How to Check If Your Car Is Safe for Driving

Learning to check if your car is safe to drive can help you get a great deal on a used car. Used vehicles may have rough exteriors, but many have reliable engines that will get you from point A to point B. You only need to make sure the rest of the car is safe to drive.

If you're driving an older car, there's a good chance you have a few warning lights in your dashboard. The longer you go with the warning lights on, the more likely you will make the problem worse. Your check engine light can activate because of serious issues with your ignition system, or it can be a simple fix like replacing an oxygen sensor.  

If the battery warning light comes on, it's a good idea to take quick action. Your battery is one of the essential parts of your car and is relatively inexpensive to replace. You can also consult your owner's manual for detailed instruction on addressing each warning light. Before you go on any drive, deal with the warning lights as soon as possible. 

Here are more tips to check if your car is safe to drive: 

Check for Fluid Leaks

Checking your fluids before driving a used car will help you avoid expensive repairs. Letting your oil or transmission fluid get too low can drastically affect your vehicle that are expensive to fix.  

You can check for fluid leaks by leaving some newspaper under your car. If you notice any red fluid, you will likely have a transmission leak. Any dark, black fluid is likely from oil. Oil leaks are pretty easy to spot as the ground where you usually park your car will get stained with oil. 

It's also important to check your coolant levels, which helps your car stay at a safe operating temperature. Keep in mind that coolant is pressurized; never open the coolant cap while the engine is hot. 

Double Check All Lights Are Active

When driving an older car, your lights play a key role in keeping you safe. Not only is driving with malfunctioning lights illegal, but it's also highly unsafe and reduces your visibility on the road. Most older cars will benefit from upgrading to high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps, increasing your visibility.  

Most older cars have foggy headlight covers, which you can clean using a variety of home remedies. It's vital to ensure all your lights are working correctly so people can tell in advance when you're about to turn or stop. Keep in mind: your brake lights are different from your taillights. The latter engages when you have your headlights on or while your car is in reverse.  

Look Out for Suspension Issues

Problems with your suspension system can make your car extremely unsafe to drive. It's hard to stay in complete control of your vehicle if you have issues with your tires, shock absorbers, or other key parts of your suspension.  

While driving your car, pay attention to any subtle signs of suspension issues. If your steering wheel is off-center or you notice lots of vibration, it's worth getting your suspension inspected. If your car sways when you turn, your springs or shock absorbers may be worn-out, which is common on older cars. 

Pay Attention to Your Brakes

Regular maintenance on your brake system is essential for making sure an older car is safe to drive. It's common for older cars to have worn-out rotors or seized callipers from years of use. If you've been noticing a grinding or squealing sound when you press down on the brakes, it's worth getting them inspected.  

Another sign of potential issues with your brake system is if your car sways side to side when you try to slow down. Problems with your brakes can also result in smoke and sour smells coming from your wheels. Upgrading the brake system on an older car is one of the best ways to increase the safety of your vehicle. 

Refill Your Power Steering Fluid

Driving with no power steering is not a situation you want to find yourself in. If your power steering fluid is old or low, you'll have difficulty turning the wheel, and the steering column might make noises. Turning the steering column without power steering requires a lot of strength and can be dangerous if the power steering fails while driving.   

Check Tire Pressure 

Tire pressure is another critical factor that influences the safety of your car. Ensuring your tires are properly inflated is an easy way to avoid flat tires and blowouts while driving. Check the door jamb on your vehicle for detailed information on the tires best for your car and recommended PSI.  

Improperly inflated tires cause your car to use more gas than necessary. It's worth getting a tire pressure gauge, which is an inexpensive tool you can use to monitor your tire pressure. 

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