread depth than this, and if caught with worn rubber on your vehicle you could face 3 penalty points per tyre and a maximum fine of £2500. If all four are worn, that’s 12 points – an instant ban, and anything up to £10,000. It’s not really worth it.
The more you pay for a tyre, the safer you’ll be with it fitted. The reason that big brand such as Michelin, Pirelli and Dunlop are more expensive is because they are constructed from grippier, more durable material and feature tread patterns better equipped to displace water on the road surface. Budget tyres may be easy on the wallet, but they cannot compare to a proper set and they may lead to greater expense in the end. Many car crashes are caused by wheels locking under braking or skidding; instances that could arguably be avoided if a reputable brand of tyre was fitted to the car. Budget tyres are, arguably, a false economy.
A tyre is also illegal is it is not fitted to the wheel rim properly, is adjudged to be the wrong size, features any rips, bulges or gouges which penetrate deeper than 10% of the tread’s sectional width.
Tyres don’t work properly if they are not inflated to the correct pressure. Checking pressures should be a regular, if not frequent occurrence, especially if you rack up large mileages. It is not a difficult process; cars generally feature stickers in the door shuts or on the rear of the fuel flap that inform the driver of what pressure with which to inflate the front and rear tyres, depending on how many passengers they generally carry in the car. Nearly all air compressors at petrol stations can now be adjusted to automatically inflate or even deflate tyres to the desired pressure and then the shut the air flow off.
Check your lights
It is amazing how many motorists don’t seem to realise when they are driving around at night without their headlights on, so for these reasons it is also probably not surprising that a large proportion of people don’t notice when a bulb blows. It is both illegal and more dangerous to have headlights not operating properly.
Dirt also has a significant impact on a light’s efficiency, so it is important to keep the lenses clean to avoid a car crash.
Change your wiper blades
When a wiper blade is coming to the end of its useful life, it tends to spread water more thinly across the windscreen than actually wipe it off, leaving streaks in the driver’s field of vision and usually making a juddering sound. It should wipe water off cleanly and with little noise. It is essential to be able to see as much as possible in poor weather, especially at night, and worn wiper blades don’t help much. They can also result in an MOT failure.
Keep your windscreen clean inside and out
If your windscreen is dirty on the inside it will take longer to de-mist in cold weather conditions, and the film of grease and dust will become almost opaque if caught by the headlights of oncoming cars. Special window polish can be used to clean both the inner and outer surfaces of the windscreen and ensure much greater visibility in all conditions.
Likewise, the washer fluid reservoir should be full at all times. It is illegal to drive with an empty bottle under the bonnet.
Check your brake fluid
Although changing the brake fluid is not something that everybody would wish to attempt, keeping an eye on it is not difficult. The fluid reservoir, under the bonnet, should clearly show how much fluid there is left. If it is dipping to dangerous levels, not only will this be apparent from a visual check; the warning light will illuminate on the dashboard. In some cars the fluid level warning light is the same as the handbrake light. If the bulb illuminates when the handbrake is off, something is up! No brakes can equal a car crash, so stay alert.
Date Published: October 1, 2010
Author: David Brown