Whenever you’re driving, you should be sober, wearing a seat belt and attentive. Everyone in your car should be belted in or using the correct car seat or booster seat. You should always avoid distractions, keep your eyes on the road and get enough sleep.
Now, however, you may be taking advantage of less-restrictive lockdown orders. Your car may have essentially been in storage for weeks or months. What do you need to do drive it safely? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a few tips:
Get your car serviced and check for recalls
Your car requires regular maintenance to be safe. Make sure you’ve had all the tune-ups, oil changes and tire rotations your manufacturer recommends. Check your battery, especially if your car has been sitting for a while.
A lot of us have put off routine car maintenance during the lockdown. If you have, or if you don’t know the service history of the vehicle you’re taking, set up an appointment for a preventative maintenance checkup.
While you’re thinking about car maintenance, head over to NHTSA’s recall website and enter your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) into the search field. (Your VIN can be found on your registration, may insurance documents and several places on your car. Check just inside the driver’s side door or at the base of the windshield on the driver’s side.)
Once you’ve entered your VIN, you will see whether your vehicle is subject to any current safety recalls. If it is, be sure to schedule your free repair before you leave.
Check your tires
You should be checking your tires’ inflation pressure once a month, but you may have put that aside for the lockdown, so it’s time to check it now. Don’t forget to check the tire pressure in your spare tire, too.
You can find out the correct pressure for your tires in your owner’s manual or on the sticker inside the driver’s side door. Always test your tire pressure when your tires are cold.
While you’re checking the pressure, be sure and check for excessive or uneven tire wear. Take a penny and put it head-down between the tire treads. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, your tires are too worn and you need new ones.
Carry an emergency roadside kit
Plan for trouble and make sure you’re prepared with a roadside breakdown kit. Here are some of NHTSA’s suggestions on what it should include:
- Basic tools
- Cellphone charger
- Emergency blankets, coats and towels
- First aid kit
- Flares and a white flag
- Jack and ground mat for changing tires
- Jumper cables
- Nonperishable food and stabilized water
- Tire pressure gauge