The roads can be dangerous, so it’s a good idea to inspect your car’s safety features. Checking seatbelt webbing and the buckle stalk for signs of damage, fraying or loose stitching, as well as the buckle connection (do this by trying to pull it out while it’s fastened), could help save a life. When the seatbelt is fastened in a vacant seat, all webbing should retract as far as possible for effective tension. While you’re at it, note any damage to areas where driver and passenger airbags are installed. If your car is second-hand, find out if its airbags were deployed and if it needs new ones. For a more comprehensive test, take your car to a local garage.
Underinflated tyres could leave you with a serious blowout. Check the pressure yourself (when the tyres are cold) at least once a month, and always before a long-haul journey. Signs they’re underinflated include uneven wear, misalignment, cracks in the sidewall, difficulty handling and vibrations through the steering wheel. If they’re overinflated, your traction will be reduced so don’t inflate above the maximum pressure displayed on the tyre itself.
Brush up on the basics of car maintenance and, before setting off, always check your dashboard warning lights. A shuddering feeling through the pedal or a squeaking noise could indicate wear to the brakes. Delay when changing gears could suggest problems with the clutch. And slow cranking of the engine on ignition could mean your battery is about to go. From time to time, check your coolant to see if it needs replacing and always have windscreen chips dealt with as soon as they occur to avoid a bigger crack.
Driving when it’s dark poses a number of risks – including dazzling others with excessively bright lights. High beams should be used at night on all roads, except when there’s a vehicle within 200 metres in front or oncoming – then you should switch to low beam. High beam headlights aren’t effective in poor weather though, such as heavy rain, mist and fog, as they can cause reflections. Your fog lights are designed for these conditions, but ensure you only use them in adverse weather, otherwise you can impede other motorists’ vision and land yourself with a <a href="https://www.motoring.com.au/when-should-i-use-my-fog-lights-108269/">hefty fine and demerit points</a>. Also check your headlights regularly for scratches and cracks, and get blown bulbs replaced quickly. If you have foggy headlights caused by UV rays, you can easily clear this up with headlight cleaning wipes.