Ask A Trooper: Basic vehicle checks help keep your car running

Published 6:35 pm Tuesday, August 8, 2023

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By Sgt. Troy Christianson

Question: We are well into summer, but can you please talk about some basic vehicle checks? I stopped to help someone who had broken down alongside the road the other day, and they had no clue to what I thought was common sense stuff: coolant, fluids, battery maintenance and lights. Thanks for keeping people informed.

Answer: As a state trooper, we see a lot out on the highways, and I am always glad to help educate and provide some insight. I’d rather you read it here than experience it along the side of the road. Here are some things to look at:

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• Cooling System — Make sure you have enough coolant in your vehicle, and that the coolant meets the manufacturer’s specifications. See your vehicle owner’s manual for specific recommendations on coolant. You or a mechanic should check the cooling system for leaks, test the coolant, and drain or replace old coolant as needed.

• Fluid Level — Check your vehicle’s oil level periodically. As with coolant, if it’s time or even nearly time to have the oil changed, now would be a good time to do it. Also check the fluid levels for your brake, automatic transmission or clutch, power steering, and windshield washer. Make sure each reservoir is full; if you see any signs of fluid leakage, take your vehicle in to be serviced.

 • Batteries — Have a mechanic check your battery and charging system, then have them make any necessary repairs or replacements. For hybrid-electric vehicles, keep gasoline in the tank to support the gasoline engine.

• Lights — Check your headlights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers, and interior lights. Be sure to also check your trailer brake lights and turn signals, if necessary.

• Wiper blades — After the heavy toll imposed by winter storms and spring rains, windshield wiper blades may need to be replaced. Like rubber belts and hoses, wiper blades are vulnerable to the summer heat. Examine your blades for signs of wear and tear on both sides. The blades can also deform and fail to work properly in both directions. If they aren’t in top condition, invest in new ones before you travel.

You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and always drive sober. Help us drive Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson – Minnesota State Patrol at 2900 48th Street NW, Rochester MN 55901-5848.  (Or reach him at,