Cars safety has come a long way in the last 70 years. In fact, some cars didn’t even have seatbelts until 1968.
Compared to the cars of today that have automatic emergency braking and blind spot warnings, classic cars can be considered deathtraps. The fact that such cars often have a lot of wear and tear makes them all the more hazardous and likely to fall apart in an accident. Being aware of these dangers can be important as a classic car owner so that you can stay safe on the road. Below are some of the dangers to be wary of and what you can do to mitigate them.
Understanding the risks
Modern cars are designed to crumple in a crash in a way that is least likely to harm the driver and passengers. Classic cars weren’t built this way at all. In fact, until the 60s, even a low speed collision could result in the driver being impaled on the steering column.
The best thing you can do to protect yourself in such vehicles is to be careful about when and where you drive them. The roads are much more busy and fast-paced than they were 50 years ago and the risk of being in an accident is much greater. Try to stick to quiet times (i.e. not rush hour) and avoid driving your vehicle in harsh weather when there’s a greater chance of skidding. Such cars – no matter how much you may want to show them off – shouldn’t be used as everyday vehicles.
In some cases, safety modifications may be possible to help reduce the danger of being involved in a fatal crash. Such modifications could be worth considering if you plan to drive your car more than every other weekend.
Which safety upgrades should you make?
Some safety upgrades can be very expensive and may negatively affect the value and the authenticity of your car. However others may not be so complicated, and could help to improve the safety of your car without ruining the value or authenticity. Below are just a few safety upgrades that are worth considering.
Seatbelts are now considered a very basic safety feature and yet many cars were not fitted with them until it became mandatory in 1968. If you plan on regularly driving your car, it’s recommended that you install seatbelts (at the very least, in the driver and passenger seat). You can buy basic three point seatbelts online. These should ideally be installed by a professional to ensure that they’re completely safe.
If you plan on driving your classic car in low lighting, upgrading to newer headlights could also be necessary. The dim headlights of older cars may not only endanger you but also endanger other drivers by making you less visible. New headlights could legally protect you if anything else – if another driver claims that they couldn’t see you and you need to get legal representation, they won’t be able to use your headlights as a valid excuse. Retrofitting new LED headlights if often a simple task compared to many other safety retrofitting improvements. That said, you may still want to hire a professional mechanic to handle this modification.
All modern cars now have an anti-lock braking system (ABS) installed, allowing you to brake harshly and still steer the car without the wheels locking up. Retrofitting such brakes onto your car could be worthwhile. This can be an expensive improvement on very old cars – on top of changing the brakes and wiring in the system, other parts may also need to be changed. If your car currently uses very old brakes but ABS is too expensive to install, simply upgrading to newer non-ABS brakes could be the next best thing.
If you’re upgrading the brakes, you may as well upgrade the tires. These tires could help to prevent skidding on wet or icy road surfaces and offer less wear. Unfortunately, adding modern tires to a classic car isn’t always straightforward – such tires may be too grippy for the suspension, potentially causing strain on the suspension that could lead to cracks in the wheels. Upgrading the entire suspension along with the tires is one way to solve this, but that’s going to be a very expensive job. In some cases, you may be able to find purpose-built traction tires for classic cars that are lighter and not quite as efficient – these could give you the benefit or more grip without having to alter the entire suspension.