All vehicles, whether it is new or has some miles on it, need regular inspections. A monthly vehicle inspection is part of preventative maintenance which can help maximize the life and performance of your vehicle. You should make it a habit to perform a monthly vehicle inspection, spending at least 20 minutes on your car, since it can prevent as much as 70 percent of problems that can result in highway breakdowns. A monthly vehicle inspection will include checking the air filter, the battery, brakes, oil, coolant, tires, headlights, turn signals, parking lights, and windshield wipers and windshield washer fluid.
Monthly vehicle inspections should also include checking the critical components such as the horn, coupling devices like fifth wheel and kingpin, seatbelts, lights, steering mechanisms, and mirrors. These inspections and more are needed to keep your car in its proper running order. You don’t have to be a car expert to do all of these. You just need to know what has to be done. To help you with this, we will go through each of these monthly vehicle inspections, so read on!
Monthly Vehicle Inspection: What Should I Check on My Car Regularly?
As mentioned above, you don’t have to be a car expert to perform a monthly vehicle inspection. You just have to know what has to be performed and how often you do it. With this monthly vehicle inspection checklist, you will be able to inspect your car and find out its condition. You will also be able to spot potential problems early, which can help you save money from expensive repair bills in the future. So what should I check on my car regularly? Let’s go through each of them.
- Air filters
Checking your air filters is pretty easy. You should be able to know its location and the instructions on how to check it in your owner’s manual. But usually, you will just need a screwdriver and maybe disconnect one or two electrical connectors.
To check your air filter, you will have to open the air box, remove the air filter and visually inspect it. A somewhat new air filter might have a white, off-white, yellow, or any other color, but you should expect to spot some mild discoloration of a used air filter.
You are expected to replace your air filter if you notice that there are too much dust and dirt in it that you can no longer see the pleats, when there is oil contamination, when you notice bits of the filter falling off or its rubber seal is cracked or deformed, if the filter hasn’t been installed correctly, or when you spot mouse droppings or nesting materials under your car’s hood.
If your air filter is dirty, do not try to clean it using compressed air. This can damage the air filter which can allow dirt and other contaminants to get into your car’s engine. This can result in premature internal wear. If you reside in areas where it's usually dusty, you can try to use a washable foam pre-filter. This can capture most of the dust and you won’t have to have your air filter replaced frequently.
The car battery is an important car component since it supplies big amounts of electrical current for the starter, engine, and other electronic accessories in your car. A quick battery inspection can be done by performing a load test. To do this, you will have to turn on your headlights without starting the engine. Then leave them in the “ON” position for about ten to fifteen minutes. Once the time passes, turn on your car and pay attention to the brightness of your headlights.
If your headlights seem dim as the engine turns over, then it means that your car battery did not pass the load test. It is an indication that there is a problem since the battery should be able to hold enough charge to handle the ten to fifteen minute time frame before the engine starts and when it turns over. You should have your battery checked or replaced to make sure you won’t get stranded somewhere due to a dead car battery.
Another thing that should be performed in your monthly vehicle inspection is checking your brakes. You can check your brakes in two steps. One is to find a safe area to test your car’s brake and check for any pulsation on your brake pedal. Then step on the brake pedal to brake to a stop from about 30 mph. There should be no pulsation felt at all. The braking should feel smooth. You can then try to brake at highway speeds and if you feel a pulsation, then it is an indication that your rotors are warped. Have them checked immediately.
Next step is to check the brake pad thickness. To do this, you need to remove a front wheel with a cold engine. Get a compass and a tape measure and use them to check the brake pad thickness. It should read about half an inch. If the pads are less than ⅛ inch, they should be replaced. You then need to compare the readings from top to bottom. Their readings should not vary by more than 1/16 inch. If they vary, then your caliper is faulty and needs to be serviced.
Oil is considered as the lifeblood of your engine. You need to check it as part of your monthly vehicle inspection. To check it, you need to park your car on level ground with the engine turned off, the transmission in lower gear or park, and with the parking brake engaged. Then open the hood and find the dipstick. Pull the dipstick fully out and wipe any oil off of the end of the dipstick.
Then insert the dipstick back into the tube slowly, pushing it all the way down. Pull it out again and look closely at its tip. You should see oil on it. If the oil level is between the two lines on the dipstick, then your car has enough oil. If the level is at the low mark or below, then top it off. When you’ve added oil, wait for a few minutes for it to drain down into the crankcase. Then check it again to make sure that you have the right level of oil.
The coolant is responsible for keeping your engine cool and preventing overheating. That is why checking it should be part of your monthly vehicle inspection. To check your coolant level, park your car on level ground and make sure that your car has cooled down. Then open your hood and find the radiator and coolant reservoir. The reservoir is usually a clear plastic, so you can easily see your coolant level.
If you notice that it’s level is low, you can top it off. However, you need to check your current coolant before topping it off. Check for any contaminants or unusual coloring. A healthy coolant has a color of blue, yellow, red, or green. If you see a colorless or rust-colored coolant, with particles or is sludgy, then it means that it is contaminated. You need to have your car checked immediately.
You should also check the condition of your tires. You should inspect their treads and sidewalls and look for any signs of damage such as scrapes, cuts, punctures, bumps, cracks, or bulges. As part of the monthly vehicle inspection, assess your tires’ tread depth to ensure that they have enough traction to grip the road. You can do the penny test to assess them. Just put a penny upside down in your tire tread and if you see the top of Lincoln’s head, then your tire is due for a replacement.
Another thing you should check is your tire pressure. You can use a tire pressure gauge to do this. You need to make sure that they are properly inflated.To know the right pressure for your tire, check your owner’s manual.
- Headlights, turn signals, brake, reverse, and parking lights
To check your car’s lights, you need to park your car facing a wall with your engine turned off, handbrake engaged, and the ignition in the ACC position. To check your headlights, start with the low beam lights. You can do this by switching the headlights on to low beam position. Check on the wall in front if they are functioning properly. Then check the high beam lights after and they should be slightly brighter.
Then check the turn signals. You will usually know if it is not working when there is a change in indicator sound. The faulty side will usually click faster than normal. To check if a light is out, turn on your hazard lights on and check each light. Check the front, sides, and rear.
To check your brake and reverse lights, you need to check them in a dark garage or against a wall. Check if all the lights are working. You may be able to tell if a light is not working by the dimming or absence of the light reflecting against the wall.
Now, for the park lights, you need to turn your headlights onto the park light function. Then walk around to check whether the park or tail lights are working properly. You should expect to have one light on each of your car’s corners and a light at the rear that illuminates your number plate.
- Windshield wipers and windshield washer fluid
Your car’s windshield wipers are one of its safety features. They help keep your windshield clean and clear so you will be able to see the roadway. That is why it is important to check them regularly and include them in your monthly vehicle inspection.
Your car’s wiper blades should be replaced every 6 to 12 months. But there are some factors that can cause them to become damaged or wear out prematurely. That is why you need to inspect your blades regularly and check if they need replacements. To determine if they are still working properly, you need to pay attention to how they clean your windshield.
If you notice that they are no longer doing a good job, then it is due for a replacement. You should also pay attention to any unusual noises which can indicate that the wiper blades are no longer moving smoothly across your windshield glass. You should also visually inspect your wiper blades. Look at the frame and see if there are any signs of damage or if it is bent or broken. You also need to ensure that the wiper blades are still flexible.
After checking the wiper blades, you should also check your windshield wiper fluid. To do this, you need to open your hood and find the wiper fluid reservoir fill cap. It can be usually found on either side of the engine compartment, near the front benders. But sometimes, you can find it at the back, near the base of the windshield.
Check the wiper fluid level. If it is low, top it off. Open the fluid reservoir fill cap and add the wiper fluid directly into the reservoir until it is full. You might need to use a funnel to do this. Once done, you can close the fill cap tightly and close your car’s hood gently.
Doing a monthly vehicle inspection can help maximize the life of your car and its components. It can help you save money in the long run since you won’t have to deal with expensive repair bills due to problems that will most likely happen on cars that are not well maintained. Aside from checking the components listed above, you should also check your horn, seatbelts, steering mechanisms, and mirrors regularly.
If you do this monthly vehicle inspection, you will be able to prove that your car has been well maintained, if you are planning to sell your car in the future. Even if you are not selling it, you will have a peace of mind knowing that your car won’t be giving you problems any time soon.