Car Safety Checklist

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When it comes to comparing car insurance, one key aspect insurers consider is the safety and security features of your car.

The logic is straightforward: the safer your car, the more likely it is that your insurance premiums will be lower.

However, irrespective of your vehicle’s make or model, there are numerous general tips and strategies you can adopt to enhance the overall safety of your car.

How are Safety Features Improving Cars?

Advances in Technology

Modern cars are safer than ever, largely due to a combination of advanced over-the-counter gadgets and on-board technology.

These technological marvels include features like GPS tracking, fingerprint recognition, autonomous emergency braking, and lane assistance.

The latter is particularly noteworthy as it actively steers the vehicle back into its lane if it begins to drift.

How Are Safety Features Improving Cars

Impact on Road Safety

A significant impact of these advancements is their potential to reduce accidents and save lives. It’s projected that by 2030, automated driving systems could prevent up to 47,000 serious accidents and save approximately 3,900 lives.

This reduction is primarily attributed to the technology’s capability to eliminate human error, which is a major factor in road mishaps.

The Role of Traditional Safety Measures

Despite these technological advancements, it’s important to recognise that some of the most effective safety measures are quite basic and have stood the test of time.

This highlights that, while new technology is beneficial, traditional safety practices continue to play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of both the car and its passengers.

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Can I Check How Safe My Current Car Is?

Using NCAP for Safety Assessment

If you’re looking to determine the safety of your current car, consider using the New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP).

This independent organisation focuses solely on a vehicle’s safety aspects rather than its aesthetics or cutting-edge technology.

NCAP conducts a comprehensive and objective evaluation of a car’s safety features, build quality, and performance.

This assessment primarily aims to determine how well drivers and passengers would be protected in the event of a crash.

Understanding NCAP’s Rating System

Each vehicle undergoes rigorous testing and is subsequently awarded a car safety rating that ranges from one to five stars. NCAP’s website is user-friendly, featuring a dedicated section for family cars.

The highest accolade a vehicle can receive is the five-star rating. This prestigious rating signifies ‘overall excellent performance in crash protection’ and indicates that the vehicle is well-equipped with comprehensive and robust crash-avoidance technology.

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How Can I Make My Car and My Journey Safer?

Preparing Your Car

Before embarking on a family holiday or any journey, it’s crucial to prepare your car. Conduct all necessary checks to ensure your vehicle is in optimal condition. This step is fundamental for a safe and smooth journey.

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Keeping Children Safe and Occupied

Ensuring that your children are both safe and occupied is key. To enhance safety, make sure they are in car seats that are appropriate for their weight and height, rather than their age.

Remove any bulky coats, as these can diminish the effectiveness of the car seat’s restraints in the event of an accident. It’s also advisable to have children seated in the back of the car, as the front is more likely to be damaged in accidents.

Keeping kids comfortable and amused helps minimise distractions for the driver, contributing to a safer journey.

How Can I Make My Car And My Journey Safer

Being Prepared for Emergencies

Always be prepared for potential breakdowns. Ensure everyone in the car has suitable clothing for standing outside in case of vehicle troubles. This is particularly important in varied weather conditions.

Weather Preparedness

Be ready for all types of weather, especially during the winter when you might encounter snow, ice, fog, and mud. Proper preparation for these conditions is essential for both your safety and that of your vehicle.

Maintaining Alertness

Finally, having an ample supply of water and snacks is a good practice, regardless of whether your journey runs smoothly. Staying hydrated and well-fed helps keep the driver alert, contributing significantly to the overall safety of the journey.

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What Kit, Tools, and Equipment Should I Keep in My Car?

Essentials for Winter

During the winter months, it’s wise to equip your car with certain items. Keep a shovel in the boot, along with bottles of de-icer and screen wash, to tackle icy conditions. Additionally, consider carrying a blanket and a full flask for extreme weather situations, to keep warm if stranded.

What Kit, Tools, And Equipment Should I Keep In My Car

Year-Round Items

Sunglasses are essential throughout the year, not just in summer. The low sun during colder months can impair your vision, making sunglasses a crucial item.

Always carry a phone charger; a phone without power could be a significant inconvenience in emergencies. It’s also important to have a sat-nav, GPS system, or a reliable map to help if you find yourself lost.

Emergency Car Kit

An emergency car kit is a must. This should include a first aid box, torch, hazard warning triangle, reflective vest, and a waterproof jacket. These items are vital for safety and visibility in case of a breakdown or other roadside emergencies.

Additional Preparations

Pack sturdy footwear in case you need to walk a considerable distance. A puncture repair kit is also crucial; it allows you to temporarily re-inflate a tyre until you can reach a garage for proper repair.

For a comprehensive understanding of what might be necessary, refer to our breakdown checklist to discover other essential items for your car.

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Essential Checks Before a Long Journey

Oil and Coolant Levels

Before setting off on a long journey, it’s crucial to check your oil. Remove the dipstick, clean it, and then check the oil level again.

The oil should be a clear golden brown and sit between the two markers on the dipstick. If it’s low, top it up. If the oil is thick and sticky, it might be time for a change.

Also, ensure to check your coolant levels. Find the expansion tank and confirm that the coolant is between the minimum and maximum levels to prevent your car from overheating.

Essential Checks Before A Long Journey

Brake Fluid and Screen Wash

It’s important to check your brake fluid. The reservoir is typically located on the driver’s side. Check the level against the marker, and ensure the fluid is a golden colour.

Brown fluid needs changing. Additionally, check your screen wash; using just water is insufficient for removing grime from your windscreen.

Lights and Battery

Regularly check your lights, especially in winter when roads are dirtier, as they may need cleaning.

Ensure all lights and indicators, including fog lights, are functioning correctly. Also, check your battery; if you don’t have a voltage meter, a garage can do this for you.

Windscreen Wipers and Tyres

Inspect your windscreen wipers for signs of wear, such as streaks or gaps on the screen when in use. For your tyres, look for cuts, scratches, and bulges.

If you have a pressure pump, check the tyre pressure at home using the figures in your handbook, fuel cap cover, or inside the driver’s door. At a petrol station if necessary.

Remember, if your car is heavily laden, like for a family holiday, you may need to adjust the tyre pressure.

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How to Maintain Car Safety

Regular Servicing

To ensure your car remains safe and efficient, regular servicing is key. While this involves a cost, it can prevent more expensive repairs in the future.

A regular service includes a thorough inspection of your car’s mechanical and electrical components, including tyres, brakes, and other crucial parts.

How To Maintain Car Safety

Service Requirements Based on Car Age

The requirements of the service can vary depending on the age of your vehicle. A newer car might just need an oil and filter change, while an older vehicle might require new brake pads and other parts replacements.

For those driving a diesel car, mechanics usually top up the AdBlue tank during a service, a fluid essential for reducing harmful emissions.

Service Reminders and Records

In modern cars, you’ll typically receive a dashboard message indicating when your next service is due.

If your car doesn’t have this feature, or if you’re unsure of the last service date, you can refer to your car’s handbook or service record for guidance.

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What’s Wrong with My Car?

Engine Start Issues

If your engine won’t start, listen for specific sounds when turning the key. A strange clicking noise, the engine turning over slowly, or no sound at all typically indicates a flat battery. You may need to jump-start your car or call for breakdown assistance.

What’s Wrong With My Car

Dashboard Warning Lights

When a dashboard warning light appears, it’s a signal from one of the sensors detecting a fault. The colour of the light can indicate the severity of the issue. A red light signifies an urgent problem and should be checked by a mechanic immediately.

Unusual Noises

A strange squeaking noise while driving can point to various issues. If it occurs when pressing the accelerator, it could be a worn-out cambelt. Squeaky brakes often mean a worn-out brake pad, and screeching could indicate under-inflated tyres.

Gear and Movement Problems

In cars with a manual transmission, if the car doesn’t move or moves slowly when in gear, despite the engine racing, this could be a sign that the clutch needs replacing.

Identifying Leaks

To identify a leak, place a piece of white card under the car. The colour of the leak can help determine the source:

  • Clear: Condensation from air conditioning, usually not a concern.
  • Light or dark brown: Likely oil.
  • Amber or light yellow: Brake fluid.
  • Bright green, pink, or blue: Often coolant (can be other colours too; a sweet smell indicates coolant).

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Should I Consider Breakdown Cover with My Car Insurance?

Benefits of Breakdown Cover

Having breakdown cover is a reassurance for any car owner. It ensures that in the event of a car malfunction, a simple phone call can summon an expert mechanic to your location.

If the issue can’t be resolved on the spot, the service typically includes towing your car to a garage. Depending on your chosen level of cover, it may also provide assistance to get you and your passengers home safely.

Should I Consider Breakdown Cover With My Car Insurance

Integrating Breakdown Cover with Car Insurance

Breakdown cover can be purchased as a standalone service or added to your existing car insurance policy. However, it’s important to double-check whether you already have breakdown cover.

Some packaged bank accounts or credit cards offer breakdown cover as a benefit, so it’s worth confirming this to avoid unnecessary duplication.

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