While most traffic incidents can be blamed on driver negligence, road conditions, or weather, there are instances when an accident is directly related to a mechanical issue. If drivers ignore tell-tale signs that their vehicle is on the brink of a breakdown, the failure will put them and others at risk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 2% of accidents are caused by vehicles with operational issues. For this reason, it is critical to receive periodic inspections and preventive maintenance to resolve problems before they become disastrous.
Ensuring your car or truck is safe to operate is an excellent way to reduce the risk of causing an accident. Since there are many other dangerous factors on Canadian roadways, it’s your responsibility to be proactive about the integrity of your vehicle.
Learn how your automobile can show that service is necessary even when the impending problem doesn’t trigger a dashboard warning light. Mechanical issues are dangerous malfunctions that cause drivers to face a slower response time, lose control of the wheel, or break down without warning on a busy highway.
Of the 2% of accidents caused by a vehicle’s performance, the NHTSA states that 35% of them are related to tire problems. Failure of a tire during operation can cause a life-threatening scenario, especially at high speeds. If a blowout occurs, you risk turning your vehicle over, swerving into oncoming traffic, or injuring innocent pedestrians.
Tires are often regarded as the single most critical safety component of a vehicle. Drivers are urged to monitor their rubber and replace it as necessary. Since 2008, Canadian officials have required all new cars and trucks to be built with tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) capabilities.
A TPMS electronically notifies an operator when a tire is underinflated, providing a heads up that attention is required. Even with these proactive measures in place, the Canada Safety Council estimates that 23% of operational vehicles have at least one tire underinflated by more than 20%.
While electronic assistance is nice to have, drivers should still take the time to physically check their tire pressure with a manual gauge. Make sure the pounds per square inch inside your tires match the manufacturer’s recommended levels. You can find this information inside your driver’s door edge, doorpost, glove box, or fuel door.
If you notice a persistent underinflation issue, let an expert examine the cause. Sometimes they can fix a slow leak with a tire plug; however, more significant defects may result in the need to change the tire.
Faulty Braking System
It’s no secret that being unable to stop suddenly will play a significant role in causing accidents and the seriousness of the collision. Your braking system is made up of multiple hydraulically powered components. Parts like the master cylinder and calipers use brake fluid to press friction pads into disc rotors, ultimately bringing the vehicle to a halt.
While bad brakes can cause hazardous results during normal driving conditions, the severity risk increases when travelling in slippery or wet conditions. Weakened stopping power can directly cause rear-end collisions, often leading to pileups of unaware drivers following your path. Fortunately, brake components are manufactured to alert a driver when attention is needed. Common warning signs to watch and listen for include:
- Squealing noises when stopping.
- Grinding or pulling when applying the brakes.
- Having difficulty controlling the vehicle while stopping.
- A loose or shaking brake pedal as you apply pressure.
If your vehicle alerts you of a flawed system, don’t hesitate to resolve the problem swiftly.
Suspension and Alignment
A vehicle’s suspension comprises parts like shocks or struts, tie rods, ball joints, control arms, and bushings. These components are responsible for supporting a car or truck’s weight, providing a smooth ride, and ensuring that tasks like steering and turning are achieved seamlessly. When the suspension system fails, it often leads to a sudden loss of control, as a vehicle may pull to one side of the road, taking power away from the operator. Rollover accidents are common if a suspension component breaks or ruptures.
The same parts involved in supporting your vehicle can be tied into a misalignment. If your shocks or ball joints are failing, over time, you will notice that the automobile’s default driving position veers right or left, rather than straight. Car and truck steering can also be affected after hitting obstructions in the road, such as potholes or curbs. Unfortunately, the issue will continue to arise unless the suspension problem is resolved, even after an alignment.
Generally, these issues have no ties to the vehicle’s computer, so warnings are limited to a driver noticing a performance difference. Most commonly, you will discover:
- Difficulty steering.
- A bumpy ride.
- Noises when driving over bumps.
- Instability when making a turn.
Driving with working headlights is of the utmost importance to an operator’s view when moving at night or in rainy conditions. However, other bulbs on a vehicle are just as essential as they increase your visibility to other drivers and alert them of your intentions.
Lights, such as brake lights and turn indicators, are critical when another vehicle is following you. As you slow or engage the turn signal, illumination erupts on the rear of your car, allowing others to lessen their speeds to reduce the risks of a rear-end accident.
Most bulb replacements are simple and can be performed by someone with basic mechanical knowledge. However, some newer cars with LED taillights or headlights may require that the entire assembly be removed. Since these repairs can wrack up immense bills, it’s ideal to understand a vehicle’s capabilities before buying a new car. Make sure you can afford the maintenance bills to ensure the automobile is in peak condition mechanically and safety-wise.
It should go without saying that windshield wipers must be in pinnacle shape, especially if you live in an area with heavy rain or snow. The components are simple to change and affordable, meaning everyone should keep a spare set in their vehicle. In some circumstances, the blades can become dislodged from their connector and be thrown off the arm. This can cause serious visibility issues and damage the windshield as the metal holder scrapes against the glass.
Other components like the wiper arms, sprayer nozzles, and wiper transmission require more intensive labour to replace. However, it’s just as vital that they remain in proper working order. Some problems you’ll notice when these parts are on the brink include hesitant or slow wiper motion, sticking, or a lack of washer fluid when the switch is engaged.
You should take time to inspect your windshield for scratches or dings. Generally, if caught early, you can remediate the issue with a DIY kit that includes resin to fill minor imperfections. However, if the defects go unattended, they will inevitably grow, sometimes leading to a large crack directly in your view.
Never underestimate the significance of a quality serpentine belt and related parts like idler pulleys and the tensioner assembly. Modern vehicles are loaded with pulley-driven components to power essential electrical, steering, and air conditioning systems. When a part of this network fails or wears down, it can lead to a sudden shutdown, an overheating engine, or a loss of power assistance. If the breakdown occurs on a busy highway, you may wind up in a devastating situation as the drivers behind your vehicle may not have time to react to the sudden power loss.
As a belt and its components begin losing their integrity, they will generally trigger warning signs. For instance, squealing from under the hood could mean the rubber is wearing down, a pulley isn’t moving freely, or a tensioner’s adjustment spring is on the fritz. In addition to paying attention to noises, drivers should also inspect these parts periodically. Watch for fraying or brittleness of the rubber and replace it if needed. Most cars have a badge under the hood that displays the belt route, making it an easy fix you can do at home.
Are You Legally Liable After an Accident?
After an accident that’s caused by a mechanical failure, there are several parties involved. First, the manufacturer will be scrutinized to discover if the breakdown was due to a factory defect and if a recall is in order. A mechanic who recently performed a repair on the failing part may also be called into question.
In most cases, though, the driver is directly responsible if the incident was caused by negligence and the failure to correct a problem once it’s noticed. Motor vehicle operators are held accountable for taking reasonable steps to ensure their car or truck is in proper working condition. So, even if your accident doesn’t cause serious injury, or worse, a minor collision can still land you in legal trouble.