Mechanical Failures and Car Accidents

Maintaining a vehicle’s brakes, tires, fluids, and internal mechanisms is an important aspect of keeping it safe to drive. When parts of your vehicle fail unexpectedly, especially while driving, you run the risk of causing injury to yourself and others, as well as personal and private property. More than 10% of vehicle accidents were caused by mechanical failures in 2005, and that number isn’t changing. However, routine maintenance can go a long way to preventing collisions on the road.

Vehicles are composed of thousands of moving parts, large and small, that need to be strong, lubricated, and properly coordinated with the rest of the car. Wheels, brakes, and engines are especially important to maintain because their failure could result in immediate loss of control. When tires are worn, there is minimal tread and the car no longer has sufficient traction on slippery roads and around fast or tight curves. Worn-out tires are also more susceptible to punctures or leaks that could lead to a flat tire or even a blowout. Brake pads and linings wear down over time and eventually need to be replaced as well, or they could fail at a crucial moment like stopping at a stoplight. As cars age, brake lines may need to be replaced as they corrode over time and leak brake fluid. Steering control of the vehicle can also be lost if a tie rod fails, so regular inspection of the steering linkages is necessary so that any worn piece can be replaced.

Large mechanisms in the vehicle, such as tires and steering, don’t need to fail to cause a car accident. In fact, surprisingly small parts can cause a lot of damage if they are not maintained properly. Lug nuts keep tires straight and tight on the hubs, so loose or missing lug nuts can cause a tire to lose stability while driving. Loss of steering control can be caused simply by worn ball joints, connecting the control arm to the steering knuckle, loosening or breaking or by wheel and axle bearings becoming damaged. Finally, leaking internal fluids, like coolant or oil, can cause the engine or radiator to overheat and fail, or even damage other engine mechanisms that get foreign fluids in them.

For many of these situations, the damage may not be severe or become noticed until the car is already on the road. Especially on highways and interstates where maximum speeds are testing the mechanisms of the vehicle to its limits, mechanical failure can quickly cause drivers to lose control of the car. The best case scenario is that the driver will be able to safely steer the car to the shoulder and investigate the cause, but the odds are significantly higher that any loss of steering will cause a collision with another vehicle on the road. At times, these situations are unavoidable, but the ability to recognize the problem and routine maintenance can save drivers a lot of trouble and money.

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