By Brian Turner, Your Corner Wrench, PostMedia – We’ve all seen more than a few examples of drivers piloting rides that really shouldn’t be on the road, or doing something to their chariot that’s sure to lead to an unhappy ending, but some of us just need a little knowledge to avoid being one of those. When you consider the wide range of personality types behind the wheel, there really isn’t anything you can accurately name a “no-brainer”, since there’s almost always someone who didn’t realize something was unsafe.
Temporary spares really are just temporary: this has to be one of the most committed sins in the driving handbook. We’ve all seen vehicles sharing the roads with us, driving on small temporary spares, but it would surprise you to know how many of those have been tooling around for weeks on that little donut.
Their size and limited tread contact with the road makes them very risky. In the event of any type of panic maneuver, such as hard braking or steering, they’re very likely to cause a loss of control. As well, their much small circumference (as compared to the full-sized tires on the vehicle) can cause expensive damage to drive-lines if they’re left on too long. How long is too long? Anything more than the time and distance it takes to get from where the tire went flat to the nearest tire store.
And don’t be smug just because your vehicle has a 12-volt compressor and tire sealant can in place of a spare. If you add any type of tire sealant liquid to your flat tire, it will need to be removed as soon as possible. At any speed the liquid inside the tire will throw it wildly out of balance and if you let that wheel shake long enough it can stress and damage things like wheel hub bearings or steering linkages.
Missing lug nuts? This scenario is really common during seasonal tire change times. Usually someone has lost a nut either because they didn’t keep track of them during a DIY change-over or one fell off because it wasn’t properly tightened. With many small cars using only four lug nuts per wheel, having one missing means reducing your safety by 25 percent. This one makes less sense than most when you consider you can get replacement lug nuts at almost any auto parts store for just a few dollars.
Is your door ajar? I guess if you’ve got the heavy-metal turned up loud enough to drown out the wind noise and door warning chimes, you might be excused for this. But in a collision, any door only fastened by its secondary catch is bound to fly open leaving passengers exposed to a world of nasty. If your door refuses to latch and simply rebounds open when you slam it, check to see if the latch on the door is already in the closed position. On most vehicles it will show as a small metal loop blocking off the area where the door striker pin (on the body’s opening-frame) has to locate itself when the door is closed. If this is the case, take a pen to the exposed latch on the door’s edge and with the door handle held in the release position, flip the latch bar to the open position and try re-latching it.
What’s that gassy smell? With most vehicles now having tethers to keep you from forgetting the gas cap on the station pump, this one’s not as common as it used to be, but it still happens. Those tethers are usually made of plastic and can wear out. Of course the first reminder you’ll get when you forget a gas cap is a check engine light on your dash, but that usually won’t come on until the next day. The biggest risk you run is having a fire, especially if you’ve just tanked up the vehicle on a hot day with little wind. The fuel coming out of a gas station’s underground tanks is usually much cooler than the ambient temps on a hot day. This means the fumes can vent out of the filler neck and if there’s a smoker around, boom! Note: replacement fuel caps aren’t expensive (less than $30) and most new ones come with a new tether.