If you are the parent of small children, your vehicle is likely a critical part of your life. Your vehicle may be used for visits to the doctor, childcare, and daily chores, which means that you need it to be safe for your children and reliable for you. Below are a few ways you can make sure your vehicle is in top shape.
Always Read Your Manual
While it is a good idea for any owner of a vehicle to read the owner's manual, this is especially important for parents. Owner's manuals have specific details about the LATCH system, anchors, and car seat placement that are specific to the vehicle. When you buy a new vehicle, some of these details may be different, and if you fail to read your owner's manual you are missing an opportunity to employ the best safety practices that work with your particular vehicle design.
Discuss a Maintenance Plan With Your Mechanic
Regular preventative maintenance can mean the difference between a car that drives well and being stranded on the side of the road with your children or having a non-operative vehicle during a medical emergency. You should go over your regular maintenance plan with your mechanic. While there are many things that you can do on your own, such as checking fluids and tire pressure, you should also schedule regular inspections with your mechanic.
Consider Rotating Winter and Summer Tires
In the United States, all-weather tires are the most popular choice for vehicles. They can be used throughout the year and you do not have to store them during the off-season. However, the convenience of having a single set of tires means that you do not have the best performance during the summer or winter. Having specialized tires for hot weather and cold weather means that you will have the best traction year round. If you have storage issues, talk to your mechanic about storing your tires during the off-season. Some garages offer storage for a minimal fee if you use them for your tire changes.
Consider Having Your Mechanic Turn Off Your Passenger Airbag
Many vehicles have an option for turning off the passenger airbag when a child is in the front seat. While the back seat of the car is considerably safer for small children, there may come a time when you need to transport your child in your front seat. If the switch to turn off your passenger airbag is not easily accessible, you should consider having your mechanic install an extension. These are usually hidden in the glove box and allow you to turn your airbag on and off easily. However, you should know that some vehicles are manufactured in such a way that disabling the airbag will void your manufacturer's warranty and is not recommended. Your mechanic should know whether your car is one of these or whether it is safe to disable the airbag.
Take Your Car In For Repairs As Soon As You Notice An Issue
Similar to preventative maintenance, taking your car in for repair as soon as you notice an issue is especially important for parents who may rely on their vehicle more heavily than those without children. While it can be difficult to find time in a busy family schedule to take your car in, if you notice a check engine light, a strange noise, a change in handling, or any other indications of issues, you should block out a time to take your car in. Many garages will help set you up with a rental or loaner vehicle while yours is fixed, so you can continue with your regular family activities.