A lot needs to go right with a car each and every day you drive it. From the ignition to the engine and exhaust — from the axel to the wheels and tires, everything needs to be in working order if you’re going to make it to work on time. Some essential parts may be wearing down and while they may not be dangerous yet, these parts are worth replacing now before they become hazardous.
In most cars, airbags are hardly ever used. They stay out of sight and out of mind. When they do deploy it is only for an instant — and hopefully at the right one. Airbags are part of the supplemental restraint system (SRS). Nearly every car with airbags has an SRS monitoring system. Since airbags are hidden, it is difficult to know if they need to be replaced or inspected for functionality. Some car owner manuals state how often the airbags should be checked. But if the SRS light on the dashboard lights up it’s crucial to take your car to the dealer as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, airbags are not covered by a lifetime warranty. Instead they are usually covered by a new-car limited warranty. However, paying to make sure your airbags are working properly is always worth it. If you need new airbags, the only guaranteed replacement can be bought from the dealership.
Tires are designed to carry different loads and are built for different speeds. You can find the number code or load index displayed on the doorjamb of your vehicle. The load index is the weight each tire can hold, so multiply that number by four to get the total. The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) will also be displayed there. The GVWR is the weight of the car, passengers and any cargo you may be hauling. As long as the GVWR is less than the load index multiplied by four, your tires are safe.
Tire wear in unavoidable, so regularly check your tire tread for excessive wear. Bald tires are a hazard, as they are more susceptible to punctures and slow leaks. Under-inflated tires can affect handling as well as fuel efficiency and if a tire blows out while on a freeway it could cause you to lose control of your vehicle and result in a multi-vehicle accident. Use a penny and quarter to measure the tread depth of your tires by gauging how far the tread comes up on each coin in various places on the tires. If Lincoln’s head isn’t covered by tread, your tires need to be replaced.
Front-wheel drive cars have constant velocity (CV) joints. The inner joints connect to the drive shaft and the outer joints connect to the wheels. EachCV joint is packed with a special lubricant and then sealed with a rubber or plastic boot in order to protect the joint from the elements. CV joints don’t typically need maintenance. But if the protective boot around the joint becomes damaged and the seal loosens, problems may occur. At this point the joint is open to the elements and the lubrication may be jeopardized. With a lack of lubrication, corrosion begins and can cause your CV joint to disintegrate while you’re driving, which can cause you to lose control of your car. To prevent this from happening, have your mechanic check on your CV joints during regular tune-ups.
Alex Clark-McGlenn is currently taking his MFA in creative writing from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. He has been published in eFiction Magazine, Inkwell at Evergreen, Slightly West Literary Magazine, and appeared in Smokebox Literary Magazine July, 2014. He currently lives in Bellingham, Washington.