What is a pre-trip car safety inspection checklist?

Pre-trip car safety inspection checklists will help keep your vehicle fleet on the road and your employees safe.

Regular maintenance will ensure that your car is roadworthy and drives well. A car safety inspection checklist provides guidance on what checks need to be performed pre-trip to help ensure your car’s safety and roadworthiness.

A car safety inspection checklist is a document that lists information about a vehicle. These documents are used both as verification of the vehicle’s roadworthiness and to provide guidance for those involved in inspecting vehicles. They include information about the vehicle and what needs to be checked prior to a trip.

Benefits of Pre-Trip Car Safety Inspections

The benefits of pre-trip car safety inspections include:

  • helps to identify minor issues before escalating into major issues
  • reduces the chance of an on-road breakdown
  • helps with car roadworthiness
  • helps to reduce the risk of a vehicle accident due to mechanical failure
  • helps to keep employees safe while operating the car
  • helps to reduce operating costs.

10-Point Pre-Trip Car Safety Inspection Checklist

You don’t need any special skills or knowledge to complete a pre-trip car safety inspection. All you need is your owner’s manual (either physical or online), which contains important details about the car, its parts, and its functions. Further, you may require some basic tools, including an air compressor, a spanner, a screwdriver and some fluids.

Below are ten important pre-trip checklist inspection items that will help with vehicle safety and reduce the chances of a vehicle breakdown if checked correctly.

1. Engine Oil

To check the engine oil, locate a dipstick, remove it, clean it, then reinsert, remove it again and ensure the oil level is at the full line. If it isn’t, unscrew the oil filler cap and add some engine oil using a funnel. Park somewhere flat while checking and, once added, wait for the level to drop before rechecking. Further, it pays to also check under the car on the ground to see if there are any fluids on the ground that may indicate that there is a leak. Check with the owner’s manual on what oil is to be used.

2. Coolant

Most vehicles have a clearly marked coolant reservoir that lets you quickly see if there’s enough coolant in the reservoir prior to starting a trip. If the coolant level is below the required level line, carefully unscrew the cap from the reservoir tank and pour in some coolant fluid or a mixture of coolant fluid and distilled water. It pays to also check the reservoir coolant level again after running the car for a few minutes. It’s important to remember that a hot cooling system is extremely dangerous, so don’t attempt to refill the coolant until the car has cooled down completely. Check with the owner’s manual on what coolant is to be used.

3. Battery

Most modern batteries are sealed units and require little maintenance. However, you’ll need to check the terminals for any white corrosion or gunk and that the terminal clamps or fittings are secure. Use a wire brush to clean off any corrosion or gunk from the terminals. If required, you may need to disconnect the terminal clamps from the battery to give a good clean. A solution of baking soda and water can also be used to help clean the terminals. Once dry refit the terminal clamps or fittings to the battery and retighten ensuring the positive clamp goes to the positive terminal and the negative clamp goes to the negative terminal.

4. Brake Fluid

Locate the brake fluid reservoir and make sure it is filled to the full line. If it isn’t, unscrew the reservoir lid and add some brake fluid until it reaches the full line. Brake fluid is easily contaminated so ensure the area around the reservoir is clean prior to removing the reservoir lid and use new fluid where possible. Check with the owner’s manual on which type of brake fluid is required.

5. Lights

It’s easiest to do this when you have someone else helping you, but you can do it alone. If conducting light checks alone use a reflective surface to check the lights operate to make it easier. Check the driving lights, both high and low beams, parking lights, indicators, reversing lights and hazard lights. Also, ensure all dash or instrumentation lights are working.

6. Clutch Fluid

If your car has an automatic transmission this check will not be necessary. Locate the clutch fluid reservoir and unscrew the lid ensuring that the reservoir lever is to the full line. If required add clutch fluid to the reservoir until it is filled to the full line. Do not overfill the reservoir or you may damage the hydraulic system. Check with the owner’s manual on what type of clutch fluid is required.

7. Automatic Transmission Fluid

Some modern cars have a sealed automatic transmission fluid system. If this is the case you will not be able to check it. If this is not the case you’ll need to locate the automatic transmission fluid reservoir dipstick and check the fluid level. Some older cars have complex systems that involve engine temperatures, filling up, etc. If this is the case for you you’ll need to read the owner’s manuals carefully prior to checking and adding transmission fluid.

8. Power Steering Fluid

In most cases, you’ll locate and check the power steering reservoir to ensure the reservoir is filled to the full line. In some cases, the engine will be required to be running or the fluid at the operating temperature. However, if your vehicle has an electric power steering system, no inspection is required. Check with the owner’s manual to what type of power steering your car has and if required the type of power steering fluid, and the correct procedure to check and fill the power steering fluid.

9. Windscreen Wipers and Washer Fluid

To check the washer fluid reservoir level open the bonnet and locate the reservoir and ensure it is full. If the reservoir requires filling open the reservoir lid and add washer fluid until full. Water can be used; however, automotive windscreen wash concentrate is specifically formulated to remove bugs and road grime. Windscreen wiper blades should be replaced yearly and generally prior to winter. However, a quick look at them to ensure that they are serviceable is recommended.

10. Tyres

Roadworthy tyres play an important role in accident prevention and vehicle safety. It is important to check all tyres including the spare. Check the tread for foreign bodies and depth against the tyre’s Tread Wear Indicator (TWI). If the tread is worn down to the TWI that the tyre needs to be replaced. Check the sidewalls for damage; this includes cuts, bulges, gouges and foreign bodies. Finally check the tyre pressure. Do this while the tyres are cool preferably first thing in the morning. The correct tyre pressure for the car can be found on the inside of the driver’s side door frame and by consulting the owner’s manual. Not having the correct tyre pressure will lead to uneven wear and poor vehicle handling. If you do not have an air compressor and tyre pressure gauge you’ll have the check your tyres at a service station. Follow this link to learn more about checking the roadworthiness of your tyres.

Below is a screenshot of a digital pre-trip car safety inspection checklist  

Digital pre-trip car safety inspection checklist

DIGI CLIP mobile forms provide safety and compliance checklists and other forms for your workplace. Complete digital checklists, audits and inspections for safety, compliance and improved profits with DIGI CLIP mobile forms.

Additional Items

Prior to departing on a road trip, it is important to ensure the vehicle has current motor vehicle insurance and current motor vehicle registration.

Further, regular log book servicing at selected kilometres or monthly intervals, as specified by the car manufacturer’s manual, will help ensure your car runs efficiently and safely.

The above checklist items are not exhaustive and the vehicle owner’s manual should be referred to when developing a car pre-trip safety checklist.

DIGI CLIP mobile forms – What We Do?

DIGI CLIP mobile forms is an easy-to-use inexpensive digital checklist app and cloud-based software. DIGI CLIP is used across different industries to capture safety and compliance data and other information to help improve safety, compliance and operational efficiencies.

DIGI CLIP will allow you to remove paper reporting from your business – no more lost, late missing or illegible checklists. The DIGI CLIP mobile app allows for images, comments and digital signatures to be added to checklists from a phone or tablet.

Follow this link if you want to know more about what we do and how we can help or send us a message.