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How to Keep Your Car Safe: A Guide Every Car Owner Needs

Jul 8, 2021 - Resources

A car is one of the biggest investments you can make. It is important for car owners and all drivers to understand how to keep their automobiles in tip top shape in a variety of situations. This auto guide provides critical safety and maintenance concerns along with their recommended solution, important tips, and secondary resources to protect you and your vehicle.

Keeping Your Car Safe From the Weather

No matter the season, weather poses major threats to the safety of your car. Whiteout rain storms happen no matter the time of year, and all types of weather can lead to a number of issues for your automobile. Check out these simple tips for preparing your vehicle for inclement weather.

Extreme Heat

  • Tires can get damaged in hot conditions. Keep a tire pressure gauge on hand and ensure your tires are always inflated properly to avoid added strain.
  • The battery in your car can be negatively affected by hot conditions so the shade is your best friend to prevent this. The ideal operating temperature for a car battery is 80 degrees and for every 15 degrees it goes over will cut your battery life in half.
  • The engine’s oil may need extra attention in the summer months as the oil ages faster in the heat. It is also more likely that it can leak, so make sure to monitor it closely.
  • Regularly check your car’s cooling system. Low coolant levels will kill the engine and any broken hoses or complications with your radiator can magnify those issues.
  • Wash your car and wax it periodically to protect the paint from UV rays that can cause miniature scratches. There isn’t an exact timeframe for waxing your car so pay attention to how much it has worn to decide whether or not it’s time for a wax.

Rain & Inclement Weather

  • Make sure your car is tightly sealed to prevent any leaks. Diagnosing a water leak can be very difficult as it can spawn from multiple sources. Some of these areas include sunroofs, door seals and window seals.
  • Maintain and frequently change your wiper blades. The standard timeframe is 6 months to one year. This article explains how to tell when it’s time for a new pair.
  • Try using a rain repellent that works to keep water off the vehicle as much as possible.
  • Pull off to the side of the road (under an overpass, if you can) during whiteout rain storms.
  • Similar to heat harming paint on a car, rain can cause similar damage. Wash your car after a rain storm to remove any debris that can cause scratches.
  • Avoid driving in flood water that is more than 4 inches deep and always drive slowly in high flood waters to avoid damaging your car.

Freezing Temperatures & Snow

  • The cold affects your battery, oil and tires just as extreme heat can. In the winter you should switch to low viscosity oil and cleaning your battery connections often. Battery warmers are also something you should consider purchasing.
  • To avoid ice in your fuel line keep your gas at least half full
  • Consider specific windshield wiper blades made for winter weather.
  • Get a car inspection right before winter hits. Have your belts checked to ensure they aren’t too old which can cause them to snap once it gets cold.
  • Consider whether or not you need to purchase new all-weather (or snow) tires, this guide answers some common questions about snow tires.

Keeping Your Vehicle Safe From Accidents

Even though modern vehicles require more safety features, accidents that are caused by mechanical failure still occur. Here’s how to prevent these types of car accidents.

  • Maintain your brakesRear-end collisions are most commonly caused by bad brakes that prevent drivers from stopping in time and hitting the car in front of them.
  • Maintain your wheels. A high percentage of mechanical failures that lead to accidents are caused by tire and wheel problems. Tires may blow out due to over-inflation.
  • Maintain your headlights and taillights. Driving at night is always riskier because of a decreased ability to see. That said, if your headlights or taillights aren’t functioning correctly, the chance of getting into an accident increases dramatically. Driving with a headlight and/or taillight out may also result in a ticket.
  • Check for recalls. Ensure your car does not have any open recalls that could be a safety concern. You can check here: https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls. These can be repaired free of charge by the manufacturer.
  • Invest in a safer car. All cars aren’t created equal, so if you are shopping for a new car, consider researching the vehicle rating to see how well it has done in crash tests. You can find out more here: https://www.iihs.org/ratings

Keeping Your Car Safe For Children

  • Proper car seat installation. Many people try to save money by simply inheriting car seats from friends or relatives. However, there are strict legal and safety guidelines for child seats and how they should be installed. If you need help, many local state police and fire departments can help fit your car seat properly.
  • Leaving children alone in a locked car. A child left in a hot car can develop heat stroke which may be fatal. There are many products you can buy to alert you when a child is in the backseat to ensure you don’t forget. Some alert systems are built into certain car models and there are also apps available. At the very least you can implement simple tips like putting a stuffed bear on the passenger seat as a reminder a child is in the car.
  • Keep your keys safe. When children reach the age of 12 or so, it is very tempting to steal your keys and go joyriding. Keep your keys out of reach (and secret). Similarly, since some of the newer vehicles have keyfobs that must be kept nearby, be sure that those are stashed away from young children who may end up putting it in his or her mouth.
  • Check the Driveway. It is all too common for people to back up when they are unaware that children are behind them. Before getting into the car, walk all the way around to make sure children are not under or behind the car. Pick up any toys, bikes, chalk, or other play items near the driveway that could attract children.

Keeping Your Car Safe From Hacking

Unless you have a much older automobile, your vehicle can be hacked, like most anything else electronic. Some common ways hackers can get into your vehicle’s vulnerable systems and make driving dangerous and difficult include:

  • Disabling brakes. You may use your brake pedal to slow down and stop, but it’s actually a series of microprocessors in your vehicle’s computer that make your brakes work. Particularly malicious hackers can access your onboard computer and disable your brakes.
  • Manipulating vehicle diagnostics. Repair shops largely rely on onboard vehicle diagnostics systems to diagnose problems. Unethical shops can override your system and make it appear that you need them to perform unnecessary repairs.
  • Forced acceleration. Power locks today often have features that allow automatic locking when the car is put into drive or reaches a certain speed. They can also unlock if the airbags have been deployed. Cars with comprehensive computer systems like this may be subject to forced acceleration.
  • Extended keyfob range. Hackers using radio repeaters can extend your keyfob range, unlocking your car doors from up to 30 feet away.
  • Driving data downloads. Many vehicles using GPS systems record driving data that may be used to exploit your privacy and even discover where you live, work, or take your kids to school.
  • Turning on heat in the summer or air conditioning in the winter. In extremely hot or cold climates, vehicle air conditioning systems are just as vulnerable to hackers as any other vehicle system. Hackers can blast hot air and turn on seat warmers in the summer.
  • Windshield wiper control. Windshield cleaning fluid is useful, but can become a danger to your visibility when hacked.

Keeping Your Vehicle Safe in Driveways and Parking Lots

Vehicle theft is quite common. However, there are ways to protect yourself and your vehicle from being stolen from your driveway or a parking lot.

  • Don’t keep valuables in plain sight in your automobile. Put bags and any other valuable objects in the trunk or remove them from the vehicle altogether. Don’t even leave mail in your car as this could put you at risk for identity theft.
  • Purchase locks for various car parts. Some vehicles come with wheel locks; however, some may require the owner/purchaser to buy them separately. While this may seem unnecessary, steering wheel locks may prove to be worth the investment considering how much it would cost to replace your car if stolen.
  • Park in a well-lit area. Lights tend to be a natural deterrent for shady individuals who are scoping the area. Be sure to park near others when possible and ensure that the area is fully lit, just in case.
  • Keep your windows rolled up and your doors locked while parked. This may seem obvious, but you do not want to make it easy for the would-be thieves to get away with your vehicle or valuables, so lock it up.

Additional Resources For Car Safety & Maintenance

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