Inspecting Your Car’s Undercarriage

Brian Trochelmann, service manager with Fairfax Motors, is going to use this video to show us how to prepare a car for a road trip, starting with the undercarriage.

To inspect the undercarriage, you need to take it in several stages. The best way to do is it to use a lift, which of course most homeowners don’t have, but Trochelmann is going to use one in order to illustrate the best way of doing things. Make sure when you start that your car is in the “park” position and the parking brake is on!

Brakes & Engine

The first thing that you want to do is kneel and just simply take a look at the bottom of the care. Pay the most attention to the area right behind the front wheel: this is where you can see whether the brake caliper has any visible leaks—leaking brake fluid is dangerous, and you want to make sure it isn’t happening here.

Now you want to look at the engine area. Just as you did with the brakes, you want to look and see if you’re losing any fluid. The liquids that could be leaking here include your engine cooling fluid, your engine motor oil, your power steering fluid, or your transmission fluid. Look between the two front wheels to ascertain if you have a leak here.

Car body

Just take a look over the remainder of the car and make sure that nothing’s there that shouldn’t be: nothing is hanging down, and everything seems to be firmly in place, including the muffler and the exhaust system.

Engine compartment

Trochelmann is going to lower the car now so that he can concentrate on the engine compartment itself. Make sure that the car isn’t hot, because you’ll both burn yourself and get a false reading. You’re going to start with the cooling system. The system that he’s showing us has level sensor that tells whether the coolant fluid is correct. When you’re doing, replace the lid and take extra care that’s it’s tight.

Now take the lid off the power steering system. Grab a clean rag and wipe the stem: you’ll see that there’s a level indicator on the stem. Replace the lid, tighten it well, and then take it out again and check out what the level is reading.

Washer fluid levels can often be checked out if they’re in a clear container. But if it’s not clear, it’s not a problem, take off the lid and put your finger in. If you can feel the fluid, your level is fine; if you can’t, then you need to add some to top it off.

Hoses and belts

Next just take a good look at engine drive belts and engine coolant hoses. Reach in (remember to only do this if the car isn’t hot!) and feel the hoses to make sure that they’re not leaking or feel particularly soft.

Finally check out the engine drive belts. Look for cracks, debris, and/or obstructions. Finish off your inspection with the oil.