AARP Driving Resource Center

Vehicle Readiness Is Important for Safety

If your vehicle is in poor condition, you are increasing your risk of breakdowns and crashes

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Maintaining your vehicle’s condition increases your safety, the safety of others and helps the environment. To understand your vehicle’s maintenance requirements, you should read your owner’s manual and review it frequently. If you follow safe driving strategies and maintain good driving skills, but your vehicle is in poor condition, you are increasing your risk of breakdowns and crashes.

See also: 12 ways to save on car expenses

Keeping your vehicle well maintained also lowers the cost of operating your vehicle and reduces the likelihood of needing costly major repairs. You also reduce pollution when your vehicle is properly maintained by limiting the amount of dangerous fumes and fluids released.


If you notice any abnormal sounds, have a service department check your brakes.


Periodically check that your headlights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and interior lights are clean and working properly. Make sure they are free from mud or dirt that can obscure them. Also, have your lights checked for oxidation and have it removed. You should also check headlight alignment by shining them against a flat surface such as a wall or garage door to see if they are aimed at the same level.

Fluid Levels

  • Oil, transmission fluid and coolant levels should be checked at a scheduled service appointment, based on the miles indicated in the owner’s manual.
  • Brake, power steering and windshield washer fluids should also be checked regularly.
  • Make sure each reservoir is full and if you see any sign of fluid leakage, take your vehicle to the repair shop to be serviced.
  • Most important, make sure you have sufficient fuel.

360-Degree Inspection

Although some safety practices have been discussed, the simplest approach may yield the best safety benefits. How many of us regularly walk around our vehicle to see if everything looks OK? This simple habit can help you have a safe trip and only takes a couple of minutes.

Walking Around the Vehicle

  • Check for proper tire inflation;
  • Check for clean windows, headlights and side mirrors;
  • Check for fluid leaks;
  • Check for wear of windshield wiper blades.

Check the Environment

  • Check the weather;
  • Check road conditions;
  • Check for people or obstacles in your path (children playing, trash cans).

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