Car Maintenence, Safety and Security

General maintenance

Take special care that lights, brakes, steering, exhaust systems, seatbelts, demisters, wipers and washers are all working. Also:

  • Lights, indicators, reflectors, and number plates must be kept clean and clear
  • Windscreens and windows must be kept clean and free from obstructions to vision
  • Lights must be properly adjusted to prevent dazzling other road users. Extra attention needs to be paid to this if the vehicle is heavily loaded
  • Exhaust emissions must not exceed prescribed levels
  • Ensure your seat, seat belt, head restraint and mirrors are adjusted correctly before you drive
  • Ensure that items of luggage are securely stowed.

Make sure you understand what all of the warning signs that are displayed on the vehicle instrument panel mean. Do not ignore warning signs as they could indicate that a dangerous fault is developing.

  • When you turn the ignition key, warning lights will be illuminated but will go out when the engine starts (except the handbrake warning light). If they do not, or if they come on while you are driving, stop and investigate the problem, as you could have a serious fault
  • If the charge warning light comes on while you are driving, it may mean that the battery isn't charging. This should also be checked as soon as possible to avoid loss of power to lights and other electrical systems
  • Tyres must be correctly inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s specification for the load being carried. Always refer to the vehicle’s handbook or data. Tyres should also be free from certain cuts and other defects
  • Cars, light vans and light trailers must have a tread depth of at least 1.6 mm across the central three-quarters of the breadth of the tread and around the entire circumference
  • Motorcycles, large vehicles and passenger-carrying vehicles must have a tread depth of at least 1 mm across three-quarters of the breadth of the tread and in a continuous band around the entire circumference.
  • Mopeds should have visible tread
  • Be aware that some vehicle defects can attract penalty points
  • If a tyre bursts while you are driving, try to keep control of your vehicle. Grip the steering wheel firmly and allow the vehicle to roll to a stop at the side of the road
  • If you have a flat tyre, stop as soon as it is safe to do so. Only change the tyre if you can do so without putting yourself or others at risk – otherwise call a breakdown service
  • Check weekly
  • Do this before your journey, when tyres are cold. Warm or hot tyres may give a misleading reading.

Tyre pressures

Your brakes and steering will be adversely affected by under-inflated or over-inflated tyres. Excessive or uneven tyre wear may be caused by faults in the braking or suspension systems, or wheels which are out of alignment. Have these faults corrected as soon as possible.

  • Check the fluid levels in your vehicle at least weekly
  • Low brake fluid may result in brake failure and a crash. Make sure you recognise the low fluid warning lights if your vehicle has them fitted
  • Ensure that the battery is well maintained and that there are appropriate anti-freeze agents in your radiator and windscreen bottle.

Taking care of your car is very important and ensuring that everything is working correctly is a must before you travel on long journeys. The quick checklist below shows you what you should check before you travel:

  • Do you have enough petrol?
  • Do you have enough oil?
  • Does your battery have enough charge?
  • Are your tyres inflated to the correct pressure?
  • Do you have enough windscreen wash?
  • Are all your lights working? Do you have spare bulbs as a precaution?
  • Are you carrying spare water to cool your engine?

Safety

There are more than 31million cars on the road in the UK today.

Driving requires 100% concentration at all times, otherwise you are putting your own life and everybody else's in danger.

It's important to read the Highway Code as many of the rules are legal requirements. If you don't adhere to these rules, you are committing a criminal offence.

Seatbelts save lives. Always wear your seatbelt and make sure that all passengers are wearing theirs. Even at low speed, the consequences of not wearing a seatbelt can be devastating.

Did you know?

  • 370 people are killed each year in road traffic accidents because they are not wearing a seatbelt
  • If you don't wear a seatbelt you are twice as likely to die in a crash
  • Since 1983, it has been a legal requirement to wear a seatbelt in a car.

Wearing a seatbelt

The law states:

  • That you must wear a seatbelt in cars and goods vehicles where one is fitted. There are very few exceptions to this
  • In buses and coaches where seatbelts are fitted, passengers aged 14 years and above must use them.

Further information can be found on the THINK! website.

Child restraints include baby seats, child restraints, booster seats and booster cushions. It is important that you get the right restraint for your baby or child. Remember it depends on the weight of the child, not their age.

The law states:

  • All children up to 135 centimetres tall, or the age of 12 (whichever comes first) in the front or rear seats in cars, vans, and other food vehicles, must travel in the correct restraint for their weight
  • A child can use an adult seatbelt when they reach 135 centimetres tall or their 12th birthday (whichever comes first)
  • Further information can be found on the Government website.

Security

Most crime is opportunist and so is preventable with a little common sense and some basic precautions.

Here's a checklist of things you can do to help prevent car crime.

  • Parking – park somewhere safe, for example: your garage, a well–lit, busy street or a car park displaying the 'Park Mark' logo of the ACPO Safer Parking Scheme
  • Reduce theft – set the alarm/immobiliser and fit a physical deterrent such as a steering wheel clamp
  • Valuable items – keep valuable items out of sight, for example; Sat Navs, mobile phones, CDs, stereos etc. All of these items attract thieves.
  • Locking the car – whenever you leave the car, close all the windows and lock the doors, even at petrol stations
  • Car keys – take them with you whenever you get out of the car, and don't leave them on display at home. Remember thieves do break into houses to steal car keys.
  • Documents – never leave valuable documents in your car

For extra security, fit an anti-theft device such as an alarm or immobiliser. If you are buying a new car it is a good idea to check the level of built-in security features. Consider having your registration number etched on all your car windows. This is a cheap and effective deterrent to professional thieves.