Car safety: a simple checklist

Car safety: a simple checklist

Comparing car insurance usually involves a look at your car’s safety and security features. After all, the safer your car is, the greater the chance of driving the cost of premiums down. But there are plenty of more general tips and tricks you can employ to improve your vehicle’s safety, regardless of make or model.

Daniel Hutson From the Motor team
6
minute read
posted

Can I check how safe my current car is?

Try NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme). They're an independent organisation who aren’t interested in aesthetics or the latest tech. They take a thorough but objective look at a car’s safety features, build quality and performance before assessing how safe drivers and passengers would be in a crash.

Each car is put through rigorous testing and then given a car safety rating from 1 to 5 stars. It’s an easy to use website with a section purely for family cars.

How can I make my car and my journey safer?

If you're off on a family holiday or even just heading out in the car for the day, make sure you've prepared the car by doing all necessary checks. Make sure the kids have all they need to be comfortable and amused – the more occupied they are, the less likely they are to argue or demand your attention.

  • Make sure your children have the correct size car seat for their weight/height (not their age)
  • Take off any bulky coats – they can reduce the effectiveness of the restraint in an accident
  • Always seat children in the back of the car – most accidents involve damage to the front of the car
  • Don't get in the car without being prepared for the eventuality of a breakdown
  • Make sure everyone has the right clothing for standing around outside if something goes wrong 
  • Be prepared for all weathers. In the winter you may have to contend with snow, ice, water, fog and mud – so make sure you and your car are ready for whatever the weather throws at you. Having plenty of water and snacks on board is also good, even if your journey runs smoothly, since eating and drinking keeps you alert. 

What kit, tools and equipment should I keep in my car?

  • In the winter, you may also want to keep a shovel in the boot, and bottles of de-icer and screen wash. Also consider a blanket and perhaps a flask if you need to go out in extreme weather.  
  • Sunglasses are recommended all year round, not just during summer. The low sun in the colder months can really affect your vision.  
  • Carry a phone charger – a flat battery could let you down when you need it most
  • Make sure you have Sat Nav or GPS – it could get you out of a mess if you’re lost.
  • Carry a first aid box, torch, reflective vest 
  • Pack sturdy footwear – in case you have to do some serious walking
  • Have some heavy-duty gloves to hand, like gardening gloves in case you have to change a tyre
  • Include a waterproof jacket

What essential technical checks should I perform before a journey?

  • Check your oil! Take out the dipstick, clean and check again. The oil should be a clear golden brown and between the two markers on the stick. If it's low or thick and sticky, it's time to change it.
  • Check your transmission fluid with the engine running, while idle. Remove the dipstick, clean it, and check the level and the colour – it should be raspberry pink in colour, definitely not brown or black and it shouldn't smell burnt.

  • Check your power steering. You should be able to check visually on the reservoir. This shouldn't really change, so if the steering becomes looser then get it checked.
  • Check your brake fluid – the reservoir for this is always on the driver’s side. You can check the level by looking down the side, where you’ll find a marker. The colour should be golden. If it's brown, get it changed.
  • Check your screen wash; water alone won't clean the grime off your windscreen, so keep this topped up.
  • Check your lights weekly. In the winter when the roads are really dirty, you may need to give them a wipe clean every day. Remember to check all your lights and indicators, including the fog light.
  • Check your battery. If you don't have a voltage meter at home, you can ask a garage to check this for you.
  • Check your windscreen wipers; these can perish quickly, so keep an eye on them. Watch out for streaks and gaps on the screen when you’re using them.
  • Check your tyres. Watch out for cuts, scratches and bulges. If you have a pressure pump you can check your tyre pressure at home (the correct figures are in your manual) otherwise, visit a petrol station. Remember if you are off on a family holiday and the car is heavily laden, you may have to alter the pressure.

Should I think about breakdown cover as part of my car insurance?

Breakdown cover means you don't have to worry if something goes wrong with your car. One phone call will bring along an expert mechanic. If the fault can't be fixed on the spot they'll tow your car to a garage and, depending on your level of cover, get you and your passengers home safely. You can buy breakdown cover on its own, or add it to your car insurance policy, but double check you don’t already have cover as part of a packaged bank account or credit card.

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