Online Training: Bonnet Check

Bonnet Check: These question can change

The areas being tested are simply routine checks and maintenance. You won't need to explain how to replace a water pump or a worn big-end bearing! The main topic areas for car drivers are:

  • Tyres
  • Brakes
  • Fluids
  • Lights & Reflectors
  • Direction indicators
  • Horn

With this in mind, if the examiner asked a test candidate in a Seat how to replace a headlamp bulb, the answer would be: "I'd take the car to my local dealer" (the bulbs are not user serviceable).

On a totally different subject: the question of user serviceability raises the issue about which vehicles are commercially suitable for driving instruction. If a non-replaceable bulb fails just before a test, the instructor could be faced with a bill for the test, lose income from the lesson time and be sued by the pupil for lost earnings (if time was taken off work, especially for the test) ­ food for thought perhaps? But for now, let's get back to the 'Show me - Tell me' subjects.


Questions relating to tyres are designed to ensure that the candidate understands the need for tyre maintenance and is able to carry out basic tyre checks. The examiner cannot ask the pupil to inflate the tyres as there are no facilities to do so. Nor should he ask for any demonstration that could be dangerous - for example, running hands around the rim of the tyre.
If you don't already carry a tyre tread depth and pressure gauge, now is the time to get down to your local accessories store.


Although modern braking systems are very reliable - most cars now have failsafe dual-circuit hydraulic systems - problems can still arise that will impede braking efficiency or cause brake failure. Brake lights can also fail. Your pupils should know how to check that brake lights are working and be able to perform static and mobile brake checks and how to check the efficiency of the handbrake.


The examiner will not ask test candidates to do anything that might bring them into contact with hot parts of the engine. However, your pupils may be asked to open the bonnet and point out various fluid reservoirs and how they can be checked and topped up (they will not, however, have to top up the fluids). As well as checking general fluid levels, candidates can also be asked to check the oil level using the dip-stick.

When teaching under-bonnet checks, it is of the utmost importance that you set some basic Health and Safety guidelines.
  • The engine must always be switched off before opening the bonnet .
  • The lid of the coolant reservoir must never be removed while the engine is hot
  • Make sure that you have polythene gloves, and wet wipes or similar for pupils to wipe their hands after making under bonnet checks. If any reservoir lid has been removed during the test, check to make sure that it has been replaced properly before leaving the test centre.

Although not specifically tested, your pupil should know about fuelling the vehicle and the importance of selecting the appropriate fuel.

Lights and Reflectors

Driving - the Essential Skills advises that lights should be checked both before and during long journeys. Pupils should be able to make these simple checks and know how to change a bulb (where possible). It might be worth providing a fluorescent vest for your pupil to wear when making these, and other checks,­ especially if your local test-centre doesn't have a car park. If your car has a headlight adjuster your pupil should know how and when to use it.


Your pupils should know about and be able to use arm signals, either in place of, or to reinforce indicator signals. However, if the indicators fail during a driving test, the test will be abandoned (even if the pupil volunteers arm signals). Pupils who are able to rectify the fault within a few minutes by changing a bulb, are able to continue the test.

To this end, and for the purpose of weekly and daily checks, it is essential for pupils to recognise and respond to clues that suggest problems with the indicators and be able to check correct operation (without misleading other road users in the process!)


As with many of the other items in the 'Show me - Tell me' syllabus, a functioning horn is a legal requirement. What is perhaps more important, is the fact that it can be a lifesaver in an emergency situation.

It's important to remember that the operation of the horn can only be demonstrated in an off-road situation as its use when parked is only permitted to warn of danger ­ for example, if someone was about to reverse into you.

With this in mind, your pupil would need to ensure that it was a safe and legal position if the horn were to be demonstrated - otherwise a simple explanation of how to work the horn would be sufficient.

Below we have given a list of TELL ME / SHOW ME QUESTIONS

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Question Answer What to do How often done
Open the bonnet and identify where you would check the engine oil level and tell me how you would check that the engine has sufficient oil Identify dipstick/oil level indicator, describe check of oil level against the min/max marker as referred to in the user manual Can be asked to actually check oil level. Use cloth from car and wipe if needed ALWAYS ENSURE ENGINE IS SWITCHED OFF Check before long journey or if light on dashboard lights up
Open bonnet and identify where you would check the engine coolant level and how you would check that the engine has the correct level Open bonnet and show the level of the header tank and describe how to top up the correct level Hardly any loss as a sealed unit. DO NOT REMOVE CAP IF THE ENGINE IS HOT AS IT WILL BE UNDER PRESSURE Check weekly
Identify where the windscreen washer reservoir is and how you would check the level Open the bonnet and point to the reservoir and explain that if it looks low then fill it You can remove cap to show Check weekly
Identify where the brake fluid reservoir is and how you would check that you have a safe level of hydraulic brake fluid Open the bonnet and show the level against the high/low marking Do not change yourself but take to a garage Check weekly
Tell me how you would check that the brake lights are working Operate brake pedal, make use of reflection in window, garage doors or ask someone to check Simply tell them what you do, you will not actually be able to do this Check weekly and before and after a long journey
Tell me how you would check the brakes are working before starting a journey Brakes should not feel spongy or slack. Brakes should be tested before setting off, the vehicle should not pull to one side Do not change yourself but take to a garage Before each journey
Tell me where you would find the information for the recommended tyre pressures for this car and how tyre pressures should be checked Manufacturers guide, use a reliable pressure gauge. TYRES MUST BE COLD. Don’t forget the spare and to replace the valve caps. Show the pressure gauge; look in driver manual and on driver’s doors for the tyre pressures. Should not be asked to demonstrate. Check weekly and before a long journey
Tell me how you would check the tyres to ensure that they have sufficient tread depth and that their general condition is safe to use on the road No cuts or bulges, 1.6mm of tread depth across the central three quarters of the breadth of the tyre and around the entire outer circumference May be asked to demonstrate using the depth gauge. Will not be asked to do anything like run finger round or asked to inflate tyre Look every day, check weekly
Show me/explain how you would check that the power steering is working properly before starting a journey Gentle pressure on the steering wheel. Maintained while the engine is started Should result in a slight but noticeable movement as the system begins to operate  
Show me how you would check the parking brake Demonstrate by applying parking brake (with foot on footbrake) that when it is fully applied it secures itself and is not at the end of its travel Excessive wear will be shown by the fact that the handbrake will travel too far upwards  
Show me how you would check that the horn is working Show where the horn is and how you would press it Only press if asked to do so Check on a regular basis
Show me how you would check that the directional indicators are working Put ignition on and do each side individually and walk around to check If asked what you would do if they weren’t working, then say hand signals If bulb has gone out the indicator on the dash will flash and sound quicker
Show me how you would check that the headlights and tail lights are working Operate the relevant switch (turn ignition on if necessary), and walk around observing correct function Don’t walk into the road, stay on the kerb Check before and during a long journey