The driving test is your opportunity to demonstrate that you can use a car safely. You need to be able to show that you can control it, stay observant and anticipate the behaviour of other road users – all at the same time. But in addition to this you need to know how the machine works.
The ‘show me, tell me’ element of a driving exam will test you on this. Your examiner will expect you to know how the main components of the car function and, most importantly, how to perform very basic maintenance. This list, divided into ‘show me’ and ‘tell me’, contains everything you might be asked to identify during your test.
… how you could check that the brake lights are working. For this you’ll need to ask the examiner (politely) to stand behind the car and tell you if the brake lights come on when you press the brake pedal. You’ll need to have the key turned in the ignition, but the engine switched off. It’s sometimes possible to check in the reflection if there’s a window or suitably shiny building nearby.
… how you check the power steering fluid. This isn’t actually as complicated as it sounds – for the test it is sufficient to turn the engine on and wiggle the steering wheel. It shouldn’t feel heavy or difficult to turn.
… how you would wash the windscreen using the car’s built-in windscreen washer. This one is very straightforward. Switch the ignition on and pull whichever lever in the cabin makes the windscreen washer come on. This will usually be to one side of the steering wheel.
… how you can check whether the indicators work. The easy way of doing this is by switching on the hazard lights (which will usually have a large, prominent button somewhere on the dashboard) and then checking from the pavement.
… how you demist the windscreen and rear window. To get rid of condensation on the windscreen, adjust the controls so that warm air is being blown onto it. For the rear windscreen there will usually be a ‘rear window demister’ button which directly heats the glass.
… how you check if the horn is working. It’s unlikely that anybody would struggle with this (just press the centre of the steering wheel or horn button and listen for a beep) but remember that this test can only be conducted off the public road.
… how to switch the fog lights on. The location of a fog light switch varies from car to car, with some being on the same lever that controls the headlights and others being a separate switch by the driver’s right knee. Explain that you would check if the fog light warning has appeared on the dashboard, and that you would only use the fog light if the visibility has dropped below 100 metres.
… how to check the handbrake is in good condition. With the car stationary and with the handbrake on, put your foot on the foot brake. Then release the handbrake – the car shouldn’t move at all. Pull the handbrake up again (fairly firmly, with the button pressed) and it should stop before the end of its working travel. This basically means that it should feel like it’s doing something – the handbrake lever shouldn’t come up too high and should become too hard to move, rather than hit against something solid-feeling.
… how to control the main beam and dipped beam. For this you’ll need the ignition switched on. Headlight controls are normally either on a lever on the steering column or a large, round switch on the dashboard. Show the examiner you know how to switch the lights on, then switch on main beam, and switch main beam back off again. There will be a warning light on the dashboard that alerts you to the fact that the headlamps are on – your instructor will want you to point it out.
… how you would check the engine oil level. Explain that the car needs to be cold and on a level surface. You would open the bonnet, remove the dipstick and wipe it clean with a suitable cloth (one that won’t leave fluff on the dipstick). Then, after pushing the dipstick as far as it will go back into its housing, you would remove it and check that the oil level is within the two notches on the dipstick itself.
… how you would check the engine coolant level. There will be a coolant tank in your engine bay, and in most modern cars it’s translucent and easily accessible. With the bonnet safely open, check the level of coolant either by looking at a visible meter on the side or by opening the lid and peering in.
… where the windscreen washer reservoir is and how you check it. This will be another translucent container in the engine bay, which you may need to open up to get an accurate idea of how much fluid is inside.
… where the brake fluid reservoir is and how you’d check it. In the engine bay there will be a brake fluid meter. Ensure the fluid level is within the notches, or at a level determined in the manual.
… how to check that the brakes are working properly before starting a journey. You would start the engine and drive forwards slowly, before dabbing the brake gently to stop the car. The brake pedal should feel firm.
… how you would check tyre pressure and know when to stop inflating the tyre. You would need a tyre pressure gauge, either manual or electronic, to check the pressure. The correct pressures (there will sometimes be different pressures for front and rear tyres, as well as for towing or carrying heavy loads) will be in the manual and usually on the inside of the driver’s doorframe.
… how you would check that the tyre tread is safe and legal. The legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm – you would use a tyre tread depth gauge to measure this. You would also check that this depth was maintained for at least ¾ of the width of the tyre and that there were no cuts, irregularities or bulges on the tyre.
… how you would ensure that the head restraint is adjusted correctly. The head restraint – often referred to as the headrest – should be configured so that its hard part is as high as the top of your ears. It should be as close to your head as is comfortable.
… how you would ensure that the headlights and tail lights are working correctly. You would switch on the ignition, turn on all the lights and then exit the car to check from the pavement.
… How you would know if there was a problem with your anti-lock brakes. When your car starts, there will often be several warning lights on to begin with. If your anti-lock brakes warning light fails to go ‘off’ after a short while, there is a fault with the system.
This should give you a strong grounding for the “show me” and “tell me” parts of your test. If your car insurance is up for withdraw, then why not check out the offers available with More Than.
Image of car engine from Wikimedia Commons