We have covered servicing, tyres, brakes and fluids of your car in the previous two parts of this article (points 1 – 10). Now let’s continue with the rest of the things on our checklist.
You need to check the lights of your vehicle. By this I mean all the exterior lights, not just the headlights. You will probably need a helper for this. Drivers often forget about the taillights, as we do not see them working while we drive. But they are as important as the headlights to warn traffic behind you of your intentions.
For now, let us inspect the headlights. These work without the ignition of the car turned on. Switch on your lights and go to the front of the car to see if both headlights are working. Now push the stalk for the turn indicator (usually on the left hand side for European vehicles and right hand side for Japanese vehicles of the steering column) forward. This is the bright setting for the headlamps. A blue light will show in the instrument cluster and the headlights should become much brighter. Walk to the front of the vehicle again and check whether the left and right hand headlight shine with the same intensity.
Walk to the back of the car and check that the red lights are illuminated dimly. These work together with the headlights.
Now switch on the ignition and turn on the left turn indicator. Check that they are actually working. There are usually three of these on the outside of the car… one in or close to the left headlamp cluster, one on the left flank or side mirror and one on the rear end of the vehicle. Do the same for the right-hand turn signal. After that, turn on the hazards or emergency warning lights. All six turn indicators of your car should be flashing in unison.
Let’s move on to the brake lights. For this the ignition should also be on for most vehicles. Ask your helper to stand behind the car. Press on the brake pedal with your foot. Your helper should see the red taillights and the centre brake light come on brightly. Let go of the brake pedal.
Turn the headlights on again (dim or bright – it does not matter). Your helper should see the dim rear lights come on. Now press the brake pedal again. This time the helper should notice that rear lights become brighter and the centre brake light come on.
While still holding down the brake pedal, switch on a turn signal – first left and then right. Your helper should note whether everything works as it should, meaning brake lights should not start flashing with turn signals or any other abnormalities. This concludes our lights check.
Press the hooter on the steering wheel. Does it work? Note that for some vehicles the hooter only works with the ignition on.
Now start the engine and switch on the air-conditioning. Hold your hand in front of an air vent. Feel if the air coming from the vent is cold (not cool, but cold). If that is fine, turn the air-con off and try out the heater. If your car has been parked for a couple of hours the air coming from the vents may at first not be warm. In this case you’ll first need to take the vehicle for a spin around the block to warm up the engine, and then test the heater.
Check your windows, electric or old-fashioned winders. Do all windows wind up and down, as they should? This could be very important in an accident especially if you and your trusty car end up in a body of water. (If you have a sunroof make sure that it too closes properly.
Also check the door locks – do all the doors lock? Pull the handles and check. Do all doors lock with the central locking system? Double-check this! Now inspect the child locks if you think you’ll need those. Engage them and see if the rear doors can open from the inside.
The engine of your pride and joy is the heart of the vehicle. But that heart is nothing without the battery. If the battery is not good, then the engine will not start, or may start with some difficulty. If your engine does not start on the first try, then you may need to have your battery checked. Your trusty service centre or any auto-electric vendor can test the battery. If you have any doubts, rather have the battery tested before your trip. Remember, automatic transmission vehicles cannot be push started to get the engine going.
All in all this may all sound like too much for a novice. But it’s actually not too difficult! Just go through everything step by step. Ask a friend or your neighbour to help, and do it beer (or wine) in hand. Have fun… you’ve got this. And remember, if all else fails you can take your beloved wheels to a service centre and have them do the checks.
Travel safely and enjoy the journey!