Car safety: how much protection will yours give?

White car crashed as part of a Euro Ncap safety test

Considering how important personal safety is to most of us, it’s hardly a shock that all car makers claim their particular models are super safe. The likelihood is, car firms are telling the truth. But car safety still differs from model to model. It also depends on how well cars are looked after. Here’s how you can find out exactly how safe your car is, and maximise how much it’ll protect you if the worst happens.

How safe is your car?

No sales exec is going to say anything other than your car is very safe. Fortunately, you can see if they’re telling the truth thanks to the independent European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP). This was set up 20 years ago and ever since has crashed hundreds of new cars into a variety of different objects. By using specialist crash test dummies, experts can work out exactly how well cars protect their occupants. Models are then given a rating with five stars for the safest models. Visit their website and you’ll see that they go into minute detail.

Conduct your own car safety test – tyres

Tyres are your car’s only contact with the road. First check tread depth. A brand-new tyre has 8mm of tread. The legal minimum is 1.6mm but car safety experts recommend drivers renew their tyres when tread is down to 3mm. Check your tyre pressures too. A tyre that’s under-inflated is more susceptible to punctures, overheating at speed and therefore sudden failures or blow outs.

Driver conducting personal safety check by inspecting various engine parts under the bonnet
There are various checks you can make to ensure your car is as safe as possible

Warning lights

These are designed to show you if your car has a problem. Taking heed of warning lights can prevent you breaking down at the roadside. It might save you from an expensive repair bill. And it’ll definitely keep you safe. Orange lights are advisories meaning you should get something checked out ASAP. If the light is red, you should find somewhere safe to pull over and stop driving immediately.

Be safe, be seen

You can have the safest car in the world but if your lights aren’t working and other drivers can’t see you, you’re exposing yourself to unnecessary risk. It only takes a couple of minutes to check that all your lights are working, yet it’s one of the main reasons cars fail their MOT test.

Look where you’re going

If you can’t see out properly, you can’t see potential hazards. Keep your windows and mirrors clean and check your windscreen wipers.

How fast can you stop

Unless you’re a mechanic you’re unlikely to have the specialist tools necessary to check your brakes properly. However, you can check the level of the brake fluid reservoir beneath the bonnet. Look in the car’s user manual for where it is and how much fluid it should have in it. You should also be able to see the brake discs through the wheels. Are these badly corroded, scored or distorted? If so, you should get them checked out by a professional.

Does your car bounce?

How well your suspension works can affect how your car stops in emergencies, how the tyres wear and how it steers. And that’s in addition to its ride comfort. Check your suspension when your car is parked on a flat surface. First stand back and make sure your car is sitting level. Then push the front corner of the car down. You should be able to and it should come back up again smoothly without seeming to bounce up and down. Then go for a drive and try braking heavily where it’s safe to do so. Expect the nose to dip a little, but not dramatically. And when you come a halt, your motor shouldn’t be bouncing up and down like a clown’s car.

If you want to ensure your car is as safe as it possibly can be, book it in for a service.

Mandy Weston

Mandy Weston

Mandy is an ex-mechanic, with 22 years’ experience in the motor industry. As an in-house motoring expert, Mandy is the go-to woman for any relevant questions that our customers have; both garages and drivers. From specific problems with your car to general maintenance, Mandy is a reliable source of information and advice. Her passion for motoring is a huge factor to her success and the huge wealth of knowledge that she has. She now uses her remarkable grasp of the industry to write regular content for our readers to help drivers understand their car better, avoid being ripped off by garages and save money on their motoring requirements.