Easy step by step guide on how to prepare a vehicle for travel (can be performed
anytime), while checking the maintenance, though appearances may vary the process
is similar for most vehicles.
Difficulty Scale: 3 of 10
- A vehicle relies on several fluids to
maintain proper operation such as engine oil and coolant, when these fluids run low they can
causes minor or major problems. Learn
Checking Engine Oil
Step 2 - If engine service is overdue (dark oil
on stick), perform an
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 3 - Wiper blades are needed to clean the windshield
free from water and debris, inspect wipers for cracks or degradation, they should
also sit firmly on the windshield to help eliminate streaks.
Step 4 - Wiper blades are a normal maintenance
item and should be replaced regularly. Please visit
wiper blade replacement guide
for further information.
Step 5 - 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.
Step 6 - Coolant is used to transfer engine heat to the radiator and to help avoid expansion inside the engine block in freezing temperatures which will cause serious engine
damage. If the coolant is weak, corrosion causing acids can form which can cause
water pump and gasket failures. Service the
at regular intervals to avoid the negative effects of neglect.
Step 7 - Good tire condition is essential for
driving in wet and icy roads, check tire condition by inspecting side wall condition
and air pressure readings.
Step 8 - Also
inspect tire tread wear patterns
Tire Safety Inspection
can indicate additional problems such as shock or strut wear. Tires should have
at least 5/32” of tread, snow tires should be installed when needed, check the spare
tire as well and carry chains in snowy conditions.
Step 9 - Typically in winter months an automotive
battery is prone to failure due to the drop in temperature. To avoid battery problems
which will detect failure,
replace the battery
if weak, also inspect and
clean the battery terminals
if corroded. A battery's life is limited, and should
be replaced regardless of performance every five years.
Step 10 - Inspect headlight operation including
which have failed with new, clean or replace lens as needed.
Step 11 - Brake lights are used to warn drivers
of an anticipated vehicle stop, beyond normal lighting systems the
represent a safety issue.
Step 12 - Turn indicators help warn of an intended
lane change, check their operation by turning the ignition key to the "ON" position,
work the lever in each direction while observing bulb operation and
Step 13 - The serpentine drive belt is needed for
the engine to operate correctly, using a flashlight inspect the belt for cracks
Exterior Light Inspection
Step 14 - Replaced the belt when signs of wear
are present, please visit
Inspect Serpentine Belt
for further information.
Step 15 - 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
Serpentine Belt Replacement
Step 16 - Power steering fluid is used to assist
the steering pump, check fluid levels to ensure proper operation, if the fluid smells
burnt or is discolored service the system by performing a
Checking Transmission Fluid
Step 17 - Brake fluid is used to actuate the brake
system, inspect the brake fluid level in the reservoir. Typically this fluid does
not evaporate so if the system is low, the
front brake pads
Inspecting Brake Fluid
may need replacement or there is a leak somewhere in the system,
if the fluid is dirty perform a
bleed and flush
Step 18 - Checking cooling system hoses help prevent
unexpected hose ruptures, squeeze each hose to check for cracking, weak spots or
bulging, these are signs the hoses need to be replaced.
Adding Brake Fluid
Step 19 - Coolant hoses are a normal service item
and should be replaced when signs of wear are present. Please visit
Checking Upper Radiator Hose
for more information.
Step 20 - An airbag safety system is used to help
keep passengers safe in the event of an accident, if the airbag warning light is
on while driving the system is non-operational. Please visit
Radiator Hose Replacement
for further information.
Step 21 - Identify warning lights such as a
check engine soon light
Airbag Warning Light
illuminated in the instrument cluster while driving,
these lights indicate a problem that needs attention, identifying a problem early
can mean the difference from a simple repair, or a costly one.
Step 22 - It's the driver's responsibility that
everyone in the vehicle is fastened securely, make sure all safety belts are working
properly and stay fastened after being buckled.
Step 23 - Learn
basic driver tips
information every driver should know which will keep you safe while traveling.
Preventative maintenance inspections are beneficial to a safe journey. Keep a
first aid kit, blanket, bottled water, food snacks, basic tool kit and road flares
handy during long trips or when 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.
Article first published 2016-04-28