Are you an old car enthusiast? There’s something nostalgic about glancing into an old car, imagining all the places it’s seen in its lifetime.
But glance inside a vehicle made in the 50s or 60s, and you’re also likely to see something missing: Safety features.
Car safety features have advanced since cars were first introduced in the market. In the 1930s, new safety improvements included all-steel bodies and hydraulic brakes. The 1950s brought on seat belts and padded dashboards. The 1990s made airbags standard equipment.
Today we take many modern day safety features for granted. When was the last time you thought much about airbag functionality?
But it goes beyond that too. Every single system inside your vehicle has been adapted with your safety in mind. Brake advancement, improved suspension, even emissions standards have been designed to make your driving experience safer while creating a better world as well.
Yet every single one of these safety features needs to be well maintained in order to function well when you need it most.
What are some of the most important safety features?
What started out as a simple safety feature to protect the driver has become a huge part of every vehicle’s overall safety strategy. Most new cars today will have a minimum of six airbags in place. Newer vehicles work to improve functionality, and offer as many as ten airbags or more.
While they aren’t perfect, they do more good than harm. The IIHS found that front airbags reduce driver fatality by 29 percent, and front-seat passenger fatalities by 32 percent.
While they are an excellent feature to have in case of an accident, things can go wrong over the years. Airbags are sometimes subjected to manufacturing defects, which can cause lack or improper deployment. Manufacturers are required to issue recall alerts as soon as they notice a problem. Fix it quickly if you hear of a problem.
With airbags in multiple places throughout the vehicle, the technology is also becoming more sophisticated to measure the weight and position of the seat. These systems are designed to adjust deployment to minimize injury.
The suspension system
The suspension includes the steering, wheels, tires, shock absorbers, struts, and many other components linking it all together. While a vehicle may come out of the factory with a tight suspension, everyday driving can start to whittle away at how all the pieces fit together. Every bump, dip, and uneven surface you drive on has the potential to damage the suspension system:
- Broken springs
- Damaged struts
- Leaks in the shock absorbers
- Wheel alignment issues
- Uneven tread wear
While some of this is beyond your control, some are avoidable. This is where regular maintenance comes into play.
Start by getting familiar with your owner’s manual. It will establish guidelines for how often different components need replacing, or systems need to be repaired. Schedule maintenance items regularly, and be proactive in how often you seek regular maintenance visits. You can do things like:
- Have the wheels aligned
- Rotate tires regularly
- Change out fluids timely
- Maintain proper tire pressure
Regular service is the key to prevention.
The braking system
The brakes are one of the most important safety features on your vehicle. Without them working effectively, you put yourself, other passengers, and those around you at risk.
The braking system is exposed to a significant amount of friction and heat. Every time you step on the brake pedal, it adds energy through the brake pads and rotors, eventually onto the wheel itself. Common issues include:
- Worn brake pads
- Worn rotors and calipers
- Leaking or low brake fluid
Aggressive driving habits will exacerbate these conditions. Ignoring a good maintenance schedule will also allow repair work to go unchecked longer, potentially putting more of the brake system at risk. To keep them in good working condition:
- Have the brake system inspected once a year or every 12,000 miles. This gives a mechanic the chance to look at brake pads and rotors, and ensure it’s all working well.
- Replace brake fluid every 25,000 miles or so.
- Bleed brake lines as needed to remove air and dirt.
In modern day vehicles, antilock brakes (ABS) also aid in emergency situations. If you remember your instructor at driving school teaching you to pump the brakes during an emergency stop, ABS handles that process for you. It electronically pumps the brakes when it detects the wheels not responding as they should in an emergency. Electronics can do so more rapidly than you can, providing more assurance of coming to a complete stop. It is crucial to have this inspected regularly, to ensure it’s functioning properly and will respond in the event of an emergency.
Electronic stability control
In addition to ABS, electronic stability control (EBS) was enacted in 2012 to help keep the vehicle moving in the direction you’re steering. It’s a more complex system relying on both ABS and traction control for results.
The EBS sensors also measure sideways motion and steering angle to ensure stability. If something happens to your vehicle and the sensor senses the vehicle isn’t moving in the direction of your steering inputs, it uses every tool possible to return the car to its intended position. While it’s not foolproof, it does a pretty good job of keeping your vehicle under control in most situations. If this isn’t working correctly, your vehicle is at greater risk.
Is it working the way it should? Diagnostics can help determine if something is wrong with the control system, and make adjustments as necessary.
Are your car’s safety features well maintained?
The easiest way to ensure they are is to schedule a maintenance inspection today. Through diagnostics and inspection, we can determine where problems may lie, and ensure every system is in good working condition. We can help put a schedule together for better understanding on repair and replacement expectations, giving you a chance to add them into your budget.
How can we help you keep your car well maintained?