Basic Vehicle Awareness – 3 Quick Checks From Chilton

4 min read

By Gene Hannon Jr.
We count on our vehicles to get us where we want to go safely. Most vehicles are reliable, but extreme weather and busy schedules can mean trouble for your vehicle. Basic vehicle awareness consists of simple little things we can do that might just help us avoid a bad situation. Here are 3 quick checks you can make to help protect yourself, your passengers and others on the road.

via Toyota

1. Tires

When you head out to your vehicle look at the tires. Make sure they all look about the same. Do any tires look low? Carefully look at the tires and the tread. It’s easy to forget how important tires are. A low tire will overheat, and then it usually blows out. Who wants to be stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire? Just by looking at the tires beforehand, you may see a problem.
After you visually check all four tires on your vehicle, use a tire pressure gauge to check that the tires have the correct amount of air in them.
On most vehicles, a placard affixed to the driver’s door jamb shows the correct tire pressure. There’s also a tire pressure imprinted on the tire itself. What’s on the tire sidewall is the maximum the tire is safely rated for when it’s cold. Don’t use the pressure that’s marked on the tire itself unless it is the same as the pressure on the door jamb. The door jamb tire pressure placard indicates the right pressure for your year, make and model with the components (such as 4WD) originally installed by the auto manufacturer.
I know what you’re thinking, “What about my TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System)? It’s supposed to notify me when the tire is low….” While the TPMS will detect tire under-inflation below a certain threshold, the tires may be prematurely wearing in the meantime, so … check them anyway. I’m curious to know what my tires look like, especially when I’m going on a long trip. Also, I have experienced problems with some of the TPMS systems.

2. Wipers and Washer Fluid

Okay, when you stop for gas, walk around the vehicle and see how things look, turn the lights on, are any bulbs out? How are the wiper blades? Is the washer solvent low? Check the wiper blades, and refill the washer solvent.

3. Lights

Turn on your lights to see if any are out. Check the turn signal blinkers too. If a passenger is available, have him or her step on the brake pedal so that you can check the brake light operation.
2015 Sienna headlights via Toyota
If you get in the habit of looking at some of the basic safety components on your vehicle, it will pay off down the road. So when it comes to basic care awareness, don’t be afraid to go for it. The fact is we tend to forget how important it is to keep our vehicle in good running condition. We do have precious cargo to think about, as we are driving our friends and family around, not to mention other motorists.
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Chilton AutoAbout the Author

Gene Hannon Jr., ASE Master Technician, lives in Maryland with his wife Paula; they have 3 girls, Jocelyn, Sarah and Carly. Gene began working with cars when he was 13 at his father’s (Gene Sr.) ESSO service center where he cleaned equipment and tools, scrubbed out the repair bays, and pumped gas. By age 16 he was turning wrenches and receiving technical training. He worked at the ESSO (later Exxon) station for 29 years, before partnering with his father and brother in opening Avalon Automotive, an 8-bay repair center, where he worked for more than 10 years. Gene joined the Chilton Team in 2006.
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