Basic maintenance goes hand in hand with auto insurance

For drivers who want to stay safe and hold down auto insurance costs, basic maintenance can be an important thing to remember.

Auto insurance can provide considerable peace of mind, but it doesn't help drivers avoid accidents if they fail to perform routine maintenance.

With winter approaching, now is a particularly good time to inspect vehicles for routine safety issues that could become serious problems if neglected. For example, basic safety tips include being sure that seat belts and headlights are in good working order, and that supplies like ice scrapers, windshield wiper fluid and a collapsible shovel are kept in the vehicle.

GM's Goodwrench website notes that cold weather can reduce a battery's efficiency, which underscores the importance of having them checked and keeping them free of corrosion.

No matter what time of year it is, properly inflated and maintained tires are especially important to keeping a car's occupants safe.

The Goodwrench website advises people to install snow tires if they live in areas prone to wintry conditions, and advises drivers to regularly check their tire pressure because this is another maintenance issue that can be affected by cold weather.

Elsewhere, drivers should be on the lookout for signs of excessive tread depth on their tires, as well as uneven wear. One tip to consider is to replace tires soon before they are worn down to a point where the outer treads are even with the road.

Elsewhere, the website, which is offered by the Bridgestone and Firestone tire companies, advises people to regularly rotate their tires to prevent premature wear. According to the website, 40 percent of drivers acknowledge that they do not tend to rotate their tires within the recommended 8,000 miles.

Other statistics cited on the website show that more drivers wash their car each month 75 percent) than take the time to ensure that their tire pressure is correct. Drivers are also reminded to check the pressure of their spare tire and to try to be aware of when a tire can be repaired and when it should be replaced.

The reason tire safety is such a serious matter is that at high speeds, a vehicle with unsafe tires can be involved in rollovers or lose control, posing a threat to other vehicles and drivers.

Given such concerns, the federal government is also weighing in on tire safety issues with its own list of tips offered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. According to the NHTSA, the load carried by a car can affect tire safety and result in blowouts and flat tires.

The NHTSA notes that drivers can usually find information about their vehicle's weight capacity and recommended tire pressure on certification labels usually found on the door of the glove compartment, the trunk lid, or the edge of the door.

Tires need to be checked regularly because they lose their pressure over time, but this process can be rapidly sped up if a driver strikes a pothole or other road object. The agency and other tire experts have also warned that visually inspections are generally not sufficient to tell if a tire is at a safe pressure level. Pressure levels that are too high raise safety issues as well, and drivers are advised to release a small amount of air from them if this is found to be the case.

While safety is the main factor in tire safety, another thing to remember is that properly inflated tires can also help save money on gasoline costs. Some companies are offering new models of tires aimed at boosting overall efficiency, while it is also worth noting that the wrong kind of tires can also undermine a vehicle's efficiency.

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Posted: Octobor 9, 2009

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