Student Life

Car Tips With Taylor: Safety Checks

-Taylor Keller-

Do you remember the last time you inspected your car? Most people don’t. In fact, many aren’t sure how to go about such a thing. It’s much easier than you’d think, and can save you a lot of headaches down the road. With just a few steps, you can prevent major problems like flat tires, costly repairs, or even minimize injuries in a crash!


Tire pressure


This is one of the simplest things to do, but can make a huge difference. First things first, get your hands on a tire pressure gauge; they can be found at an auto parts store or even a gas station for less than $5. Find the tire pressure rating on the side of your tires. Check each one to make sure the tires are the same. Assuming they are, it’s best to set them near the max pressure in the wet season, and about 5-10 PSI lower in the dry. These can be adjusted if you’re seeing uneven wear or funny driving characteristics on bumpy roads. Inflate the tires over the max pressure, and then use the tire pressure gauge to gradually deflate the tires to the desired pressure. Take special care to make sure the tires are the same pressure all around. This will make sure the car stays predictable and straight over bumps. While you’re here, do a quick check to see if you can spot any cuts or gashes in the tires. If you do, and you can see the metal wiring inside, it’s worth being cautious.

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Brake Fluid and Engine Oil


This one sounds intimidating, but it’s not. Locating these two can be a bit tricky at first: put your car’s make, model, and year into Google, and you can find this information very easily, but it’s usually on the driver’s side, all the way by the steering wheel in the engine bay. To check the brake fluid, simply look at the opaque plastic reservoir, and see if the fluid is between the min and max lines. If it’s low, it’s very easy to top off, and can prevent your brakes from completely failing. To check the oil, find the dipstick and remove it (make sure the engine is off and cool). Wipe the oil off of the stick with a rag or paper towel, and re-insert it into the hole. Now remove it once more and take a look at the tip of the dipstick. Again, if the oil is between the indicated lines, you’re good. If it’s low, it’s just as easy to top off as the brake fluid, but make sure you pour the oil into the right place. Running too low on oil can completely destroy your engine, so it’s worth getting that bit of grease on your fingers!

Photograph credit to Gawker media

Emergency Brake (parking brake)


Remember that weird stick you pull up every time you park the car? That’s actually not so much for parking, it’s for emergencies in case your brakes fail. This brake lever can become stretched over time, so it’s important to make sure it’s still functional in case of an emergency. Find an open parking lot or neighborhood, get up to just about 5-10mph, and give it a good yank. If the car stops, it’s all good, if not, it probably needs an adjustment.


Loose items


Leaving items in your car can do more than attract thieves, it can actually be very dangerous. In the event of an accident, every loose item in your car has the potential to become a projectile, flying around the cabin and hitting windows, or even you and your passengers. Believe it or not, but loose items inside cars in a crash are responsible for 13,000 injuries per year! Keep any loose items stowed away in the trunk for maximum safety and security. Your math homework that was due 3 weeks ago can stay on the floor in the back of the car, but the empty coffee mug on the passenger floor should go in the trunk.

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