How Do You Prepare Your Vehicle?
For me, a “pre-trip inspection” is second nature. As a NYCTA bus driver, we perform those (and are required to do so) once or more every day on every bus we drive. When taking my vehicle on any extended road trip, I always give it a full and complete visual inspection. Here’s my checklist (void at the moment of gadgets and accessories):
- Windshield: check for cracks, rock damage and visibility.
- Windshield molding: check for leakage using a garden hose.
- Wipers and Wiper Area: remove debris (leaves), check for glass contact and cleanliness. Replace blades as needed.
- Hood & Front End: check grill for debris, ensure hood is locked, headlight bezels and antennas are secure.
- Tires: check inflation, debris in tread, proper tread depth, and for tears, holes and bulges in rubber.
- Wheels: check rims for damage. Check nuts are secure.
- Body panels: check all for rust, damage and that none are loose. Check bumpers.
- Doors and Mirrors: remove any debris from rubber molding, clean as required. Lube door hinges. Check locks and handles.
- Rooftop: check all antennas for tightness, check all old drilled holes for water leakage.
- Side & Rear Windows: ensure no cracks in glass, glass firmly against rubber molding.
- Rear Hatch: clean debris, lube shaft arms.
- Activate and inspect all lights and reflectors, including backup lights. Clean bezels as required.
- Check exhaust system for cracks/damage and tail pipe for blockage.
- Remove undercarriage debris and check for damage. Remove road salts, oils, etc.
- Check license plate for tightness and remove debris.
- Check registration and inspection sticker expiration dates.
Engine Area Inspection
- Check all wires, plugs, belts, hoses.
- Activate wipers and evaluate washer squirt performance. Check hoses as needed.
- Check all existing and newly installed electrical wiring for damage.
- Check battery voltage and battery terminals for oxidation and tightness.
- Check all fluid levels (but do not yet top-off).
- Radiator and fan blades.
- Allow van to run and check for any fluid leaks (before topping anything off).
- Top off all fluids (brake, transmission, power steering, radiator, wiper, etc) as needed.
- Lube hood lock and hood hinges.
- Replace air filters.
- Remove any debris from the area.
- Check all lights, gauges, switches, panel indicators, the horn and wipers.
- Ensure vehicle temperature remains within normal range.
- Ensure wipers fully clean the windshield.
- Run and check effectiveness of the heating system.
- Run and check effectiveness of the air conditioning system.
- Monitor battery voltage indicator for voltage drops.
- Check power door locks.
- Check all seats and seat belts.
- Activate all accessories (factory and aftermarket) and check for problems.
- Check both power inverters and their connections.
- Check and clean interior mirrors as needed.
- Clean all interior glass as needed.
- Check LCD TV mount and brackets for tightness.
- Ensure the bed is firmly secured.
- Check “emergency kit contents” and replace as needed.
- Ensure spare tire, jack and jumper cables are in the vehicle and are in good order.
- Check steering and suspension. Check sharp turns for noises or vibration.
- Check brakes and pedal firmness. Test brakes from high speed (40 MPH).
- Listen for any unknown noises, squeaks, squeals, howls, etc.
- Check parking brake effectiveness.
In-Vehicle “Must Haves”
- Personal emergency kit (bandages, antiseptics, first aid supplies, etc).
- Vehicle emergency kit (flares, road reflectors, reflecting vest, jumper cable, jack and tire iron, spare fluids, etc)
- Spare fuses and bulbs. I carry a spare headlamp, flasher and reverse lamp at all times.
- An old spare camera.
- Household and vehicle camera and cell phone chargers.
- License, registration and inspection paperwork. A separate photocopy as well.
- Cleaning supplies (Lysol, Windex, hand sanitizer and ample paper towels)
- Toilet paper, napkins, tissues and garbage bags of different sizes.
- Cups, plates and disposable utensils.
- Extra set of clothes and old shoes or boots.
- A shovel and a tow rope.
- Pen(s) and pad(s).
- A dedicated area for garbage (and disposed of properly afterward).
- Room temperature snacks, water, drinks, etc.
- A complete tool box.
- A “hidden” spare access/valet key.
- A flashlight (and a second floodlight type 12v battery clamping light).
- Gloves, a warm hat with ear flaps, a spare waterproof poncho or long jacket.
- An umbrella.
- A snow brush and ice remover/scraper.
Is your checklist (assuming you have one, and I sure hope you do!) similar?
In addition to performing this inspection myself, I’ll usually also have a mechanic give it the once over and change the oil as well. And if a tune-up is needed, have that done at the time. As well as replace any worn belts and hoses. We also carry a ton of extra stuff not at all related to safety. Mostly electronic gadgets and computer accessories that allow us to set up any motel room the way we like it. We have a portable DVD player that can be connected to any TV. Our microwave is removable and portable for use in motel rooms that don’t offer one. I also carry a 12-volt power inverter that allows us to charge anything 12v in the motel room, if necessary, saving us time and battery strength.
We’re also able to carry fresh food to some degree, using our fridge, but I only run that when the van is running. So we buy cold cuts and related food items that will stay fresh for at least 3 days and keep them cold enough between our fridge and any given motel room’s fridge. And of course, with the microwave, we can use any pre-packaged items from the grocery. And for whatever uses batteries, I change them, regardless of use, twice a year when we reset the clocks.