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Have You Babied Your Car Lately?

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Happy April-Is-Car-Care-Awareness Month

Car crashes are overwhelmingly caused by (you guessed it) human error. As people, we allow distractions and risky choices to get in the way of safe driving. This is one of the reasons that new automated vehicle safety features—like automatic emergency braking (AEB), for one—are so compelling, but in the meantime we have to focus on taking care of ourselves and our cars.

When people are not to blame for car crashes, the car itself can be the cause. But we don’t mean a self-driving Uber that fails to sense a pedestrian. We mean mechanical failure.

While the exact statistics are murky, estimates for the proportion of accidents caused by faulty car parts hover around at least 10%. April is “Car Care Awareness Month,” so this is an opportune time to evaluate your car and help prevent a potential accident.

The Importance of Vehicle Maintenance

Think of vehicle maintenance as preventative healthcare for your car. You wouldn’t skip your annual physical and other important health screenings, and you shouldn’t skip them on your car either. Skipping relatively low-cost maintenance can lead to high-cost, time-consuming problems down the road. Not to mention, you are putting yourself at risk for a serious wreck.

If you are looking purely at the bang for your buck, experts say that skipping vehicle maintenance can knock 50,000 miles off of the life of your car. That’s over three years for the average middle-aged driver. In addition, accidents resulting from unperformed vehicle maintenance cost Americans over $2 billion a year, according to a study by Car Care Council, an advocacy group based in Maryland. Do you want to pick up part of that tab?

Common Car Mechanical Failures

The common causes of mechanical failures typically fall under one of five car systems. They include:

  • Tires. When mechanical failure’s to blame for your accident, it was probably a tire. Faulty tires are the cause about 35% of the time, according to a study done by the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. When a tire blows out, the air pressure drops suddenly within the tire, pulling the vehicle sharply in one direction. Arguably even worse, worn tires increase your danger when driving over time. They have low tread, making it harder to stop and to control the car in trying conditions, like rain or snow.
  • Brakes. Brake failure is a scary thought. When you’re speeding down the highway, you want to know that you can stop in the case of a traffic jam or accident. Brake pads typically last 30,000 miles before wearing thin and needing a replacement. In addition to worn brake pads, a leaky brake line or an ABS (automatic braking system) malfunction can leave you with little or no stopping power.
  • Steering. Steering malfunctions are less common than tire and brakes malfunctions, but can cause a complete loss of control of the vehicle. There are many possible causes of steering malfunctions, including the suspension, engine trouble, or a broken joint.
  • Wipers and Lights. Wipers and lights malfunctions go hand in hand. When you are left without lights or wipers, your driving is impaired, especially in a rainstorm or at night. Blades degrade over time, and lights eventually burn out (NewsBlaze). If that taillight’s been giving you trouble, get it fixed.

Must-Do Vehicle Maintenance

All vehicle maintenance is important and will improve the safety and longevity of your car. Some particular services, however, you just cannot skip without risking serious damage. Here’s what you need to get done regularly:

  • Fluid checks: If oil, transmission fluid, and engine coolant are running low, they should be refilled.
  • Oil changes: Oil should be changed around every 3,000 miles to avoid overheating the engine (and ensure your engine’s best performance).
  • Tire pressure checks: Tire pressure should be checked every time your vehicle is taken in for maintenance, or if a tire pressure light goes on. Ideal tire pressure prevents blowouts and excessive wear-and-tear on the tires, lessening the likelihood of “tire failure” as the cause of your accident.
  • Engine air filter checks: All it takes to clean the engine’s air filter is blowing off the dust that may have gathered on the air hose. If it’s really grimy, you may have to replace it, but the cost shouldn’t be too bad.

So What About Crash Liability After a Mechanical Failure?

Let’s just say “The tire did it!” won’t hold up in court. If you are involved in an auto accident that was caused by a faulty part in your vehicle, you may not be liable if you are up to date on vehicle maintenance…and your mechanic forgot to fasten the bolt. (He’s totally liable then.) If you’ve been neglecting your vehicle, however, you may be liable for the other driver’s injuries and vehicle repairs, even though your car malfunctioned. This is because the malfunction could have been prevented by regular maintenance.

On the other hand, some malfunctions are actually manufacturer errors; as in the Fiat Chrysler recall we previously reviewed. In that case, the automaker may be considered liable for the crash.

Finally, it is important to consider the flipside of the liability coin. If you are involved in an accident caused by another driver, he cannot just claim that his faulty car part caused the crash and avoid liability. He owes you for your injuries and vehicle repairs, and don’t take his insurance company’s “No” or “Your claims isn’t worth that much” for an answer. Talk to a local Belleville car accident attorney at Hipskind & McAninch, LLC. We’ll review your case in a free consultation and let you know if we can help you get the money you need to recover. No one has ever been sorry for giving us a call at (618) 641-9189.

Now, why not go and schedule an appointment for a tune-up? Remember, it could save you more than money.

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