How to Perform a Car Maintenance Inspection

Updated on January 16, 2019
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I write about maintaining and troubleshooting cars as well as jet skis and lawn mowers!

It's been proven a number of times that regular vehicle maintenance will prolong the life of your vehicle, especially the engine.

The vehicles at my place of employment are driven every day, except Saturday and Sunday, on the bumpy roads of the foothills. These vehicles reach 400,000 miles on their odometer before we consider trading them in. They are mechanically sound, because of the regular maintenance we perform, but they are at a point that the parts start falling off because they are old.


What Do I Know?

I am a safety inspector at my employment. My job includes maintenance inspections three to four times a week on the fleet of vehicles owned by my employer. It is my duty to make sure the vehicles are brought in regularly for an inspection and oil change and I perform the inspections.

How Often Should an Inspection Be Performed?

Engine oil today lasts a lot longer than it did twenty years ago. The oil should be changed about every 5,000 miles, or every three months if the vehicle is driven every day for several hours.

To remind the vehicle operator to bring the vehicle in, I place a service tag on the windshield of each vehicle which includes:

  • The on-or-before date that it needs to be serviced (every 3 months).
  • The odometer number by which the vehicle must be serviced (every 5,000 miles)

I perform the maintenance inspection at the same time as the oil change because they take about the same amount of time.

The inspection, on average, takes about 30 minutes. If preventive maintenance issues are found during the inspection, such as a burned-out light or a wiper blade that needs replacement, then you must obviously add to the inspection time appropriately for the work that needs to be performed.

Preparing for Inspection

If you have access to a vehicle hoist or lift, this would be preferable. A roller will also work.

Tend to your hair if it is long and tuck in any loose clothing. Clothing and hair can become entangled in moving engine parts; the engine will win any tug of war there may be.

Have a check list available or memorize what you should check. If you’re new to performing inspections, a checklist can come in handy to make sure you didn’t skip anything by mistake. An inspection will cover the following areas:

The Inspection Step-by-Step: A Checklist

All Lighting:

  • Headlights
  • Signal lights
  • Tail lights
  • Brake lights
  • Backup lights
  • Interior lights


  • Horn
  • Steering wheel play (no more than 8 degrees play maximum)
  • Seat belts
  • Seats
  • Floor
  • Charged fire extinguisher


  • Visually inspect the underside of the engine hoses, pulleys and belts for cracks.
  • Look for any sign of engine oil, transmission fluid or any other fluid leaks.
  • Check wheel bearing wear.
  • Brake pads and brake lines. (use a flashlight to peer through the wheel to check amount of wear on brake pads)
  • With a flashlight check for foreign objects in tires, amount of wear on the tire tread.
  • Check the fuel lines and wiring.
  • Make sure all the leaf springs are secure and in place.
  • Check for leaking shock absorbers.
  • Inspect the springs for cracking.
  • The steering linkage has several zert fittings, give each a couple of squirts of grease.
  • At the wheel are a couple of zerts that should be filled also. Any other zert fittings should be checked for grease.


  • Do a “walk around” inspecting trim, paint and bumpers for loose pieces or damage.
  • Inspect headlight glass, brake light plastic and signal light plastic for cracks or damage.
  • Open and close all doors.
  • Check windshield, side windows, rear window and side mirrors for cracks, check windshield wipers for wear.
  • Look for lose or broken body parts.

Under the Hood:

  • Top of brake fluid, transmission fluid, windshield wiper fluid, radiator fluid.
  • Check air filter and remove any loose debris.
  • Check oil level, add oil if needed.
  • Check the belts; Serpentine belt should have no cracks.
  • Check hoses.
  • Remove any buildup on battery terminals. (use baking soda mixed with water)

Inspect These Items Too

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Check the blinkers.Check the headlights.Brake pads can be checked with a flashlight.Brake pad warning squeakerLeaf springsCheck tread wear with a penny.
Check the blinkers.
Check the blinkers.
Check the headlights.
Check the headlights.
Brake pads can be checked with a flashlight.
Brake pads can be checked with a flashlight. | Source
Brake pad warning squeaker
Brake pad warning squeaker
Leaf springs
Leaf springs
Check tread wear with a penny.
Check tread wear with a penny.

Schedule the Next Maintenance Inspection

Record the mileage and add 5,000 miles to the number. Write this number on a service tag. Count out three months (this number may vary depending on how often the vehicle is used and the conditions it is used under) from the current date of the inspection and write that number on the service tag also. Place the tag on the windshield of the vehicle as a reminder when the vehicle needs to be inspected again.

  • Record any of your findings in a log specifically for that vehicle.
  • Order parts or schedule appointments for problems found during the inspection.

You've now completed your vehicle maintenance inspection.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2013 Joanna


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