Car Safety and Security: Maintenance of Critical Components

Every vehicle has components that simply have to be well maintained. These parts, also known as safety-critical components of your car, are not to be left unchecked. Doing so would be irresponsible and can easily lead to traffic accidents involving other people (pedestrians, kids, cyclists, other drivers) so you should keep these systems in the best possible condition.

We are talking about the wheels, the brakes, tires, suspension. However, there are also systems that are not strictly automotive, but greatly affect your car’s ability to safely operate. One such example would be visibility (car lights, windshield integrity), batteries, joints, gearbox components and a host of other parts.

car front wheel bearing

Wheels

The wheel bearing is a very important part that goes through extensive wear (especially from high temperatures and ingress of water). It’s a set of steel balls placed in a ring which connects the axle of the vehicle with the wheel. Their job is to make sure the friction when the wheel moves is as minimal as possible. They are subjected to great loads due to the physics of driving on wheels. Even though wheel bearings rarely fail abruptly and without notice, you still need to be on top of your game to service them.

In theory, wheel bearings have to be replaced before you cover more than 150000 km with them. In reality, this depends on several factors, including but not limited to, your driving style, the operating conditions and the quality of the front-wheel-drive hub assembly. Sometimes this needs to be done much earlier, especially if the wheel bearing was installed inadequately or by using bolts, nuts and seals from the previous wheel bearing set.

So, what are the signs of a bad wheel bearing? In essence, these are unusual noises, vibrations and malfunction of other systems directly connected with the wheels. Funky vibration in the passenger’s cabin can be caused by many components. If this happens when you turn the vehicle, or if it oscillates at the same rate as your wheel speed (faster/slower) you probably need to replace them. Noises that you hear as you increase the speed or when you turn are also an indication of faulty front wheel bearing and hub assembly. Grinding, humming, rumbling, growling, whining, clunking – they all point to issues with the wheels. And if your car has ABS system, it can fail to work properly because the ABS sensor integrated with the bearing will be off. It’s not that complex, car front wheel bearing replacement shouldn’t take long if done by an experienced mechanic.

front wheel assembly

Brakes

Another system no one can afford failing them in a moving vehicle is the brakes. It is slightly more complicated with them because they have more components. There are the brake pads and rotors, then master cylinder, brake fluid conduits, the brake fluid reservoir and the fluid itself. Fortunately, issues more often originate from the brake pads and rotors. This makes your job easier because you will only need to keep an eye on the brake pads, and that’s it.

Brake rotors and pads are the parts that apply friction to stop the wheel from turning. Since this is done to a vehicle that is moving, such friction creates heat. In time, this heat wears down the pads. High-quality brake pads should serve you at least 20000 km, however, similar to the car front wheel bearings, this depends on your style of braking. If you want to prolong the service life of brake pads you should avoid stopping at high rates of speed and suddenly. Another pro tip is to use the same leg to work all pedals. Obviously, if your left leg is on the brake while your right hasn’t totally left the gas pedal, you inflict unnecessary wear to the pads. Don’t overload your vehicle and always apply brakes gradually as abrupt braking creates more heat.

car front lights

Visibility

As we mentioned earlier, it’s easy to discard parts that are not strictly automotive as not safety-critical. However, there are many such parts and your vehicle lights are one of the most obvious examples. Any issue that will render your lights useless (faulty wires, empty battery, dead light bulb) is to be addressed before it becomes a problem. There is no point in having your car in top shape but not being able to ride it at night. It’s not only illegal, but it is also a big safety concern for you and for others. Always keep an eye on the lights in your car.

This list could be extended to include many other components. If you are driving your first car, or if you just bought a new model, study the owners manual to get a clear idea of which systems have safety-critical parts you need to check from time to time. As you familiarize with the vehicle, you’ll be able to detect some unusual noises and to recognize other car symptoms with ease.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.