The walk of life 

The walk of life 

It sounds somewhat ominous yet it’s fairly simple. When refuelling at a service station how many of us get out of our vehicles and check things? Instead, we rather sit and wait for the attendant to top up the tank, perhaps check the oil and tyres. Then bear in mind that two separate air pumps neither of which are calibrated may be used so you may end up with different tyre pressures. In this case, always check with a decent gauge when you get home and use your manufacturer’s recommended pressures ( sticker on the driver’s door ) as a guide. Bear in mind that you will have an unloaded and loaded pressure to contend with.

But where does the term “walk of life originate”? Well, it is an old military regimen which was and still is practised before you book a vehicle out when going on duty in the Army or Police.

Why one asks? Well, it’s a safety procedure that is worth practising at least once a month. Don’t leave everything to the petrol attendant.

We were recently training a group of folk and were running back-to-back courses. It was a trial run and we ended up with a good deal of spare time on our side and needed to improvise, so a discussion to talk around the “walk of life” seemed appropriate.

Well, what is the “walk of life “? Simply put it’s a way of checking your vehicle regularly that ensures awareness of all critical areas.

You can start with an internal check which is the easiest, here you check the functionality of your seats, seatbelts and instrument cluster. Then you check your service manual to ensure that your servicing schedule is up to date.

Do not forget to check your jack, and tools as well as your warning triangle. These are critical. A warning triangle is a legal requirement.

Find a spot for a piece of roof timber it makes a stable base for your jack and gives you additional jacking height.

Then check your lights, high and low beams as well as driving lights and indicators. See that your number plates are lit up as this is also an offence that officials will have no hesitation to issue a fine for. The last critical check internally will be the operation of the windscreen wipers.

Thereafter open the bonnet and move outside to attend to areas often overlooked.

Critical will be the radiator and its feeder bottle. Never check this when your engine is warm as it will be under high pressure and the steam could cause serious injuries. To even put a towel over a hot radiator cap will cause serious problems.

So what else do we need to check when the bonnet is open? Remember this should all be done on a level surface preferably with a cool engine, so a nearby service station is ideal.

Brake fluid (generally near the brake booster) 

Window washer bottle ( add a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid as this helps with the grease should you run into a swarm of insects at night ) . It is also worth checking its functionality as the ducts could be blocked. Then we get to engine oil, this should be checked on a level surface, wipe the dipstick and then reinsert it and check again. Learn to read the high and low-level marks and only check the oil level after the car has settled.

Then check the tension of the belts ( Fan belt, power steering and air conditioner ), they should be taut with about a centimetre of flex otherwise they will squeal under use. If they are cracked they should be replaced.

Then we move to the final and extremely important checks. The tyres, what do we need to check here?

  • Check the tyre pressure, are you at the manufacturer’s pressure? And are all the tyres at the same pressure? Remember service stations are no longer required to calibrate gauges so this can result in unequal pressures.
  • I feel that you should carry a backup tyre pressure gauge to ensure accuracy.
  • Then check tread depth to ensure that you are within the legal 1mm limit, at that level you should replace your tyres.
  • Then check the general condition of your tyres to ensure that they are roadworthy and not beyond their “sell by date “ of 5 years as that is important.
  • Lastly, check the spare wheel, many people neglect this and find it to be flat when needed.
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