Contrary to popular belief, the pre-trip inspection is not just for Class 1 drivers. Us lowly Class 5’vers are supposed to do it too. Don’t believe me? Hop into your way-back machine and recall a time when you were a wee little shaver sitting in drivers training (for some of us this may be longer ago than we care to admit). Can you recall your instructor talking about a vehicle walk around? And how this walk around was to be done every time you drive your car? Sure you can. Think I’m being overly paternal and condescending, and that it’s a waste of precious seconds? Seconds that could be better spent in the Timmie’s drive through dreaming of that sweet sweet maple glaze on your way to work? You’d be wrong, and here’s why.
The pre-trip inspection is one of the fastest and easiest ways to ensure the general safety and road worthiness of your vehicle. Done efficiently, it can be completed while your vehicle is warming up. After all, you shouldn’t be driving away right after starting your car anyway. I mean think about it, you don’t wake up in the morning and immediately run a 100 yard dash. You stretch, get the blood flowing, the joints lubricated, etc. When your car is first started, it’s doing the same thing. Getting the oil flowing, the coolant circulating, etc. Give your car a minute or two to get settled in the morning, and while doing that, why not complete the pre-trip?
So what should you be doing? Well, for the daily pre-trip inspection, the way I recommend it is to complete two loops, one clockwise, and one counter-clockwise. For the clockwise loop, turn on the left turn indicator, the low beams, and check the following:
-Leaks under the engine bay/front of the car
-Left turn signals front and rear
-Headlight low beams left and right
-Obvious body damage
-Fuel cap cover
For the counter-clockwise loop, turn on the right turn signal, high beams, and check the following:
-Right turn signals front and rear
-Headlight high beams left and right
-Tire wear/inflation (visual)
-Exhaust/muffler/leaks under the rear of the car
-Re-check for any obvious body damage (you’ll be looking at the car from the other direction and may catch things you missed).
So what should you be looking for on each of these checks?? I’m glad you asked!
-Tires: Look for abnormal wear and obvious low pressure
-Leaks: Check to see if they are there, and if they are, check color, smell, and viscosity (wash your hands after)
-Turn indicators: Make sure they are blinking and that the left and right indicators blink at the same speed
-Headlights: Make sure the high beams and low beams engage, and that the low beams are pointed in the right direction (i.e. downwards, and not likely to blind oncoming traffic)
-Obvious body damage: Check for wider than normal panel gaps, skid panels hanging from under the vehicle, and dents, dings and scratches
-Fuel cap cover: Just make sure it's closed; you don't want to look like a nob driving down the road
-Windshield: Look for chips, cracks, and pitting
-Windshield wipers: Make sure the blade is sound and the windshield is free of streak marks
-Exhaust/Muffler: Make sure it not hanging abnormally low, that there is no billowing smoke, and that the exhaust note is not rattling or buzzing
After all that, you’ve done it. You’ve completed a quick (1-2 minute) walk around and ensured that your vehicle can happily scoot you off to your daily 9-5 grind. You and the commuters around you are now safer for it. Bravo! You’ve earned that maple glaze and large double-double!! Not only that, you’ve scanned for things that could indicate more serious problems (such as fluid leaks) that if not addressed in a quickish fashion, could lead to major repair bills down the road. But let’s not forget what else you’ve done. In taking these extra few minutes before popping the car in gear and dropping the hammer, you’ve let the engine get lubricated and ready for whatever hooning abuse you have planned for it.
But wait you say, what about the brake lights! Oh I haven't forgotten about those. Once you are snuggly in your car, look in the rearview mirror and press the break pedal. Scan the surrounding cars and/or reflective surfaces in the mirror for red light. If you see it you know at least 1 of your break lights is working. Now, off to Timmies.