Check a Car Before Driving
Driving an automobile is one of the potentially most dangerous things people do, but you can prevent certain problems if you know how to check your car before driving. Visual inspections may prevent an accident caused by a blown tire, and many other potential hazards.
- Check under the car for obvious leaks. Driving with leaking fluid may cause failure of the steering, brakes or radiator.
- Check the tires for proper inflation and any obvious damage or signs of excessive wear. In a worst-case scenario, a blown tire could cause you to crash.
- Ask someone to stand behind your car to check the lights. Turn on the car and activate the directional signals, then apply the brakes and put the car in reverse so the person can see if lights are working correctly.
- Ask the person to stand in front of the vehicle, then turn on the headlights and activate the directional signals.
- Check the back seat or seats to make sure no one is hiding there. Carjackers sometimes hide in the back seat, then surprise the driver once the car is started.
- Check your windows to make sure you have good visibility. Check mirrors to be sure they are aligned properly, giving you a proper view of the road.
- Know how the gauges on your dashboard should look when everything is working properly. Check the gauges every time you start your car. Check the engine temperature gauge after the engine has had time to warm.
- Check the vents, heating system and air conditioning to be sure they are in working order so you can defog or defrost the windows when necessary.
- Check fluids in the car periodically.
Check the oil weekly. Check the brake and power steering fluids and engine coolant transmission fluids monthly or before a long trip to be sure they are full. Check fluids when the engine is cold. Fill the wiper fluid if necessary.
- Read the owner's manual for directions on how to check the fluids. Engine fluid levels—including oil, brake fluid, and power steering fluids—are easy to check via dipsticks found under the hood. Engine coolant is visible in a plastic container apart from the radiator on newer vehicles.
- Have the battery tested before a trip. Although you can take have the battery tested by a mechanic, you can check for obvious signs of corrosion on the terminals or for signs of cracks or leaks. Have the battery fixed or replaced immediately if you find anything wrong.
- Activate your windshield wipers and sprayer to be certain they work.
- Check your air filter before a long trip, as it can affect fuel efficiency and engine performance.
- Make sure the spare tire is inflated and serviceable and the jack is present. It's a good idea to check them periodically even if you aren't going on a long trip.
- Service stations check automobiles for drivers taking long road trips. A service station or mechanic should also check the steering, suspension, and drivetrain.
- Have a mechanic check your car right away if you smell unusual odors or if your car uses more fluids than usual.