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Learning to drive

Carrying out vehicle checks

No one expects you to have the knowledge of a mechanic to pass your test but you do need to know how to take care of your car on a day-to-day basis.

Sadly, your dad probably won’t still be happy to come and pick you up when you’re 30. That stuff gets a bit embarrassing after a certain age.

Regularly checking your car can:

  • Prolong the life of your car, making it easier to sell it on
  • Keep your car legal and safe to drive
  • Save you fuel by keeping your car running efficiently
  • Prevent a whole lot of hassle
Don't forget that simple car maintenance will come up in your test in the show me, tell me questions.
 

Daily checks (alright, weekly)

There are some things you should try to check on your car every time that you’re planning on using it. It’s as simple as walking around your car every morning to check that:

  • Your tyres aren’t flat
  • There’s no damage to your lights
  • There’s no loose trim (that’s things like your bumper and the plastic round your windows)
  • There are no cracks or chips in your windows or windscreen
  • There’s no oil leaking from your vehicle (you’ll notice black puddles or stains under your car)

You should also make sure that your windows and windscreen are clean so that you can see the road properly.

Regular checks

Keeping an eye on your car’s general health and happiness can help it stay in good condition, which in turn helps parts last longer.

It also means that you may see something that is starting to wear and you can get it fixed before it turns into an expensive problem.

There’s a handy acronym for the regular checks you should make on your vehicle: POWER.

P: Petrol (or diesel - sorry)

Always remember to make sure that you’ve got enough petrol to get to your destination - don’t try to get there on hopes and wishes because it’s payday tomorrow!

Allow a little extra too because you never know when that short cut will turn into a very long cut and you don’t want to be caught out.

Running your car to empty means forcing the engine to use the sediment - the dirty, nasty stuff that settles at the bottom. Not good.
 

O: Oil

Your car needs oil to run well, it’s as simple as that. You know the saying ‘like a well-oiled machine’? That’s what your car needs to be.

Some cars have a light on the dashboard that’ll tell you if your oil is low but some don’t, so make sure you know your car.

Watch our 1-minute video on checking and filling your oil.

Check the brake fluid level and the clutch fluid level while you’re under the bonnet.
 

W: Water

Check your radiator’s tank for the coolant level - it’s the biggest plastic tank and will probably have a screw cap but some older cars just have a cap on the radiator itself.

The fluid is a mix of water and coolant, which is what stops your car from overheating when you’re driving it.

In winter, this is also where your antifreeze goes.

Make sure your engine is cold before checking it or the pressurised hot water could give you a nasty surprise.
 

E: Electrics

Take the time to do a quick check that all your lights and indicators are working. Seeing and being seen is vital to staying safe on the road.

Remember that a light out can land you with a Fixed Penalty Notice from the police.

Get someone to help you check your brake lights are working - humans just weren’t made to stretch that way.
 

R: Rubber

Check your tyres! You should check that your tyres are well pumped up every time you drive your vehicle.

Your tread is what helps stop your car skidding, so make sure that it’s always well above the legal limit of 1.6mm and that there are no cuts or bulges. Make sure you check your spare too!

Don't forget to keep an eye on your spare tyre's tread too.

Taking good care of your vehicle is another way of taking good care of yourself. A healthy car is a safe car - and it’s also a car that won’t cost you a fortune in garage bills.

Go through the show me tell me questions so you're ready for the vehicle checks in your driving test.

Watch our 1-minute video on checking and filling your oil

By

Honor joined ingenie in 2014 and is in charge of words on the Young Driver's Guide and blog. Her first car is a Peugeot 206 cabriolet, which is a very sensible choice for the British climate. Follow her on .