Owning a motor vehicle is a big responsibility, and not just because you’re financially accountable for making monthly auto loan payments and maintaining insurance coverage. As a vehicle owner, you’re responsible for maintaining a road-safe vehicle that won’t endanger you or the lives of those around you.
Not everyone takes vehicle maintenance as seriously as they should, though. Here are 5 common mechanical problems leading to car accidents in West Virginia.
Tire Breakdowns and Failures
Everything rides on the health of your vehicle’s tires—both literally and figuratively. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), tire failure is responsible for 43.3% of all accidents caused by mechanical failures.
Tire failure is most frequently caused by:
- Road hazards (including potholes)
- Design or manufacturing defects
- Worn or deteriorated treads
Even tires that are in good condition can fail and cause an accident if they are not the correct size or fit for your vehicle.
The best way to avoid a tire blowout or failure is to ensure that you choose the correct tires, keep them properly inflated, and monitor the treads for signs of wear. Once a tire’s treads are shallower than 2/32” deep, it’s time to replace them.
NHTSA data shows that brake degradation or failure causes 25% of all accidents caused by mechanical failures. Not sure if your vehicle’s brakes are healthy? Watch for these top 8 signs of potential problems with your brakes:
- Brake light – If the brake light on your vehicle’s dashboard turns on, it’s a sign that there’s either a problem with your brakes or that it’s time for maintenance.
- Grinding noises – A grinding sound, when you apply the brakes, is an indication that there is a problem with your brake pad.
- Squealing and squeaking noises – These noises are another indicator of potential problems with your brake pad, although they could also signal the presence of a foreign object in your braking system (such as a small rock).
- Vibrations or wobbling – Does your steering wheel shake or vehicle vibrate when you push on the brakes? This is a sign of uneven rotor thickness.
- Burning smells – A burning smell can signal that your brakes are overheating and close to failure.
- Leaking fluids – If your vehicle’s braking ability has changed and you notice any leaking fluid, it may indicate a worn seal that is allowing brake fluid to leak out.
- Soft brakes – The brake pedal should have resistance to it when you push on it. If it doesn’t or if your foot goes all the way to the floor when applying the brakes, it’s an indicator that there’s something wrong with the braking system or master cylinder.
- Vehicle pulling to one side – A caliper issue or bad brake hose can make your vehicle pull unnaturally to one side when braking.
Headlight & Taillight Failures
Lights play an important role in vehicle safety, from headlights that allow us to see in limited visibility conditions to turn signals that tell other drivers what we plan to do. If a headlight, turn indicator, taillight, or brake light goes out, replace it right away.
Problems with a vehicle’s lights can impair visibility in low-light conditions. And if your brake lights or indicators aren’t working, other drivers won’t be able to properly anticipate what you’re about to do. This increases the risk of rear-end, sideswipe, and merging accidents, among others.
Steering & Suspension Failures
Steering and suspension are important vehicle systems that work in conjunction with one another. If one system begins experiencing problems, it can potentially cause issues with the other. Here’s a breakdown of what these systems do:
- Suspension – Supports the weight of the vehicle and is critical for drivability and handling.
- Steering – Provides directional control of the vehicle.
Signs that your steering and suspension systems may be having trouble or are in active failure include:
- Pulling to one side while driving
- Trouble steering (steering wheel may feel heavy)
- Excessive bouncing when going over speed bumps or driving over dips
- A “dipping” feeling when braking
- One corner or side of the vehicle feels lower
Anything that interferes with a driver’s ability to maintain control over their vehicle can cause or contribute to an accident.
Engine & Transmission Failures
The transmission is responsible for moving the appropriate amount of power from the engine to the wheels. Its most important function is to make sure that only the appropriate amount of power is transferred from the engine to make the wheels move at a specific speed.
If there’s a problem with the engine or the transmission, an inappropriate amount of power may be transferred to the wheels. This could make the vehicle travel either too fast or too slow, depending on the problem. An unpredictable or uncontrollable variance in speed is dangerous and may lead to an unavoidable traffic collision.
And, according to the NHTSA, engine and transmission failures are part of a category that makes up 10.5% of all accidents caused by mechanical failures.
Reducing Your Risk for Mechanical Problems with Your Vehicle
If you notice any problems or changes with the way your vehicle drives or handles, take it to a trusted auto mechanic or auto repair shop right away.
Can I Recover Compensation for an Accident Caused by a Mechanical Failure?
Yes, you can recover compensation if a mechanical failure caused or contributed to your accident. Proving that the other driver’s or vehicle owner’s failure to maintain their car’s condition caused your crash can be challenging, though, especially if you are dealing with serious losses like medical bills and missed paychecks.
One of the most effective ways to preserve your right to compensation is to work closely with a team of Charleston car accident lawyers. At DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC, we’re prepared to help you recover and analyze evidence that will definitively prove what caused your accident and resulting injuries.
Contact us online or call our office, and we’ll match you with a compassionate and knowledgeable attorney. Your first consultation is always free, and we’re able to take many cases on a contingency fee (no win, no fee) basis.