As your parents age, it’s a good idea to pay attention to their driving ability, as it can decline due to issues related to eyesight, reflexes and general health. Equally as important, however, even if your parents are exceedingly good drivers, is to ensure their car is safe for the road.
Tips abound regarding how to prepare a car for a road trip, and many of those same tasks should be done on a regular basis on your parents’ car — even if they don’t drive a whole lot. Remember that a car ages even while sitting in a garage.
To ensure your parents’ car is safe to drive:
- Check fluids. This includes the oil, coolant, brake fluid and windshield washer levels.
- Check the tires’ air pressure. You’ll find the recommended pressure in the owner’s manual or on a sticker on the body where the driver’s door shuts. That number is the max pressure, so it shouldn’t be exceeded. Remember to check the spare tire, too.
- Make sure the oil and oil filter are changed regularly. If your parents don’t drive a lot, you’ll want to go by miles driven rather than time to determine when this service is warranted. At a minimum, an annual change is recommended.
- Check for tire wear. Use a penny or a tread gauge to ensure there is at least 1/16th or 1.6mm of tread left. It’s very dangerous to drive on tires that are “bald” or headed that way.
- Check the air filter. It’s important to make sure the engine is getting a plentiful supply of clean air, which improves the car’s performance and efficiency.
- Keep it clean. Make sure dirty windows don’t adversely affect visibility and the interior isn’t littered with clutter. A nice activity to plan with a parent is taking the car to a full-service car wash to get it spotless inside and out.
- Check wiper blades. The time to find out the windshield wiper blades aren’t doing their job isn’t during a downpour. Make sure they aren’t worn and replace them if they are.
- Check lights and signals. Have your parent sit in the car and turn on each light and signal so you can see that they work. Don’t forget to check the very important brake lights.
- Make sure it has emergency equipment that works properly. This can include a spare tire, emergency tools like a flashlight and screwdriver, a first aid kit, flares and even a fire extinguisher. You may want to pay for AAA membership or get OnStar or a similar onboard communications system to give you additional peace of mind when your parents are on the road.
Whether you and your parents handle these tasks yourself or bring the car into a garage, it’s a good idea to record the dates when everything is done. This kind of organization ensures that nothing falls though the cracks and causes a preventable on-road hassle or safety hazard.
At S.A.F.E., we’re all about senior safety, whether it’s in the home, when out and about, or on the road. Contact us with any questions you have about keeping your parents safe.