Maintaining Your Vehicle: Keeping Your Family Safe Starts with Inspections and Service

Most people know that routine maintenance and service is the best way to keep the family car running at peak efficiency for an extended period of time. But annual or semi-annual inspections are probably not enough, particularly if you do a lot of driving or are planning a long trip.

In the time between scheduled maintenance inspections, significant problems can develop, and the more complex they become, the more difficult (and expensive) they are to correct. Furthermore, the middle of a long trip is a very inopportune time to discover that your vehicle has issues.

So, here are some ways you can keep an eye on your vehicle. If the inspection reveals any issues, take your vehicle to a mechanic straightaway, because that’s the best way to both quickly resolve the problem and obtain peace of mind.


Cracks and chips, along with loose seals, are generally considered to be safety hazards, because they impede visibility, especially at night or during other low-visibility periods.

It may be possible to seal these hairline cracks or other flaws, to optimize visibility and also prevent the damage from getting worse. In other cases, it may be necessary to replace the entire windshield, and many auto insurance companies will either pay for this service or at least pay a large portion of the costs.


It is also fairly easy to check the tread on your tires, because most vehicles include wear indicator bars. Be sure and check the tread level on the spare tire as well. Avoid the temptation to drive more than a few miles on a spare tire.

Also, avoid multiple types of tires on the same vehicle, even if they are the correct size. This randomness often causes premature wear, especially if the odd tires are on the front where most wear and tear occurs.


To ascertain whether or not any brake components need replacing, look (or listen) for the following signs:


  • Screeching: This high-pitched squeal is a design function which tells operators that they need to replace their brake pads, because otherwise it is almost impossible to tell when they begin to wear out.
  • Grinding: If a rumbling sound replaces the screech, that probably means the pads have completely worn down and the rotors may be permanently damaged.
  • Fading: If the pedal sinks almost all the way to the floor before the vehicle responds, that usually indicates a leak either in the fluid or the air hose.

Vibration or pulling to one side usually indicates brake issues as well.

Fluid Levels

Generally, if the indicator light comes on, the fluid is already dangerously low, so a better practice is to manually check levels every six or eight weeks. Most fluids, except for oil, should last a long time, so if there are repeated issues with low levels, there is most likely a leak.

While there is no substitute for an experienced mechanic, especially if there are any problems with your vehicle, simple visual inspections can tide you over between full mechanical inspections.

Image courtesy of pakorn at

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