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Module 11

Required Vehicle Equipment & their Maintenance

The State of Nevada prohibits unsafe vehicles or vehicles lacking certain equipment from being driven on the public roadways. Specifically, Nevada law states:

A person shall not drive, move, stop or park any vehicle or knowingly permit any vehicle to be driven, moved, stopped or parked on a public roadway (except for purposes of repair) if such vehicle:
  • Is in such unsafe condition as to endanger any person or property.
  • Is not equipped with lamps, reflectors, brakes, horn and other warning and signaling devices, windows, windshield, mirrors, safety glass, mufflers, fenders and tires, and other parts and equipment in the position, condition and adjustment required by the laws of this State.

Before hitting the road, it is imperative that you make certain that the vehicle you are going to operate not only has the all of the proper equipment that is required by law, but to also make sure that equipment is functioning properly.  We will discuss below each of the items that are mentioned in that law.  (And, just so you know, the first item does say “lamps,” but what it’s really referring to is “lights” — all the various types of lights required on a vehicle.

For a new vehicle, making sure that the equipment is functiooning properly is usually not a problem. However, as vehicles age, they require maintenance and care to ensure all of the required safety equipment is not only present but also in proper working order. You should also know that driving a vehicle that is missing required equipment and/or having equipment that is not functioning as required, is not only unsafe, but also illegal and could result in fines.

And here’s something really useful to know that you might not have thought of on your own:  notice that the sentence in the paragraph you just read says that you can be fined for what is missing on the vehicle you’re driving.  So keep that in mind as you consider the following scenario:

You have forgotten to do an imporant errand, and it’s across town, and you don’t have a car at your disposal, and if you have to take the bus, you’ll never get there in time.  You’re in a jam unless you figure out a solution. Your friend finally agrees to let you borrow his car for an hour.  Everything goes fine and you’re on your way back from the errand when you get pulled over by law enforcement.  You can’t think what might be wrong—you were at the speed limit, behaving yourself.

But it’s not about you, not exactly.   The officer explains he’s giving you a ticket because your brake lights aren’t functioning;  he did not see them go on when you stopped at the last intersection.  So, you tell hiim, “Oh, I didn’t know they weren’t working.  You see, this isn’t my car.”   Now, what do you think the officer is going to say, perhaps, “Oh, in that case, I apologize.  I’ll have to look up the records of this car to see who the owner is, and send the ticket to him.”

 In your dreams.  That ticket is yours, because you were driving the car.

Seat Belts (or “Safety Belts”)

As you already know, safety belts are designed to secure vehicle occupants in their seats so as to prevent dangerous body movement in a traffic collision or even just a sudden stop, and have been proven to reduce the likelihood of death or serious injury by reducing secondary impacts (your body striking vehicle interior such as steering wheel or windshield) and by preventing ejections from the vehicle that are common during vehicle rollovers.

The State of Nevada requires that all passenger vehicles manufactured after January 1st 1968 must be equipped with at least lap belts for all front seat seating positions. Further, passenger vehicles manufactured after January 1st 1970 must be equipped with shoulder harnesses for all front seat seated positions and at least lap belts for all rear seating positions.

As you probably have noticed, most newer vehicles today have lap/shoulder safety belts for every seating position in the vehicle.

Proper Use and Adjustment of the Seat Belt

Proper fit and proper use are extremely important. If the seat belt is not positioned correctly across the body, it can fail to protect the occupant in the event of a collision.

The most important piece of advice with regard to the seatbelt is to use it! Use it every time, for every trip, no matter how short or quick that trip is. Also insist that every occupant in your vehicle wear their seatbelt and do not put the vehicle in motion under everyone is buckled up.

You should know that a single passenger that is not wearing a seatbelt can cause serious injuries to other passengers inside the vehicle in the event of a traffic collision of sudden deceleration. So, it’s not just their life at risk—it’s the lives of all other vehicle occupants.

The proper position for the lap portion of the seatbelt is across the upper thighs with the diagonal belt positioned across the chest. This fit helps prevent internal injuries to the body by spreading the impact of a collision to some of the body’s strongest areas (pelvis and chest). The fit should be snug. If it is too loose, you could be injured by being thrown against the loose seatbelt in a sudden stop. If your seat belts do not appear to be operating properly or if you are unable to adjust them, the vehicle should be brought in for inspection and/or repair immediately.

Although Nevada law allows only lap belts in older vehicles based on their manufacture dates, most of those lap belts can be converted into modern, 3-point harnesses. If you have such a vehicle, it is encouraged that you have this upgrade to ensure your safety and those who ride with you.

You may have seen some people use the lap belt like this:  they put the diagonal part behind their back. Understand what this does: it defeats the purpose of the seat belt and effectively prevents it from doing its job, because that job is now left to the lap belt alone. However, the lap belt cannot keep your body from being thrown forward and it cannot keep you from being ejected from the vehicle. Serious injuries can occur when your body is thrown forward as it can strike the steering wheel, dashboard and the windshield.


Airbags are designed to keep your head, neck and chest from striking the steering wheel, dashboard and windshield in a front-end collision. They are not designed to inflate in rear-end accident collisions, nor in rollover or side impacts for the most part.

Airbags deploy faster than the blink of an eye when onboard sensors detect a front end collision. When such a collision is detected, a signal to start a chemical reaction is sent; the resulting chemical reaction inflates the airbag with a harmless nitrogen gas. As soon as the airbag inflates to protect you, it instantly deflates.

While airbags are designed to save lives, they should not be relied upon as the only source of protection in a motor vehicle collision, as they do not restrain occupants in their seats. That’s why airbags are considered to provide only supplemental protection and, why seat belts must always be used in combination with the airbag.

Most vehicles now have dual front airbags, so that the front seat passenger—in addition to the driver— is prevented from striking the dashboard and/or windshield. However, those frontal devices do not protect rear seat passengers from being thrown forward. Some airbag systems also provide vehicle occupants from contact with the vehicle doors in a collision. Side-impact air bags, found most commonly in late-model cars, offer protection to two main areas of the body — the head and the chest — during moderate to severe side-impact crashes.

Avoiding airbag problems

From 1990 to 2000, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identified 175 deaths caused by air bags. Most of those deaths (104) were children. Although that number is high, during that same time period, there were 3.3 million airbag deployments, which are estimated to have saved 6,377 lives and to have prevented countless injuries.

Because of the disproportionate amount of child deaths caused by airbag deployment, it is now recommended that children 12 years old and younger always ride in the rear seat using appropriate safety belts.

There are risks of injury occurring as a result of airbag deployment. The most common injuries are minor cuts, bruises and abrasions. While this is not ideal, keep in mind that these same airbags have prevented thousands of deaths, skull fractures and serious brain injuries.

Distance from the airbag:  One of the best ways to prevent possible injuries from airbag deployment is by creating distance between you and the airbag, and by using proper hand position on the steering wheel when driving.

The most common factor in airbag injury and death is that the occupant was too close to the airbag when it deployed. This is a combination of not being restrained and moving closer to the airbag because of that, or simply because the seated position was too close in the first place.

It is recommended that there be at least 10-inches between the center of the airbag cover and your breastbone when the vehicle is in motion. The more you manage to maintain this 10-inch distance (or more), the safer you will be when the airbag deploys.

Steering Wheel Hand Position: As we discussed previously, for years, driver education taught that the best place to keep your hands on the steering wheel while driving was at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock (that is, if you think of the steering wheel as an analog clock, then the positions are at 10 and 2).

However, after airbags were introduced as standard equipment on our vehicles, it was found that there as an increase in wrist fractures due to airbag deployment. Because of that, it is now generally recommended that drivers use a 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock hand position— which gives the hands and arms a safer position in the event of airbag deployment.

Airbag On/Off Switch: Some vehicles are equipped with an On/Off switch for the airbag. The US Government also allows certain people to make requests to have an On/Off switch installed in their vehicle.  The fact is, most people do not need to use an On/Off switch, and if you have access to such a switch, you should be careful to use it wisely, if you use it at all.

We know that almost everyone over the age of 12 is much safer with airbags than without them. This includes males, females, the elderly, tall people, short people and pregnant women. So, why would there even be a need for an On/Off switch?

Generally speaking, the only time the Airbag On/Off switch should be used is for the following situations:
  • People who must transport an infant riding in a rear-facing child seat by placing that seat in the front passenger seat rather than the rear seat (this is unsafe and should be avoided at all costs).
  • People who must transport children between the ages of 1-12 years old in the front passenger seat (this should be avoided as well).
  • Drivers who cannot change their driving position to be seated at least 10-inches from the airbag.
  • People whose doctor has stated that they have a special risk so that airbag deployment outweighs the risk of them striking their head or body against a steering wheel or dashboard.
Airbag Maintenance

Almost every vehicle equipped with an airbag has a diagnostic function and a Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) indicator light on the vehicle’s dashboard that indicates when there is a problem. You will normally see this indicator light turn on momentarily while it checks the SRS system. If you do not see the light come on when you start your vehicle or if the light remains on after starting the vehicle, there could be a problem with the airbag system and you should get it inspected immediately.

Some airbags, especially in older vehicles from the late 1980s through the 1990s, require periodic inspection and replacement.

If your vehicle is in a collision and an airbag is deployed, you will need to have both the airbag and its components inspected, repaired and/or replaced if you are planning to keep driving the vehicle. New airbags cost between $1,000 and $4,000 depending on the make and model. Some deployed airbags can be reused. When an airbag deploys, there are normally related items to be repaired or replaced, such as the steering wheel component, sensors, airbag computer, etc.

To guarantee the safety and reliability of your new airbag, you should use a new-car dealership that will replace the airbag and related components with original parts. NHTSA has put out a warning stating that they have found counterfeit airbags being illegally imported from China being installed by collision repair shops in the US. NHTSA recommends that you confirm the source of parts used in your airbag repair.

You should always read your vehicle’s owner manual to get the specifics on your vehicle’s airbag system maintenance and repair details.

Head Restraints

Neck injuries are reported by more than 1 in 5 drivers that are struck in a rear-end collision. As we have discussed in an earlier module, proper use and/or adjustment of the head restraint can protect you from neck injury if you are involved in a traffic collision.

The problem, however, is that many drivers do not know the proper and safest position for their vehicle’s head restraint.   Not only is that a problem, but you should also know that not all head restraints are the same. Some do not adjust at all, while others adjust up and down. Some adjust up and down and/or tilt back and forth. Before entering your vehicle, you should know how to adjust your head restraint and use this information on how to adjust it properly for you.

Proper Head Restraint Use

To ensure your head restraint offers you the best protection possible, you should be seated in an upright, comfortable sitting or driving position, facing forward. While in this position, you should reach behind you to adjust the head restraint. Ideally, the top of the head restraint should be even with the top of your head and no lower than 2 ½ inches below the top of your head. If the head restraint has a lock, make certain that it is locked in place when you have it adjusted to the right height.

Once you have the proper height on the head restraint, you should now check the distance between your head and the head restraint. Your head should be as close to the restraint as possible and no further than 2 ½ inches away. If you have a tilting head restraint, it should be adjusted accordingly. If yours doesn’t tilt, you may be able to make an adjustment by adjusting the height of the seat.

Safety Glass

Modern cars are manufactured with a windshield and side windows made of safety glass, a special kind of glass that is a great improvement over the glass that was used in the old days. Back in the day, if your windshield was hit, say, from a flying object like a rock, the windshield would crack and big sharp pieces could possibly fall into the faces or lap of the occupants.

By contrast, if a windshield made safety glass is hit, it may not resist breakage, but if it does break, it will crumble into small granular chunks of similar size and shape instead of splintering into random, jagged shards. The little chunks are much less likely to cause injury.

So, your windows are on the list of required equipment that must be kept in order, and you must keep an eye out for every little nick and scratch, because these can develop into a crack and eventually into breakage.  It might be possible to repair a very small hole caused by a small pebble that hit your windshield when you were driving through the desert;  if you pay no attention to it, however, you’re looking for trouble.  Auto windshield specialists will usually not attempt to repair large nicks and cracks because it won’t be safe to drive with that kind of attempted repair, and you will therefore have to have a new windshield installed.


Headlights are the two large lights mounted to the front of passenger vehicles. The purpose of headlights is to light the road ahead of you.

The State of Nevada requires that all motor vehicles have at least two headlights (both of them operational) that are located at a height of no more than 54 inches and no less than 24 inches from the ground.

Tail Lights

Tail Lights are red colored lights mounted to the rear of passenger vehicles. Their purpose is to provide visibility of the vehicle to those behind it.

The State of Nevada requires that motor vehicles possess two red colored tail lights (both operational) mounted to the rear of the vehicle, must be wired so they are lit whenever the headlights are lit, and  must be visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear of your vehicle.

License Plate Light

As the name implies, the license plate light’s purpose is to illuminate your vehicle’s license plate so that it can be seen and read by those behind you. Nevada requires all passenger vehicles (and buses and trucks under 80 inches) be equipped with a white light that illuminates the rear license plate and is bright enough so that it is visible from a minimum of 50 feet to the rear of your vehicle.  It automatically lights up when you turn on the headlights.


Passenger vehicle reflectors help other drivers determine your vehicle’s presence, position and direction of travel from various angles. Vehicle reflectors also aid in the visibility of vehicles by reflecting the light from other vehicle headlights. They are especially useful in dark areas that lack streetlights.

Nevada requires that all passenger vehicles be equipped with two or more red colored reflectors permanently mounted to the rear sides of the vehicle and two amber (yellow) colored reflectors permanently mounted to the front sides of the vehicle.

In Nevada, rear reflectors can be incorporated into the tail lights and front reflectors can be incorporated into the headlightassembly, which is quite common on modern vehicles. Although


Nevada law requires passenger vehicles to be equipped with fenders.

They are positioned around the wheel well of motor vehicles to prevent debris from being thrown into the air and/or back at trailing vehicles. Basically fenders prevent rocks, mud, sand, etc from being kicked up by your rotating tire and being thrown into the air and onto other vehicles or pedestrians.

Brake Lights

Brake lights are mounted on the rear of the vehicle and they light up when you step on your brake. The purpose of the brake lights is to let those behind you know that you are slowing down or stopping so that they can react accordingly.

The brake lights must display a red, amber or yellow light that is visible from a distance of not less than 300 feet to the rear in normal sunlight. Nevada allows brake lights to be incorporated into the tail light assembly, which is common in newer vehicles.

In addition, cars manufactured after 1987 have a third brake light, mounted in the central area of the rear window.

A frequently asked question is:  If both tail lights and brake lights are in the rear, and often placed right next to each other in the tail-light assembly, and both are red, how do you tell the difference?  The answer is that brake lights are brighter (by law) and are located higher up than tail lights.

It’s even easier to tell the difference between tail lights and brake lights when driving at night, because when you turn on your headlights, the tail lights are automatically lit as well. So they stay lit the whole time until turned off at the same time the headlights are turned off—but the brake lights only go on whenever the driver hits the brake, and they go off when the brake is released.

Turn Signals (“Blinkers”)

Turn signals, which are commonly referred to as “blinkers,” are mounted near the left and right front and rear of passenger vehicles. Their purpose is to let other drivers know your intent to turn or change lanes.

Turn signals are required to be visible in normal sunlight from a distance of not less than 500 feet.


The State of Nevada requires that your vehicle be equipped with brakes that act on all four wheels. While this may seem like common sense, it is important that brakes are fully operational as this protects you and those you share the roadway with.

Brakes are one of the most important safety components on your vehicle. If you have ever been in a vehicle that has lost its brakes, gone into a skid or has come close to striking another vehicle, then you know the feeling that comes with that and you are fully aware of just how important brakes are. Because brakes play such an important safety role on your vehicle, it’s important that their use and maintenance be diligently attended to.

The first thing you should know about brakes is that there is no set amount of time or mileage that they will last. The fact is, there is a lot that will determine the life of your brakes to include personal driving style, the material used in manufacturing and other factors. It is generally agreed upon by mechanics, however, that brakes should last between 30,000 and 70,000 miles. But understand that your brakes could need replacement in far less than 30,000 miles or they could last well past 70,000 miles.

One of the biggest factors in determining the life of your brakes is personal driving style and the way your brakes are used. The following information lists some partial factors of brake use that will determine the life of your brakes.

Brake Use

When you begin driving, one of the very first things you will learn is the placement of the brake pedal and how to use it. You will use your vehicle’s brakes from day #1 and you will use it numerous times every time you take your car for a drive.

The thing about brakes is that they can last a long time or you can wear them out very quickly. And this is all up to you! The following tips will help you extend the life of your brakes and ensure they operate as they should when you need them.

Speed: the speed you are traveling at when you apply your brakes will have a significant impact as to how long your brakes will last. Consider this: stopping from a speed of 65 mph will cause your brakes to use 1/3 more energy than they would at stopping from 55 mph. Less speed means less energy used. The less energy your brakes use, the less brake wear you will experience. It is really that simple.

Use only your right foot when using the brake – you will lbe taught that the same foot (your right) is used for both the brake and the gas. This is proper driving form. Never use your left foot on the brake and your right foot on the gas because in an emergency, the tension of the moment may cause confusion and you could end up pressing on both the brake and the gas at the same time.  When you have the habit of using only the right foot for the brake and the gas, then you will only press one or the other of those pedals in an emergency, but never both at the same time.

Watching the road ahead, which we have been discussing as a valuable defensive driving technique, is also useful in keeping your brakes from wearing out. Looking well ahead allows you time to slow down and apply the brake in adequate amounts, without having to come to sudden stops. Again, sudden stops and stopping from faster speeds require the brakes to use more energy, and the more energy your brakes the faster you will reduce the life of your brakes.

Following Too Closely: Like speeding, following others too closely will require more use of your brakes, in addition to placing you in potentially hazardous situations and greater risk of rear-ending the vehicle in front of you. Be sure to maintain a safe following distance and drive no faster than the speed limit.


Tires?  Well, we guess you realize tires are required equipment; you’d have a difficult time getting anywhere without them. However, unlike most components of a motor vehicle that serve just one function, tires serve many purposes. These include: supporting the weight of your vehicle, transmitting vehicle movement and braking, softening road impact (bumps, etc) and maintaining or changing the vehicle’s direction.

One of the Nevada laws relating to passenger vehicle tires states the following:

No person may cause or permit the operation of and no person may knowingly operate any vehicle on a highway when the tire is so worn that less than 2/32 of an inch of tread depth remains in any two adjacent major tread grooves.

The reason there’s a law providing such exact numbers for a rule about the tread depth of tires is that tire depth is a serious safety concern for anyone who operates a vehicle.  We discussed a paragraph or two earlier how important a role tires play, and now we want to touch on how tires fit into our big picture of accident avoidance.

Tires in excellent condition help the car stay on the road;  it’s sometimes said they “grab the road.”   That’s good traction.  We’ve already learned what happens when the wheels lose traction:  it’s bad news—skids, hydroplaning, etc. In some of these dicey wet-road situations, a tire in good condition might be able hang on and grab the road just enough to avoid a skid, whereas the one in bad condition….well, forget it.  By “bad condition,” we are mainly talking about an old, worn-out tire.

You can’t always tell by just glancing at a tire whether it’s still got plenty of life in it or it’s seen better days.  This is where measuring the tread depth comes into the picture.  By that measurement, we can tell whether the tire is still OK or it’s worn out and must be replaced.

Because we are dealing with such a small number, it is difficult to measure tread depth with a standard ruler.  That’s why you should use a tire tread depth gauge to measure tread depth. Another very simple tool that is commonly used to check tire tread depth is a U.S. Lincoln Penny. When placing the penny into the tire grooves, if you observe Lincoln’s head to be entirely visible then your tread is considered to be legally worn out.

Nevada law also prohibits you from operating a motor vehicle on a public highway if any of the following apply:
  • Any tire has an exposed ply or cord
  • Any tire has a ply or cord break
  • Any tire has a bump, bulge or knot related to ply or tread separation or partial failure of the tire structure
  • Any tire has a cut which extends more than 1 inch in any direction on the outside of the tire and is deep enough to reach body cords.


Mufflers serve three basic functions:
  1. They reduce the noise that a combustible engine creates.
  2. They help your vehicle run more smoothly.
  3. They channel exhaust gasses under and away from your vehicle.
Nevada law states:
  1. Every motor vehicle shall at all times be equipped with a muffler in good working order and in constant operation to prevent emissions greater than those allowed by rules and regulations established by the Department. No person shall use a muffler cutout, bypass or similar device upon a motor vehicle on a highway.
  2. The engine and power mechanism of every motor vehicle shall be so equipped and adjusted as to prevent the escape of excessive fumes or smoke.

Windows & Windshield

Nevada law requires that vehicles be equipped with windows and windshields, and prohibits stickers and anything else placed on any window where it gets in your way of safely observing traffic when on a public roadway.

The law covering this says:

A person shall not drive any motor vehicle with any sign, poster or other nontransparent material upon the front windshield, side wings or side or rear windows of such vehicle which obstructs the driver’s clear view of the highway or any intersecting highway.

This section shall not apply to any sign, poster or other material displayed in the 6-inch square area of the lower corner of the windshield farthest removed from the driver or to any other material required to be displayed on a windshield or window by federal or state law.


Every motor vehicle operated on the public roadways in Nevada is required to be equipped with at least one mirror that is located in a position for the driver to view the roadway behind them at a distance of at least of 200 feet.


The purpose of  motor vehicle horn is to warn other drivers. Nevada law allows the horn to be used to ensure safe motor vehicle operation only. This means using the horn for other than emergency use or to provide for safe operation is illegal. Horns are not to be used to annoy and harass others.

The State of Nevada requires that every motor vehicle on a public roadway must be equipped with a horn in good working order and capable of emitting sound audible under normal conditions from a distance of not less than 200 feet. The law also states that the horn must not emit an unreasonably loud or harsh sound or a whistle.

Windshield Wipers

In Nevada, every motor vehicle—except motorcycles or mopeds—that is equipped with a windshield shall be equipped with a self-operating windshield wiper system which must be able to be controlled by the driver of the vehicle.

Just having a windshield wiper is not enough. Nevada law requires the windshield wiper system be maintained in good operating condition and capable of effectively clearing the windshield so as to provide clear vision through the windshield for the driver under all ordinary conditions of rain, snow or other moisture.

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