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Keep That Old Car on the Road

Lifestyle & Opinion

By Christopher Snavely

The best car on the road is the one that consistently gets from point A to point B. A mechanical failure can vary from mildly annoying, such as having to cancel a trip to the beach, all the way to a major catastrophe, which brings accident scenes from US 19 to mind. Vehicles are left stranded on roadways every day, and an improperly maintained vehicle can cause injury or even death. There are many things that can be done to keep getting from point A to point B, and best of all, safety is an added benefit to learning some standard vehicle system checks.

According to IHS automotive, an auto industry research firm,the average age of vehicles on US roads is 11.4 years. This means there are a plethora of cheap pre-owned cars on the road. In order to fully understand the importance of the car in the modern world, a poll study was completed in the 1970s that states automobiles are a necessity, and every study since then has had similar results. The reason for these “old” cars on the road today is an advancement of technology in the manufacturing process. There is no need to fret over the age or mileage of an automobile as long as it has seen regular maintenance. It is possible to safely operate and maintain a used car with more than 200,000 miles on the odometer.

An accident in not an accident at all if it could have been prevented in the first place. Pulling out in traffic is not safe if the car cannot get up to speed in time before being rear ended. Also, when a quick stop is necessary to avoid rear ending the next car in line, the brakes are heavily relied upon. Poor performance often comes from poor maintenance. A new air filter, spark plugs, and fresh oil may have prevented sluggish performance in the first accident, and fresh brake fluid coupled with new brake pads could have prevented the second scenario.

Checking the fluid levels is an important task that is often overlooked. These can all be checked within a couple of minutes, and they all reside under the hood. Some are in plain sight. The best way to become familiar with them is to open the hood and seek them out for the first time. The various fluids found will be motor oil, anti-freeze, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and windshield wiper fluid. Filling up the fluids when they are low will help to keep everything working as it should for much longer than if the levels are not maintained.

Motor oil is a critical fluid in the engine. The oil can be checked by pulling the properly labeled dipstick out and inspecting it to get the reading (do this when the car is not running). If the last time an oil change was completed is unknown, get it done immediately. Motor oil is the blood line of the car. It should be clear with a slight glossy sheen to it. If it is dark in color then it is time to change it. As cars age, they may start to burn motor oil at a high rate. The problem with low motor oil is metal on metal contact, which happens internally; it will destroy an engine in a short amount of time.

While checking the fluid levels may seem like an unnecessary task, a low amount or not having any could jeopardize personal safety. A suggestion is to get into the habit of popping the hood at every gas fill up. A quick visual check can insure the peace of mind that all is being done in order to preserve what many people attest is a necessity of life.

Header photo by Robert Couse-Baker (flickr creative commons license).

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