The importance of vehicle walkaround checks

Driver point of view of in rainy conditions.

Published 25 January 2024
Last updated 26 February 2024

Hello! In this blog, we’re going to look at vehicle maintenance and discover why a little bit of regular checking can make a whole lot of difference to your safety and the safety of other drivers.

Why are walkaround checks important?

Let’s imagine that you’re at an airport ready to fly out for a holiday. After you battled through the ticket gates, your airline announced that they’ve sent their engineers away on a day trip to Brighton and there’s nobody available to check the planes. Would you be happy to fly?

OK, this wouldn’t happen. But the key point is that passengers on planes, boats and trains expect safety to be taken care of by teams of experts. Yet sometimes, when we’re in charge of our own vehicles, it’s all too easy to *expect* that everything is OK and forget to do some basic maintenance ourselves.

Unfortunately, like any machine, your car needs looking after. That’s why it makes sense to give it a check before you set off – particularly if you plan to make a long journey.

What to check…

So, what are you supposed to check and how often? Well, realistically, if you’re making regular short trips for work or leisure, most of it will involve a quick visual check. That said, you should try and make time to apply the following tips in detail at least twice a week, to keep your vehicle running in tip-top condition.

  • Check your windscreen, side and rear windows to make sure they are clean, and there are no cracks or chips. Small cracks can rapidly become larger thanks to the vibration of the car, changes in temperature and impacts from stones and other debris. If you spot a crack or a chip, however small, it’s best to get take it to a garage and get a professional to look at it
  • While we’re on windows, you should check the wipers work and clear the windscreen without leaving streaks or smears. Replace them if they’re not doing their job properly
  • Still on windows, you should make sure the windscreen-washers work and the washer bottle isn’t empty. Use a proper windscreen-washer fluid because this helps clean the windscreen and gives some protection against freezing in the cold weather
  • Well-maintained tyres are extremely important. As the only part of your vehicle that’s in contact with the road, they play a crucial role in providing good grip for handling and stability. Once the tread begins to wear out or the tyre wall becomes perished, the risks start to increase. Make sure this does not happen by keeping an eye on your tyres. The minimum legally allowed tread depth is 1.6mm right the way across the central three quarters of the tyre. The easiest way to check that you’re OK is to buy a tread-depth gauge. They do not cost much but they could save you from a whole lot of bother – like getting stopped by the police and having 3 penalty points slapped on your licence for every tyre that has tread below the legal limit
  • You should also check your vehicle’s tyre pressure. Too much, and your tyres will wear out much faster and have less grip; too little and your car could have steering, braking, cornering and stability problems. The tyres may also overheat and are at increased risk of puncturing. Check your vehicle’s handbook for the correct tyre pressures. There will be different figures for when the car is laden or unladen. If you plan to carry luggage and/or passengers, you’ll want to inflate the tyres to the laden weight pressure shown in your handbook
  • Finally, it’s worth checking that your vehicle’s lights are working. You’ll need someone to help you with this. Switch your headlights on dipped and main beam and test your indicators. Then ask your lucky assistant to walk round to the back of your vehicle while you test your brake lights and rear lights. If anything’s out, make sure you change the bulbs before you leave. Your manufacturer’s manual will tell you the type of bulbs you need and how to change them.

Checking out…

So that’s some important things to check before you take your vehicle out. Of course, this is not the full story. It’s also a good idea to learn how to check the oil and the water – two skills we’ve covered in previous blogs.

For even more information on vehicle checks – and loads of other brilliant advice – pop over to the Safe Driving for Life Shop and grab a copy of Driving – The Essential Skills. It’s the industry standard driving manual and it’s packed full of tips and techniques designed to make you a better driver.

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