Safety checks - What to check before driving

Safety checks - What to check before driving

Cars are complicated machines, involving many systems and components. In order to maintain trouble-free motoring, there are a few important things every motorist should know and check regularly.  

The first port of call for any maintenance should be your owner's handbook. This gives details of all the user-serviceable systems in the car and how to check them. They will give vehicle-specific advice you may need to know. 

When to check 

Even if you drive your car every day, you should be vigilant in checking these safety-critical items, some of them won’t need an inspection. You’ll interact with them directly by using your car, but it’s still prudent to be able to detect and rectify issues.  

With the average motorist spending over £800 on car repairs in 2021, it’s good to get ahead and be prepared. 

With many vehicles going largely unused over the pandemic, we’d recommend carrying out these checks every few weeks with normal usage, and especially before a long drive, e.g. before setting off on holiday, you'll want to do some checks


Make sure they are at the correct pressure, a pressure gauge is ideal, but a daily visual check will ensure you haven’t developed a flat. Check your owner’s manual for recommended tyre pressures. Be sure to pay attention to how heavily loaded the car will be, e.g. luggage and additional passengers. 

Keep an eye out for the tyres perishing, bulging or wearing unevenly. 


Get a helper to walk around your car whilst you test the various headlight and brake light settings.  Also, check for the correct indicator and hazard warning light function. 


You’ll probably notice this without meaning to, but just check all your mirrors are still present, clean and correctly adjusted.


This is again something you directly interact with, but if the belt feels slack, overly tight or restricted or there is a different noise or feel when you clip in, don’t drive until it can be inspected by a professional. Before driving with children, check their seatbelts for them. 


It seems obvious, but there were over 800,000 cases of drivers needing to be rescued after running out of fuel in 2015, according to a study by LV=. Be especially careful if you live or are travelling to remote areas where fuel stations could be few and far between.  

Dashboard lights 

After you’ve started the car, check the dash for warning lights. It's good to do this regularly too, such as when you’ve reached your destination. 

Engine fluids 

Oil should not be missed in your vehicle inspection, make sure the oil level is between the minimum and maximum. The colour should be a dark brown, if the oil is black, check your service interval log for overdue oil changes.  

Coolant should also be monitored, the colour will either be red/orange or blue/green depending on the age of the vehicle. If the coolant is dark or colourless, take your car to a garage as it may need a coolant change. 

Brake fluid and power steering fluid are similar to engine oil, check the level is correct, and the fluid is not excessively dark.  

For information on where to find the relevant tanks, consult your owner’s manual, as that will describe the location and appearance of the cap.  

Taking your car on holiday? 

With the possibility of being stranded far away from home, and the increased strain on your vehicle from elevated operating temperatures, checking your car over before a long trip is essential. 

Luggage and extra people can affect how your car performs and exacerbates any pre-existing issues with tyres, brakes and suspension components.  

Ensure any roof rack boxes, bike racks and other attachments are well secured, be sure to check the loading capacity of your vehicle too, a plate inside the door is usually the best source of this information.  

If driving in Europe, make sure you’re equipped with the required safety equipment and know what to do if you break down abroad.

When driving 


When setting off, be aware of any strange noises or feeling from the steering, especially when turning. If you do, stop in a safe position and seek professional advice. 


Similar to the steering, before you start your journey, be sure your brakes feel and sound normal, long pedal travel or a squidgy pedal can indicate a leak, squealing or scraping can indicate worn pads. If anything at all is amiss, seek advice.  


When accelerating and cruising, listen for anything out of the ordinary, or if the car feels sluggish or slow to accelerate. Hesitation could be caused by various faults and may well be minor.  

Juddering when up to speed is often indicative of wheel miss-balancing, and under braking is usually caused by warped brake discs. If you experience any of these issues you should seek help as soon as possible.  

To make the whole process easier, check out Bumper’s interest-free monthly payments for car repairs.  

To be approved for a Credit Limit of up to £5,000 and search for garages and dealerships near you on the Bumper network, and enter your registration and postcode.

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