10 Things Drivers Should Always Do Before Starting Their Car

There are more than a few things drivers should always do and check before they ever leave the garage. Find out what you should be doing here.

Getting into your car isn’t as easy as opening the door, unloading whatever stuff you were carrying, and turning it on. Anyone who tells you that it is either isn’t familiar enough with cars, or just isn’t very thoughtful. There are more than a few things drivers should always do and check before they ever leave the garage - if that sounds like too much of a hassle, it definitely isn’t.

Related: 20 Safety Features That Actually Make Driving More Dangerous

Most of these things only take a moment and your safety is absolutely worth investing a little time in. Before the wind from the open road can tousle your hair, take a few minutes to make sure you’re ready for your next adventure.

10. Check For Leaks

There’s a whole rainbow of liquids that can leak from your car and a slew of explanations and origins. This has nothing to do with the age of a car - leaks in new or used cars are equally concerning and deserve the same level of attention. Some leaks, like the pure water from an air conditioning system, are normal whereas oil marks or colorful spills have more serious ramifications. It’s best to examine the area around and under your car and stay acquainted with what hues correspond to what parts of the car. Reverse your car from where it was and double check the area underneath is mark-free.

9. Make Sure The High-Beams Aren't On

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It’s an unofficial bit of road etiquette that should be hammered home in driver’s ed but just isn’t. Unnecessary high beams are either the mark of an amateur driver or a total jerk. Don’t be that person on a well-lit road with their high beams on - you’re not only totally obnoxious, but you’re also a potential safety risk since that light is quite literally blinding to oncoming drivers. Switch between your headlights and get accustomed to telling the difference between the modes - no one on the road will actually stop and thank you, but they’ll definitely insult you in their brain if you fail to do this.

8. Check Your Gas Tank

This sounds so obvious but can be the cause of a car not starting or running out of gas at an extremely inconvenient time. It just takes a single glance but can prevent so many future issues. Your car should remind you when it needs more, but you should stay on top of it before it gets to that point. Plus, refreshing the existing gas with higher grade gasoline that hasn’t been sitting in your tank for however long can be extremely helpful. It’s a reason to leave early for wherever you’re going - always leave time to fuel up on gas if need be.

7. Check All Lights Work Properly

It might take a second person to double check your brake lights are shining bright, but it’s so much easier to recruit a friend than it is to pay that pesky traffic ticket when a cop notices your faulty lights. Or just back your car up next to a dark wall - it's really not that hard. Your car’s dashboard may indicate if your turning lights are faulty, but you can check on your own anywhere that’s dark enough for the lights to show. Even if a cop doesn’t catch you, a failure to signal lane changes can result in a serious collision that’s absolutely your fault.

6. Manually Check You're Buckled In

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It only takes a second and is proven to be such a decisive factor in your safety - according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 15,000 lives in the United States were saved by seatbelts in 2016. Unfortunately, the organization had to add; “nearly 2,500 more lives would have been saved if everyone had buckled up”. That’s huge and important for you as a driver and all your passengers. This is one of those life-or-death deciders that literally takes a moment to check. Give your belt a gentle tug to make sure it’s not stuck before you head out to anywhere.

5. Check Your Tires Have Proper Traction

Traction control on tires isn't just for Northerners battling endless winters - it’s an important and valuable quality for any low-friction road surface. According to the blog Brain on Board, "Traction control is an active vehicle safety feature designed to help vehicles make effective use of all the traction available on the road… When a vehicle without traction control attempts to accelerate on a slippery surface like ice, snow, or loose gravel, the wheels are liable to slip. The result of wheel slip is that the tires spin quickly on the surface of the road without gaining any actual grip, so the vehicle does not accelerate".

4. Your Rearview Camera Is Clean

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Assuming you have a car made in the last, oh five or so years, you probably have that incredibly useful little gadget known as a rearview camera. It’s a fender-level camera that typically comes with censors to gauge your distance from obstacles in terms of green (good) to red (stop what you’re doing). That’s an awesome gadget but make sure the camera is clean and clear - just like any other cameras with smudges or grime on the lens, your view is impeded. Without a clear screen, you simply won’t be able to see well and no amount of technology can help you there.

3. Set Your Destination Before Driving

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There are plenty of reasons to be fiddling with your phone while you should be concentrating on the road. Sure, some may feel more legitimate than others (hello, phone games and Youtube videos) in the moment, but both are a dangerous liability. Does it matter that you were checking directions and not texting if you end up in a crash? It doesn’t. Set your destination before you get on the road if you require GPS to get where you’re going. Many drivers add a mount for their phone so that they can keep up to date on directions without glancing down.

2. Throw Out Trash If It'll Be Distracting

If you’re someone who is easily distracted or just very serious about your car’s cleanliness, you may be tempted to gather up trash while waiting at a red light. Do that before you ever start your car - either have a bag reserved for trash to prevent the messes, carry out all trash with you before and after you start your car or just avoid the issue and keep your car rental-car-clean (not that many of us can do that). Tidying up your car is for when you’re not in motion and retrieving a stray wrapper from the floor is no reason to sacrifice someone else’s, or your own, safety.

1. Give A Sniff

There are a few reasons for this. Most of us, at some point, have someone else in our car. No one wants to be trapped in a stinky box and even if you’ve gotten accustomed to the scent (which, please don’t - you should also keep the car smelling good for you) your clothes will also reek. And if something really smells, there’s probably a reason. The reek of rancid food also inhibits your ability to smell important scents, like if the air is smoky or if your engine is emitting foul smells. Clean out the source of the stink first and then invest in an air freshener.

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