The proper work of all car systems is a guarantee of your safety. Inexperienced drivers may not know the tips, what to do before driving to ensure a pleasant journey. In turn, experienced drivers may skip all the procedures to save time. This guide will remind or teach you about precautions that may save your life or at least make your driving comfort. That includes everything from adjusting the driver seat to doing a system check of mechanics.
Many inexperienced drivers can find warning lights tricky. That makes them worry, whether everything’s okay or they need to have the car checked by a professional. Generally, during the start of the engine, the lights will come on and disappear, it is normal. If some of the lights have amber color during driving, it means the car needs a check. If the lights are red, it requires an immediate reaction from the driver. That’s what the main lights mean:
- ABS. An anti-lock braking system that helps stop your car without glide on slippery roads or while hitting the brakes hard. You need to have the function checked, however, your brakes are going to work properly at normal conditions.
- Airbag. A light with a sitting person, in front of which there is a ball, may indicate a problem with an airbag. You may have deactivated the airbag on your own if you use a child seat. However, if you did not do that, and the light comes on, you should check this important safety measure.
- Battery. If the car has not been used for long, the battery light may come on, indicating it is low in charge. The same can happen to an old car, meaning it needs a battery to be replaced. Otherwise, it can indicate a failure in an alternator, damages in cables and wires. In this case, a thorough check by a professional is required.
- The brake light is always red, indicating its importance. The problem may be quite easy: release the handbrake. If that’s not the case, don’t take risks driving a car with faulty brakes.
- An image of a car with an open door, boot or bonnet reminds you to properly close them. Nothing’s wrong with the car, it is only safety measures.
- When a light, looking like a thermometer in the water, gets red, it means your engine is overheated. Check the level of coolant. There also may be a leak of water. If nothing helps, it means the system is broken.
- Orange engine light is a signal for a problem, detected by the engine control unit. The only way to find out the real cause is to get the car properly diagnosed.
- A watering can symbol stands for oil. The red indicator is very important and tells you about the problem of engine overheating, low or high oil pressure or level. The problems can lead to serious mechanical damages, so they need to be fixed as soon as possible.
- Power steering light means the system is out. You still can steer the car but the maneuvering will be difficult.
- The seatbelt sign is an obvious safety measure, indicating you forgot to restrain yourselves. We are going to tell the importance of that later in the article.
- The traction control system helps you stay on track without glide on a slippery road. If the system is active at the moment or you have switched it off, the light will come on. If neither is the case, the system is not working properly.
- Even though, a tire pressure light may indicate you have a puncture, in most cases topping the tires up to increase the pressure is enough.
Be sure to pay enough attention to the lights, if they are red or amber. If you are worried, ask an experienced driver or a professional, what light can mean. Some do not require immediate action or repair of the car systems, but some are important for safe driving. There are warning lights that appear only in diesel cars or are related to uncommon features, which you can find in the latest cars only. An owner manual is a useful tool for finding answers.
Before driving you should check the level of the fluids: the coolant in the radiator, oil, and brake fluid. Speaking about the coolant, it is not pure water, but it has added chemicals to avoid freezing and corrosion. If the coolant level is too low, it will lead to overheating of the engine. You can add just water if you are in a hurry, but add antifreeze later, and in the best case, mix them one to one. If the water level keeps dropping quickly, look for a possible leak. Generally, it is suggested that the drivers walk around the car each time before driving to examine for some possible leaks under the car.
If you are not sure, whether there are enough fluids, the warning lights will tell you a problem. There are also marks on the minimum and maximum levels of the coolant in the tank. Never check the fluid if the engine is still hot. If you open the tank, hot evaporating fluid might harm you.
Oil is also a crucial element in the work of the engine. It lubricates the moving parts of the engine. If the level of pressure of it is too low, it can result in the engine being worn out soon. The cost of repair is probably the highest among all the car systems. So the oil is the second important part you should check after the brakes. You should use only recommended, high-quality oil. The dipstick will help you to understand if there is enough oil in the tank; an oil light will help too.
Wheels and tires
It is important to have proper pressure on the tires, otherwise, they will wear out quickly. If the pressure is low, the damages may appear on the side, if it is too high – in the middle of a tire. Use a pressure gauge to find out the pressure and compare it with the recommended one for the vehicle. Never do this with a hot tire after driving as the temperature affects the pressure.
Before driving, you should check the possible damages and look for bubbles, as the wheels should guarantee fine contact with the road and full control over the car. Damages may affect maneuvering ability and cause accidents. The tread depth can be controlled with an indicator on a tire. When a tire is worn out to that point, it should be changed to avoid sliding and skidding.
Brake and gear check
The brake light may indicate a problem with breaks, however, a regular system check might help you eliminate the faults before they appear. Always check the brake fluid level. It is important for the proper work of the brakes and your safety. The fluid should fall between two marks: min and max. Use only the recommended fluid.
The condition of the fluid is also important. With time it is going through oxidation and the physical properties get lost. If the fluid got black you should replace it. The normal color is golden.
The transmission system is more complicated for check and repair by a driver itself. However, due to the number of elements, it works in the condition of heat and constant friction. That means it might need a professional check and repair relatively often. But if you do that in advance, not letting the system to get totally worn out, you will prevent stressful and expensive repairs. Follow the recommended schedule. Watch carefully for something odd while driving.
Read the owner’s manual to be sure to do everything appropriately and not to damage the car even more.
Adjust your seat
The proper position in a driver seat means that you have the maximal field of vision and sit comfortably, able to reach pedals.
- Slide the seat so that your knees are bent slightly. Try to fully press a pedal. If you need to raise your heel, move the seat closer. If your knees are bent too much, move your seat to the back to take the pressure off the knees.
- Adjust the height so that your hips are on the same level as the knees. If your car is old and has no adjustments for the height, use a cushion. You need to have a full view through the windshield.
- The backrest should have an incline of about 100, ensuring your comfort and free movements. If you need to push yourselves into the seat while steering, recline the backrest more. If you need to lean forward, make a smaller angle.
- Adjust the headrest so that your head is positioned right in the middle. The top of the head should be about the top of the headrest.
- Some cars have lumbar support that can be very useful if you drive often and spend a lot of time in the car. Don’t forget to adjust it too, so that it fits the curve of your lower back. If the driver seat has no lumbar support, you can use a towel or attachable foam support.
Every human has its own proportions. Ensure, you feel comfortable during driving and adjust the steering wheel additionally.
Adjust steering wheel
Due to different body proportions, you might need to adjust a steering wheel in addition to the driver seat. Move the wheel up and down to allow you to see all the controls. Your knees should not touch the wheel or be very close to it, as it increases the risk of serious injuries in an accident. Adjust the wheel back and forward, so that your arms are slightly bent in your elbows. Keep a minimum of 10 inches (25 cm) distance between you and the wheel, not to get hurt by the deploying airbag.
Adjust the rearview mirrors
There is always a blind spot at the back of the car, hidden from the sight of a driver. However, by proper adjusting of the rearview mirrors, you can minimize the spot. What you see depends on the angle you’re looking at in the mirror. So adjust your seat first and sit in the car as you usually do.
New cars will have buttons or joystick to electronically adjust the rearview mirrors. However, older cars will need you to adjust the mirrors physically by moving a lever or a mirror itself. The buttons are usually to the right of the steering wheel, but you might need to check online if they are placed differently. On the controls panel, you can choose a mirror to adjust and right/left/up/down buttons.
You need to look at the mirror frequently during driving. That’s why by adjusting the rearview mirror, check what you see when shortly glancing, without moving your head.
You should see the rear window entirely and the view should be centered, meaning you can see the equal distance on the right and left, up and down.
If you are taller than 6 feet (1.8 m), you can turn the rear mirror upside down. The lower end of the mirror will be 1 to 2 inches higher (2.5-5 cm), meaning you can better minimize the blind spots.
The most common mistake is to adjust side mirrors so that a driver can see the entire side of the car. It is important to see only the back tip of the car to feel the size of the car and to be sure, you do not leave a blind spot between your car and the field of vision.
Move the mirrors up and down as well till the horizon is positioned in the center. You will see the road flat going backward. The road should not seem to be angled.
Do the same with the mirror on the passenger side. You can ask someone to help or you would need to adjust the mirror and sit back at the driver seat for control every time. You can also ask a friend to help by standing at the back of your car at different distances. You can then check, whether you see everything in the mirror and how wide the actual angle of vision is.
By the way, walking around the car before driving is a good recommendation to be sure, you did not leave anything out of sight. The rearview mirrors help to minimize the blind spot but it is still left behind the car. Be sure, there is no post or kid.
Safety belts save thousands of people not only from police tickets but also from having a head hit the windshield in an accident. Before going on to drive, tug the seatbelt to ensure, you are restrained. The same is important to do for your passengers. There can be no excessive safety measures.
More than half of severely injured persons in car accidents are unbuckled. Wearing a safety belt can reduce the risk of being injured by more than 40%. In SUVs and trucks, the number is higher by 70%. Restrained passengers and a driver have a much smaller chance to be ejected through the front, rare or side windows in severe crashes, including rollovers. Be responsible not only for yourselves but for your passengers also.
Clean front and back glasses
Stains and dirt on your windows are natural to appear during frequent driving. The glasses get dirty not only from the outside. A film is formed on the windows because of smoking, exhaust, gas fumes, and other factors. Dirty windows affect safety and the way a car looks. The beams of other car lights may glare at you through the dirty windows, while the view may get blurry, resulting in poor visibility, especially at night.
To clean the windows, use a proper window cleaner, as those used in households mainly contain ammonia that damages rubber seals and tinting. Avoid spraying the cleaner over your interior. Spray it over microfiber or cotton cloths and then wipe the glass. Later wipe it out with a paper towel to dry the window. Microfiber cloth is recommended as it helps to leave the windows streak-free. Do not forget about the edges and corners.
Also do not ignore cleaning the side windows, at least for the reason that you look through them at the side view mirrors. Roll down the windows to wipe the top, hiding under the rubber seals. Keep your car neat and tidy. It will make the journey more pleasant for you and your passengers.
Indeed, every additional measure made before driving a car make its contribution to both the comfort and safety of a driver and passengers. Something needs to be checked regularly, something just once in a while. However, make sure to adjust a car for you if you are going to drive regularly, spending a lot of time during your commute to work, as an example. Otherwise, you will feel tired already coming to work, just because of the uncomfortable position at the steering wheel. Drive safe, buckled in, and with all the mechanics working properly.