The American Automobile Association has a reputation for being there when you need them, and they’re just as good at preventative initiatives as they are at coming to tow your broken-down car in the middle of the night. But for your own peace of mind—wouldn’t you prefer the former?
The AAA’s John Nielsen is here to tell us that delaying repairs can be a dangerous gamble: even though no one likes to take their car to the garage, it’s a little like visiting the dentist: what you put off today could very well come back to haunt you tomorrow. And yes, preventative automobile repair is inconvenient: it can be expensive, it entails scheduling and loss of time, but the alternative can be far worse.
If you neglect taking care of your car, then it’s very possible that you will indeed find yourself broken down on a lonely road at night. Not a happy thought.
What could happen?
Nielsen notes that there are a number of real possibilities for motorists who neglect routine maintenance of their vehicles. Let’s look at one example: bald tires. No one likes the expense of new tires! But what can happen if your tires are bald? Well, the first thing is that you’ll lose traction; they won’t be able to bite the road the way
that tires are supposed to. When you lose traction, you lose two important things: steering control and braking power. And that’s not all: bald or even worn tires can cause you to hydroplane on wet pavement (thus losing control completely of your vehicle) and they’ll make you skid, potentially out of control, on snow or ice conditions. Not a pretty picture!
What you should do
It’s a good idea to check your tires on a regular basis, or have your garage or mechanic do it for you. You’re going to look at the tread depth and the overall wear on the tires; if you’re out of alignment, they’ll wear unevenly. Buy new tires before it’s a desperate need! Once your tires start wearing, keep your eyes out for sales. Places like Firestone often have specials on tires, and if you purchase them on special, you’ll spend less—and you won’t compromise your safety. Have your mechanic check your suspension and your wheel alignment at the same time: tires don’t exist by themselves in a vacuum. You don’t want to be doing high-speed driving on the highway when any of this goes wrong.
What else should you check?
The point of a car is to get you from Point A to Point B. It needs to travel in the direction you want it to, and there are a number of components that play into its forward momentum: tires, wheels, suspension arms, anti roll bar springs, shock absorbers and struts all work together to keep your vehicle traveling with minimal pitch and body roll.
Another major area of safety is your brakes. Old brake fluid can cause brake failure, as can low brake fluid levels. Why? Because water contaminates brake fluid over time, and it accelerates wear and corrosion of brake system components. Also, braking generates heat (that’s only logical) and if that heat boils the fluid, then you can lose your braking power, either partially or even completely. What can you do about it? Ask your mechanic to inspect your brakes once a year… or more often, if the brake fluid in the reservoir gets down to “low.”
Check your windshield wipers as well: if you can’t see, you can’t drive!
If you check your vehicle and do repairs on a preventative level, then chances are better you won’t be requiring emergency services!