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Is your car safe to drive?

Think about how fast your car flies down the highway. Now, consider all of the complicated parts that have to be just right so that you and your family remain safe and sound inside that fast-moving car. Even a small safety problem could cause you to lose control of the car. You can't prepare for every possible problem, but there are some ways to reduce your car's risk and make sure it is as safe as it can be.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

A car's tires are the most important factor when it comes to safety. If the tires are worn or improperly balanced, they can cause your steering to be less precise. When you hit a bump in the road or ride over a slick spot, your worn or misaligned tires could pull your car to one side or the other and cause you to unexpectedly swerve into the next lane. Worn tires also present the danger of a blowout, which can make a car flip or behave erratically. Have your tires rotated twice a year and ask the tire technician to check the tread depth to make sure the tires are in good condition.

See and be Seen

Your lights are more than just a convenient way to see what's ahead of you after dark. Other cars rely on your headlights as a way to know that you are on the road. Your tail lights protect you from being slammed into from behind. Turn signals allow other drivers to anticipate your next move and react accordingly. Check all of your lights once a month to make sure they are all working. Replace burned out lights as soon as you notice them.

Slowing and Stopping

Worn brakes can cause many kinds of problems. As the brakes wear out, they may cause the car to pull forcibly to one side or another when you come to a stop. Of course, the biggest danger of worn brakes is that they will eventually make it difficult to stop your car. You should have your brakes inspected as soon as you notice any difference in the way they respond. Unusual noises when you apply the brakes should also be looked at immediately. There is nothing scarier than flying through an intersection when your brakes suddenly stop responding.

Keeping the Fluids Full

A car engine relies on several types of fluid to work properly. Your oil lubricates the system and keeps it from overheating. Oil should be changed every three months or every 3,000 miles, whichever comes first. Brake fluid keeps the braking pressure accurate so that the brakes will work properly. Transmission fluid helps the engine shift gears without too much friction. Radiator fluid keeps the engine from overheating. All of these fluids are vital for keeping your car safe from damage that could impact your safety on the road. Most auto shops will check your fluids as part of their normal oil change service.

Wear and Tear of Flexible Parts

Your engine also has many parts that are made from flexible rubber. Hoses and belts run throughout the engine and help keep everything moving properly. Temperature changes and constant use will cause these parts to become brittle. After some time, the hoses can crack and leak. Belts can wear through and break in half. Take time to look at the rubber parts in your engine about once every month. If they look like they are developing cracks or wearing thin, take the car to a mechanic for a quick inspection.

Stocked Emergency Kit

No matter how prepared you are, the unexpected can still happen. Keep an emergency kit in your trunk so that you will have what you need if you ever find yourself stranded in your car. A good emergency kit should contain a first aid kit, a blanket, some water, gloves, and a change of clothes. If you keep a set of old clothes that you don't mind getting a little dirty, you won't have to soil your work clothes if you need to change a tire. A small radio and a disposable cell phone are also nice to have in an emergency kit.

Proper Mirror Alignment

Before you leave the driveway, make sure that you can see everything to the side and rear of your vehicle. In America last year over a dozen children were killed when they went behind a car just before it pulled out of a parking space. Take a few extra minutes before you begin to move to check all of your mirrors so that you can avoid any disasters. It is best for you to be able to see the entire side of your car as well as the space directly behind you from each side window when you are comfortably seated in the driver's seat.

Let Others Know You're There

It may sound strange, but your car's horn is an important safety feature. Not all drivers pay close attention to traffic all of the time. If someone begins to merge into you, you can use your horn as a quick way to alert them that you are there. Your horn is also useful to alert dogs or cats to get out of the road ahead of you when you are driving on side streets. Many electronic car alarms use the horn as part of their safety system as well.

A Clear View

It can be tempting to stack useful items in the rear window of your car, or hang multiple items from your rear view mirror. While these decorations are a great way to show your unique personality, they can block your view of traffic. Try to keep all of your car's windows as clear as possible all of the time. If you live in an area that receives ice and snow, clean the windows off completely before you attempt to drive the car. Any item that impedes your view makes your car a little less safe for you and for other drivers on the road with you.

A safe car is important for preventing accidents and keeping insurance premiums down. Enter your zip code in the box at the top of the page to see how much you should be paying for car insurance.