Apart from the obvious need to drive safely, it’s also necessary that we check our vehicles regularly to guard against failures which can result in accidents not directly related to our driving.
Such checks should be done at least weekly – more frequently if we’re high-mileage drivers – and no technical expertise is required.
A useful method of remembering what to check is to employ the mnemonic ‘POWDER’. This relates to the following areas:
Petrol (or Diesel, LPG etc.)
Let’s go through the headings in more detail:
We must check to ensure we’ve sufficient fuel for our journey. Running out of fuel in the wrong place, especially in hot climates like Oman, can kill.
With our vehicle on a level surface to ensure a correct reading, we should check the oil level to make sure it’s at the correct height on the dipstick in accordance with the owner’s handbook. Remember that over-filling an engine with oil can blow seals and, as with a lack of fuel, leave us stranded.
This heading can also include the need to check hydraulic fluids, such as the brake and clutch systems. If applicable, don’t forget the automatic transmission fluid.
Most modern vehicles allow us to check the coolant level by simply looking at the level of the translucent expansion tank. Although the chances of our coolant freezing in Oman’s climate is nil, it’s worth remembering that modern antifreeze is nevertheless required because it contains a rust inhibitor and protects the engine.
The ‘water’ check also includes the screenwash. If we find ourselves in a situation where we can’t see properly and are unable to clear the windscreen, the potential for a crash is heightened.
We should also check the level of electrolyte in the battery and top-up with distilled water, if necessary. If a sealed unit, check the electrolyte indicator for the correct colour (see vehicle’s user-manual).
We should check our vehicle for damage. Cosmetic damage may be annoying but the important checks include checking the wheels (bad parking against the kerb?), mirrors (cracked glass reduces vision to the rear and sides) and anything else which our common sense dictates shouldn’t be damaged.
Complete a full lights check before any journey, not just at night.
Keep in mind from last week’s article how important brake lights are to inform and control following drivers.
Don’t forget the horn, internal lights and dashboard warning indicators.
A horn is designed to warn other road users of our presence and danger is created if we’re unable to do that.
In my Muscat Daily article of 16/09/13 I dealt with tyres in detail and discussed how vital their regular maintenance is to ensure safety.
However, when we think of ‘rubber’, we shouldn’t forget the windscreen wipers. These are often neglected in a climate with little rain, but, as indicated, they work with the screenwash to ensure we can always see properly.
We should also consider checking the various rubber hoses under the bonnet to see if any are leaking precious fluids.
Another check rarely considered under this heading is the rubber pedal covers. When they become worn, our foot can more easily slip off the pedals. This can be particularly problematic with a brake pedal if our shoes are wet.
Sometimes the mnemonic employed is ‘POWDERY’ – the additional ‘Y’ relating to ‘Yourself’.
Before any journey ask yourself if you’re fit to drive and never risk it if you’re too tired, under the influence of drink or drugs (prescription or otherwise) or are suffering from some form of debilitating illness. All of these things adversely affect driver performance.
For vehicle maintenance, think ‘POWDERY’!