New age cars are becoming sleeker, faster and more safer than ever before. There has been a huge leap in terms of safety in the last decade with most manufacturers even offering a driver side airbag as standard. India is also set to roll out its own safety standards with minimum requirements in new cars. A big welcome step IMO. But what happens if you own a decade old car and still want it to be safe – for your and others on the road.
I still see cars like the Maruti Esteem, Hyundai Santro, Tata Indica and first gen Honda City running on the roads, more so in semi urban areas. Move to rural areas and you will come across the good old Ambassador, Toyota Qualis and even the Maruti 800. So if you own one of these, the big question often is about safety. Here’s how you can make your old car safer on the road.
Change your driving style
This is the essential and foremost aspect. Times have changed, average speeds are rising and there are more vehicles on the road than ever before. As a driver, you need to be more cautious and ever ready for surprises. Its all in the head – if you are mentally prepared for suicidal drivers on the roads, you can cut down on the chances of an accident. Brake early, slow down often and keep an eye out through the mirrors.
Get new and brighter bulbs for your lights – these will light up the roads better at night, thereby offering you better visibility. Likewise, make sure the tail lamps and parking lights are in working condition to make your car visible to others. Most old car did not come with a left outside mirror – buy one, it helps you keep an eye on traffic creeping up from the left.
Rubber becomes harder with time – replace old tyres with wider and stickier ones. You will be surprised with the amount of extra traction and grip, especially during emergency braking. Most old cars did not come with ABS and hence this requirement. Wide tyres will also add to the bling factor!
We will start with the brakes here – with time, brake lines can rupture under pressure and hence it is essential to replace the entire brake line set-up with new ones – steel braided if possible. Next, invest into new and ceramic brake pads. You can even cross drill the rotors for added performance.
Second is the suspension and trust us, it can play a vital role when needed. With time, suspension bushes can worn out and this can make the car pull hard to one side during hard braking or emergency maneuvers. A new suspension will be expensive but even better, giving you way better control when required, including at high speeds. Ditto for installing anti roll bars.
On the inside
Older cars came with exposed metal on the inside and this is not safe during an accident. Cover these up with cushioning material like foam. Ditto for sharp edges or other parts which might fly off during a crash. Seats belts are very important and if your car does not have inertia-reel belts, get these installed. Tinting the windows with transparent film is a great cheap idea too. This will make sure that in the event of a crash and a broken window, glass pieces will not fly into the cabin easily.
A rear view camera aids safety while parking or driving out of a congested place. This not only helps prevent bumping into other cars, you can also avoid running into a pedestrian. Likewise, purchase a Bluetooth enabled head-unit to keep both your hands on the steering wheel during a call – however, try avoiding it in the first place itself.