Anyone who took the K53 driver’s licence test will also recall the tedious 30-point exterior and 8-point interior pre-trip vehicle inspection. This includes checking everything from the exterior mirrors and windscreen to the number plate, indicator lenses and seat belts.
The day you passed the test was probably the last time you did such a thorough check of your car but all drivers should in fact regularly check their vehicles to ensure that everything is in good working order, both inside and out.
Every morning when you approach your vehicle, it’s a good idea to glance at the tyres to ensure that they are not deflated. Also check that all valve caps are in place and that there are no objects such as nails or pieces of wire protruding from any of the tyres. You should check for serious damage to the tyre walls.
Take note of your number plates. If these are loose, they could fall off during your daily commute. Not only will replacing them be expensive, but you could also get a fine!
Lights and indicators
Take note of the lights and indicator lenses – are they cracked or broken? If there is any obvious damage, it would be wise to have the items repaired or replaced sooner rather than later.
Is there any other noticeable damage? This could include a loose bumper, side mirror or window beading. These could come off completely during your drive and cause further – possibly expensive – damage.
Is the fuel filler flap closed? If not, make sure that the filler cap is still in position.
Windscreen and windows
Once inside the vehicle, check for damage to the windscreen or other windows. Remember that a small chip could potentially become a big crack so it’s wise to keep an eye on it and have it seen to before it becomes a safety issue.
Under the vehicle
Take a quick look under the vehicle for any obvious oil and water leaks or obstructions. These could be an indication of loose engine hoses, perished seals or worse. If there are noticeable leaks, fluids and oil will need to be topped up, but you will also need to identify the cause of the problem.
Before you drive off, check for obstructions in the foot well before checking the pressure of the clutch and brake pedals. Make sure that all the gauges work and keep an eye out for any warning lights that might come on when you turn the key in the ignition.
Once a week
Even out of the rainy season you should check that the windscreen wipers work properly. There’s nothing worse than being surprised by a sudden rain storm and discovering that the wiper blades have perished. You also never know when you’ll need to clean the windscreen while driving so ensure that the water reservoir is full.
Lights and indicators
Have someone stand outside the vehicle while you activate the headlights and indicators to ensure that they work, front and rear. Depress the brake pedal to check the brake lights and put the vehicle in reverse to ensure that those lights work too.
If any of the lights aren’t working you could be fined or worse, you could cause a collision.
Once a month
Tyres and wheels
Check the tread on all tyres (including the spare) at regular intervals and replace or rotate them if necessary. Also, check that the wheel nuts are secure.
While checking the spare wheel, make sure that the jack and wheel spanner are still in the vehicle and in good working order.
It is also advisable to check oil, water and brake and power steering fluid levels at regular intervals. These will need to be topped up if they’ve dropped below the required levels. The same goes for battery fluid levels.
Remember to check fluids while the engine is cold and if you aren’t sure how or where to do the checks, refer to the owner’s manual.
Doors and windows
If you normally travel alone, it’s wise to check all doors and windows on the vehicle regularly to ensure that they open and close properly. The same goes for the boot and bonnet lids.
Keep it clean
The easiest way to pick up on any issues with your vehicle is by washing it yourself. If done thoroughly and regularly, you should be able to detect problems ranging from damage to the tyre sidewalls, to radiator leaks and moisture behind the headlight lenses.
Although none of us have the time to do a full K53-prescribed pre-trip inspection every time we set off, basic awareness of the condition of your vehicle could go a long way towards avoiding dangerous situations. Take a few extra minutes every day to ensure that your vehicle is in top shape.
It could just save your life!