Gahan Source Corner photo

By Jeff Gahan, MATC automotive instructor

Summer is well under way and many of us are planning getaways for some much needed rest and relaxation. Unless you are planning a stay-cation, all of us will use some method of transportation to get to our destination. If you like to hit the open road and see the country, preparing your vehicle is as important as packing your toothbrush.

A good option to be sure your means of transport is safe and ready for the getaway is a vehicle inspection at your local dealership. Vehicle inspections are a good way to give your car a low-cost “once over” to prepare for the trip.

These inspections typically range from a 21-point up to 40-point inspection, depending on the type of vehicle you drive. Inspections have a color-coded scale to simplify determining the condition of the components being inspected. They look similar to this:

Green means it has been checked and okay

 Yellow means this item will need future attention

Blue means “does not apply”

Red means requires immediate attention

Vehicle Inspection jpeg

The number of inspection points determines the intensity of the inspection. Common areas for the inspection focus on the safety of the vehicle and maintenance items. These areas include fluid levels, under-hood items, under-vehicle checks and tires.


Engine Oil
Regular oil changes are the best protection against internal engine damage.­ Clean, quality oil also helps reduce emissions and improve fuel mileage.

Replacing engine coolant renews corrosion protection for the radiator, water pump and coolant system gaskets while maintaining both freeze and boil-over protection.

Transmission Fluid
Regular replacement of transmission fluid protects the transmission the same way that oil changes help protect your vehicle’s engine against costly repairs.

Power Steering Fluid
Power steering fluid replacement removes built-up deposits that can cause premature wear to rubber seals and metal power-steering components.

Brake Fluid
Replacing the brake fluid helps maintain correct pedal pressure and prevent corrosion deposits from forming on anti-lock brake system pumps and other brake hydraulic parts.

Window Washer Fluid
Topped-off window washer fluid reservoirs are necessary for clear visibility in all types of driving conditions.­ Washer fluid is a must-have for clearing everything from bugs to road salt.


Under-the-Hood Items

Corroded battery terminals or cables rob your engine of starting power. ­Missing battery hold-downs or insulation may cause premature battery failure.­ A battery not meeting CCA (cold cranking amp) specifications may leave you stranded without warning.

Corroded, clogged or leaking radiators are a significant cause of vehicle breakdowns.­ Overheating often causes severe damage to modern engines.

Water Pump
Visible leakage or abnormal noises are usually a sign of internal pump damage. Poor coolant flow may damage the cooling system and other engine components.

 Belts (Except Timing Belts)
Badly cracked or frayed belts should always be replaced. Most modern vehicles use just one belt to operate the water pump, alternator, power steering pump and air conditioning. ­Broken belts can cause overheating, electrical and steering system failure, leading to roadside breakdowns.

Air Filter
Dirty air filters contribute to poor engine performance and lower fuel mileage. Missing or damaged filters allow dirt directly into the engine and may cause premature engine wear.

Coolant Hoses
Hoses that are cracked, brittle or spongy are likely to fail soon. ­Ruptured hoses cause leaks and engine overheating. Technicians also are trained to look for hoses that may be damaged, restricted or misrouted.

Under-the-Vehicle Items

Shocks and Struts
Worn or badly leaking shocks and struts can cause braking problems and premature suspension wear.­ A cracked or broken mount will cause noise over bumps.

Brake Line/Hoses
Road conditions and undercarriage corrosion can cause cracks or wear in the steel lines and rubber hoses that carry brake fluid underneath your vehicle.­ A leaking brake line may cause loss of brake pressure to the entire braking system.

Fuel Lines/Hoses
Road conditions and undercarriage corrosion can cause cracks or wear in the steel lines and rubber hoses that carry fuel underneath your vehicle. ­Leaking fuel lines are potential safety hazards.

Exhaust System
Leaks, rattles, broken clamps or hangers all point to potential exhaust system problems. ­The entire system from engine manifold to tailpipe should be inspected.­ Leaking exhaust fumes can enter the passenger compartment. ­Even a small exhaust leak can affect engine performance and result in higher pollution emissions.

Unlubricated, noisy CV joints or U-joints are likely to fail soon.­ A torn CV boot indicates probable CV joint damage. ­Cracked boots or missing clamps may be repairable. ­A broken driveline component will allow the engine to run, but the vehicle may not move.


Proper inflation, regular rotation and frequent evaluation are your best defense against premature tire failure. ­Worn, damaged or improperly inflated tires may cause longer braking distances, decreased fuel mileage and even alter your vehicle’s ride and handling.­ Always follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations for proper tire size, inflation rates and rotation intervals. Frequent tire evaluation can spot tire wear or damage caused by road debris, alignment conditions or improper tire maintenance.


Planning ahead with a vehicle inspection will save you hours of waiting for roadside assistance if you should experience a break down. Let’s hit the road!