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Maintenance Check: Everything But the Engine
By Wayne Scraba/
Printable version
Degree of DifficultyEasy
Estimated Time120 minutes
120 minutes
Pre-Flight Safety Check for Your Car or Light Truck -
In an earlier segment of “Maintenance Check: Under the Hood,” we examined some of the things you need to inspect before embarking on a serious (or even not so serious) road trip with your car or light truck. For us, at least, road trips are an adventure. But fixing your vehicle on the side of the road shouldn’t be part of it. Previously, we spent time under the hood. This time, we’ll look at the rest of the vehicle.
General Vehicle Maintenance
Vehicle Load, Tire Pressure & Tire Condition
Virtually all late model motor vehicles are equipped with a placard located on the latch side of the driver door or the door lock pillar. That placard determines maximum vehicle capacity. That capacity is the weight of the vehicle along with the combined weight of all passengers and all cargo, including the luggage compartment load. Never exceed the recommended load. Certain vehicles also spell out maximum luggage compartment loads. Never exceed those loads either.

Vehicle Loading Placard - All cars and light trucks (today) have a vehicle loading placard found somewhere on the driver door jamb or on the door. It notes the maximum load of the vehicle and also spells out hot and cold tire pressure.

Vehicle Loading Placard
On the load placard is a tire pressure chart. It shows the hot and cold maximum pressures for the OEM-size tires fitted to your vehicle. Typically, the cold inflation pressures provide for the best balance of fuel economy, handling, ride comfort and tire life under normal conditions. FYI, cold pressure is where the car or truck has not been driven more than one mile after sitting three hours or more. It is normal for tire pressure to increase between 4-8 pounds once the tires are heated from driving. If checking or setting pressures “hot” then it’s a good idea to add 4 PSI over the “cold” pressure figure, or simply use the “hot” pressure figure found on the door placard.

Check the Tire Pressure - Use a known, accurate gauge. It’s best to check pressure cold, and to compare it to the chart on the load placard (see above).

Check the Tire Pressure
Tire tread depth should also be inspected. If tires are worn to a point where less than 2/32-inch of the tread remains, or if the cord or fabric is showing, it’s time to change the tires. Today’s tires are equipped with built-in tread wear indicators that appear when the tread depth is less than the 2/32-inch figure (these indicators are rubber “strips” that run across the face of the tread. When these indicators appear in two or more adjacent grooves at three spots around the tire, it’s time to buy new tires. And yes, you can use the old penny trick too: If you place a penny with Lincoln’s face-side up into the tread, and it comes to his head, there’s usually sufficient tread remaining.
While examining tires, look over each tire for cracks or cuts. If any are sufficient to expose the cord or fabric, the tire needs to be replaced. On a similar note, if a tire has a bump, bulge or split, it must be replaced.
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