2 compelling—but big—reasons why new drivers should always do a pre-trip check

Regardless of how many years of driving experience you already have, it’s important to do a pre-trip check. In fact, this is something you should do each time you take your vehicle out.

What is a pre-trip check anyway?

A pre-trip check is exactly what it sounds like: it’s you inspecting your car before you make a trip. It involves walking around your vehicle and making sure there aren’t any visible damages or debris that might affect your driving. It also includes making sure everything is working in your car and adjusting everything for the best fit and visibility.

Some of the main things you should look out for are the following:

– Any damage to tires or lights
– Side mirrors positioned correctly
– Glass is clean (front and back of vehicle)
– Area around vehicle free of debris
– Any leaking underneath the car
– Wipers blades working properly

A longer list of things to adjust is available in ICBC’s Tuning Up for Drivers manual:


Why do a pre-trip check

There are two main reasons why doing a pre-trip check should be part of every trip you make:

1. It’s the safe thing to do.

Checking that your vehicle is safe helps prevent a vehicle breakdown. Also, the pre-trip check helps ensure that you catch any vehicle problems that could leave you stranded at the roadside.

2. ICBC will test you for it. 

When you take a Class 7 or 5 road test, the ICBC examiner will  do a version of a pre-trip check with you. So if you don’t do this check yourself, you may find that your vehicle is, in fact, not suitable for the road test. It’s important that you nail this early part of the road test because: a.) it’s easy and straightforward; and b.) it provides a first good impression.

Bonus tips about your ICBC road test:

In addition to a reliable vehicle, you will also need two pieces of identification, payment for your fees and valid insurance to take your test.

If ICBC deems that your car isn’t safe or doesn’t meet legal requirements, they will cancel your test. According to ICBC, the most common reasons a vehicle might not be accepted include the following:

– Dash warning lights (e.g. air bag) that affect the safe operation of the vehicle
– Brake lights, signal lights or headlights not working or with badly cracked or missing lenses
– Unsafe tires
– Doors or windows not operating (e.g. doors do not open from inside)
– Cracked or illegally tinted windshield or windows
– Horn not working
– Gas tank or electric charge too low
– Vehicle not properly licensed or insured
– Seatbelts not working or frayed
– Unsafe or illegal vehicle modifications

The pre-trip check during your test will go something like this:

– Your examiner will call out your name and walk with you to your vehicle
– They will ask you to get into your car, start it and roll your window down
– They will ask you to turn your right and left signal on
– They will tell you to pump your brake pedal to see if brake lights work
– They will ask you to turn on your hazard lights
– They will ask you to honk the horn
– They will then ask you to right and left signal the front
– They will ask you to demonstrate hand signals (turning left, turning right and stopping)
– They will ask you where your hand brake, ebreak or emergency brake is

A note about your auto insurance: Make sure the vehicle is properly insured because your examiner may ask to see the insurance before the test is conducted. For example, if your car is insured with the 10-year driving experience discount, your teen will not be able to use it. SenSen Driving School recommends that you refer to your auto plan broker for details.

After the pre-trip check, the examiner will then come in the car, sit in the front passenger seat and tell you that the test is 30 to 35 minutes long. They’ll tell you that they won’t trick you and will ask you to follow the rules and obey the laws.

Just to reiterate: first impressions are everything. As nervous as you are, please make sure you follow directions very clearly during the pre-trip check as you want to impress your examiner.


The pre-trip check is a quick but necessary thing all drivers need to do every time. If you’re just learning to drive, make this a new habit—it will help ensure your safety on the road and will help you prepare for your road test.


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