Mechanics

Vehicle Maintenance and Safety Inspection

Easy step by step guide on how to prepare a vehicle for travel (can be performed anytime), this article pertains to all vehicles.

Difficulty Scale: 2 of 10

Step 1 - An automotive engine relies on clean oil to lubricate the internal working parts of the engine. If engine service is overdue, perform an oil change including the filter. Check the engine oil level and add until between the "ADD" and "FULL" indicators of the dip stick.


Add Engine Oil

Step 2 - Wiper blades are needed to clean the windshield free from water and debris. Inspect wipers for cracks or degradation and replace if worn.


Wiper Blade

Step 3 - Coolant is used to help avoid expansion inside the engine block which would cause damage. If coolant is weak, corrosion causing acids can form which produces component failure. Service the cooling system at regular intervals to avoid the negative effects of neglect.


Adding Coolant

Step 4 - Good tire condition is essential for driving in wet and icy roads. Inspect tire tread wear and also test air pressure levels.


Tire Tread

Step 5 - Typically in winter months an automotive battery is prone to failure. Due to the drop in temperature the plates inside the battery can become weak which causes the failure. To avoid battery problems perform a load test which will detect failure, replace the battery if weak.


Replace Battery

Step 6 - In winter months proper illumination for the vehicle is imperative to safe driving. Inspect all lighting systems including the headlights, if failed replace the bulbs with new.


Headlights

Step 7 - Brake lights are used to warn drivers of an anticipated vehicle stop. Beyond normal lighting systems the brake lights represent an apparant safety issue.


Brake Lights

Step 8 - The serpentine drive belt is needed for the engine to operate correctly. Inspect the belt for cracks and glazing, replace the serpentine belt if these conditions exist.


Inspect Serpentine Belt

Step 9 - Washer fluid or solvent is used to help clear the windshield of dirt and debris with the assistance of the wipers, inspect the level of the washer solvent and add if needed.


Washer Fluid

Step 10 - An automatic transmission relies on fluid to operate correctly, inspect the fluid while the engine is running to determine level and condition of the fluid, service the transmission if needed.


Checking Transmission Fluid

Step 11 - Power steering fluid is used to assist the the hydraulic pump which is powered by the engine to assist the steering operation of the vehicle, Check fluid levels to ensure proper operation. If the fluid smells burnt or is discolored service the system by performing a fluid flush.


Inspecting Brake Fluid

Step 12 - Brake fluid is used to actuate the brake system front and rear brakes. Inspect the systems brake fluid reservoir which is usually integrated into the brake master cylinder. Typically brake fluid does not evaporate so if the system is low, the front brake pads may need replacement. If the fluid is dirty perform a bleed and flush.


Adding Brake Fluid

Step 13 - Checking cooling system hoses help prevent a hose rupture, squeeze each hose to check for cracking or weak spots and bulging, these are signs the hoses need to be replaced.


Checking Upper Radiator Hose

Helpful Information

Preventative maintenance inspections are beneficial to a safe journey. Most inspections can be performed by opening the hood of the vehicle. Antifreeze or engine coolant, should be checked to avoid boil over's and protection against a freezing point which can cause engine damage. Wiper blades should sit firmly on the windshield to help eliminate streaks. Refilling the washer fluid with proper solvent will help avoid freezing. Corroded battery terminals can cause a weak connection at the battery which causes the engine to not start. A batteries life is limited, and should be replaced regardless of performance every five years.

During winter months it is imperative to have proper tires for the condition. Tire pressure should be checked and have at least 5/32” of tread, snow tires should be installed were needed, check the spare tire as well. Keep an emergency medical kit in the vehicle along with a blanket, gloves, boots, food, water, etc. These items can be very helpful if the vehicle becomes disabled. In snow, sand or kitty litter can help the vehicle gain traction by applying these substances at the drive wheels. A small shovel can be also used to dig deep snow away from the vehicle’s tires.

AUTHOR


Written by
Co-Founder and CEO of 2CarPros.com
35 years in the automotive repair field, ASE Master Technician, Advanced Electrical and Mechanical Theory.


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Article first published (Updated 2015-03-12)