Beginner’s Checklist for Newbie Drivers

So you’ve just gotten the keys to your very own car. Congratulations! Prepare for a world of endless traffic, long hours, and frustrating motorists all around you. And don’t forget all those arbitrary road rules, merciless traffic enforcers, and lack of convenient parking spots.

Jokes aside, being in charge behind the wheel for the first time is an exciting experience, one that is bound to tickle your sense of adventure. But it can also be a nerve-wracking one if you’re unsure of yourself or not prepared. While the former will take care of itself as you get more road time, the latter is something you can certainly be ready for with enough time, effort, and a little knowledge. The following is a quick checklist of things you should regularly check before you set forth on your next adventure.

1) Check that you are able to drive

This one sounds obvious. If you have a legal driver’s license, then you should be good to go, right? Not so fast there, Hamilton. Before you hope into your car and drive, you will want to check if you’re in the right physical condition to do so. Driving relies a lot on your reflexes and awareness. Being tired, sleep-deprived, or anything similar can have a dramatic effect on your reaction time, not to mention your ability to stay awake on the road.

And if you’ve taken any mind or body-altering medications or substances? Then it’s best to be a passenger or ditch your car altogether and call a cab. Better safe than sorry.

2) Check that your car is allowed to be on the road

Next, you will want to make sure that your car is even legally permitted to be on the road in the first place. The first question is if your car’s registration is up to date. In the Philippines, a brand-new car’s registration lasts for three years. After that, you will need to renew it annually during a specific month that depends on the final digit of your car’s license plate.

Speaking of that last digit, you will also want to check if your car falls under number coding that day. If you live in Metro Manila and surrounding areas, your car might not be allowed to be on the road on certain days and hours. The usual rule goes: 1 and 2 are banned on Mondays, 3 and 4 on Tuesdays, 5 and 6 on Wednesdays, 7 and 8 on Thursdays, and 9 and 0 on Fridays.

3) Do you have enough fuel?

Another obvious entry, but it can be an easy one to forget if you’re excited to get going. Before setting off, you will want to check that you have enough fuel to carry you to your destination. In case you don’t, do you at least have enough to get you to the nearest gas station? After all, the last thing you want is for your engine to sputter to a dead halt in the middle of the road.

4) Do you have your valid driver’s license with you?

Laugh all you want, but you would be surprised how many motorists actually forget to bring their license with them while they’re driving. Put it inside something you’re sure to always have with you, such as your wallet or phone. If you only drive one car, you could also choose to leave it inside the glove box.

Oh, and if you drive into an exclusive village and leave it at the guard house or walk into an office building and leave it at the lobby, do make sure you get it back!


Now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of things. The acronym BLOWBAGETS is a tried-and-tested list of things to check on your car before driving. Ideally, you should be checking these things on a regular basis. In reality, you should at least do a run-through every so often to make sure your car is in good working order.

  • B – Battery: Your car battery’s main purpose is to start your car. Aside from that, it also keeps things like the alarm, radio, clock, and other electronics running when the engine is switched off. A simple car battery tester will let you know if it is still in good shape. Another way is to see is if the car struggles to start when you turn the ignition.
  • L – Lights: Your car has many lights both in and out of the cabin. These are all easy enough to check. When it comes to the outside, don’t just check your head- and foglights, either. Have someone in the driver’s seat while you stand behind the car and see if the brake lights, taillights, reversing lights, and turn signals are good as well.
  • O – Oil: A simple check of the dipstick to check for quantity and quality can go a long way to ensuring your car’s health.
  • W – Water: Overheating sucks. Avoid this by ensuring the water in the radiator is topped up.
  • B – Brakes: Do your brakes make a funny sound, or do you feel some sort of grinding or sponginess when you come to a full stop? If so, have them checked. Good brakes can spell the difference between safety and an accident.
  • Air – Are your car’s tires properly inflated? Keeping a tire pressure gauge handy will help determine this. You can check your car’s manual or—at least on most models—the inside of the driver’s side door well for the proper amount of air they need. 
  • Gas – We’ve touched on this one. Make sure you have enough to actually get to where you’re going!
  • Engine – A car without a working engine will only go nowhere fast. Check for any leaks or strange noises before you hit the road.
  • Tires – Tire health isn’t just about air pressure. You also want to make sure they have enough tread in case of wet weather. You also want to check for any rips, tears, or possible punctures.
  • Self – This one bears repeating. If you’re in doubt about your ability to drive, then don’t.

And that’s it. Keep these things in mind before you drive, and you’ll find yourself gaining confidence with driving and car ownership pretty soon.