The DOT pre-trip inspection sheet requires drivers to check the vehicle's tires, brake drums and shoes, steering, suspension, exhaust, emergency equipment and the check engine compartment, according to About.com. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires drivers to immediately report problems with any of these systems during the pre-trip inspection.
About.com suggests checking every tire's pressure, wear patterns, tread, valve stems and whether the tires show damage. Next, look for damage on the wheels and rims such as rust, missing parts and welding repairs. Test the brakes, and make sure the vehicle does not have oil or brake fluid on the shoes and pads. Look at the steering system to ensure the vehicle is not missing parts, the wheel moves freely and the power steering fluid levels are sufficient.
Check the vehicle's suspension system by observing the spring hangers, leaf springs, torque rod, air suspension and overall frame. Make sure the exhaust pipes, tailpipes and mufflers work, and look for any unusual leaks. Finally, look at the check engine compartment for the engine oil level, coolant level, radiator hoses, battery fluid, transmission fluid, belts and any leaks or worn electrical wiring.
In addition to these inspections, the DOT and About.com say all vehicles need a fire extinguisher, spare electrical fuses, warning devices such as flares and a review of the last Driver-Vehicle Inspection Report.