Training >> Browse Articles >> Patrol


5 Must-Do Patrol Car Checks

5 Must-Do Patrol Car Checks

Dr. Richard Weinblatt

Whether you have a shared patrol car or a take-home unit, almost every officer, deputy sheriff, and trooper I know checks over their car and its equipment before the shift. After all, this is your mobile office. You need it to do your job and its smooth operation may even save your life one day. Some agencies mandate the inspection in policy, while others leave it up to the crime fighter. While most officers do fine checking things such as the cruiser’s mileage and the emergency lights, here are five things that aren’t checked by all officers prior to the shift. If you are checking these things, kudos to you, but if you aren’t, you do soAn.

Under the Car

While we don’t want to be paranoid, the hidden area underneath your patrol car should be checked. The paranoia is justified to some degree given the recent events in rural Riverside County, California where members of the Hemet city police department were targeted with a number of harmful actions including an incendiary device that was attached to an unmarked unit.

Check under your car for explosive devices, as well as debris, is mentioned in the Florida Basic Recruit Academy’s vehicle operations portion. You can use a mirror at the end of a pole or you can kneel and look under the car directly. Either way, it’s a few moments well spent. Ask them in Hemet. I bet they’ll agree with number one on the list.

Tire pressure

As a vehicle operations instructor, I have long been aware that folks routinely bypass checking the tire pressure. This can be deadly especially for officers that are traveling at high speeds on highways.

Prisoner compartment

For some cars still outfitted with removable seats, law enforcers should lift and observe if any weapons or contraband has been placed there by detained suspects or transported prisoners. While some agencies have outfitted their squads with piece molded seats, all should be checked. In addition to officer safety issues, the practice of checking before and after every shift and every person being placed in the rear of the patrol car is a powerful statement that can be made on the witness stand and cements the chain of evidence issue

Ankle restraints

While many agencies have transitioned to hobble restraints, quite a few still have metal ankle cuffs in their patrol cars’ inventory. Much like I had mentioned in a previous article on handcuffs, ankle cuffs are not checked with the frequency and regularity of a firearm. I have seen cuffs that have cobwebs and dust caking them. When an officer needs this piece of equipment, finding them in disrepair will not make this tough job any easier.


Check your visors for items that have ended up there over time that probably shouldn’t be. This particularly rings true for officers who have the benefit of having a take home unit.

For example, many officers shove paperwork above the passenger side visor and then forget about it. That could be a problem if that paperwork is a subpoena or an important piece of case documentation. I have also observed officers sliding pictures of their family up there. Well, remember the often angry passenger locked in your backseat who has nothing but time to study the faces of your family in the hopes of running into them at a store later.

Even if you are the diligent officer that checks his or her patrol car regularly, be sure that you go above and beyond and inspect beyond the usual places. That attention to detail may make the difference in your cases or your officer safety.

Dr. Richard Weinblatt, “The Cop Doc,” is a former police chief, ex busy jurisdiction patrol deputy sheriff, and criminal justice educator who has written articles and provided media commentary since 1989. He can be reached via

  • Family_album_2009_ad


    almost 5 years ago


    Good Information! Kudos to the author.

  • Anonymous-killer-whale-232189_1__max50


    almost 5 years ago


    Good to know stuff by the Cop Doc !!!!!!

  • 165_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    Great checklist!! Preparation is key in success and safety.

  • Dallaspolice_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    We are required to check out any vehicle prior to taking it out. This includes checking for body damage and broken lights..etc. Our department has transitioned to the plastic seats in the rear. These seats are great but not impossible to hide weapons/narcotics. A rookie doing his vehicle inspection located a small two shot darringer in the seat belt slots of a patrol vehicle. All-n-all its a good list. Stay safe brothers..or as the sarge says "kick there's and cover yours..dismissed"

  • _cid__img_20100823_145536__max50


    almost 5 years ago


    I agree with these tips. The checking of visors, tire pressure and under the vehicle are something that we routinely check each and every shift within my security company. This is policy to make certain that all accountability can be traced and obvious safety precautions can be taken. I usually will forget mail or some piece of important paper in my visor, so I definitley see the reality of that problem. Good article.

  • Clone_trooper_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    How about checking for loose lugnuts? When I was in the academy our first day of driver training, I only found 2 lugnuts that were tight... this was on 4 cars!!!

  • 18910727_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    Hmmm, never really thought about doing that much less having to do it once I enter the Police Academy. But as it states in the article, your paranoia might be the things that saves you some day. You just never know that your car might be the last place you'd find yourself dead in. I certainly hope to prevent that. I will take this article into consideration once I have my own cruiser or shared cruiser. These are very helpful tips that can help any Law Enforcement Officer and we can benefit from this.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 5 years ago


    I used to be a Air Force officer on Tyndall Air Force Base in FT.Lauderdale, we loved the base and the climate there, swimming in the gulf, skiing in the surf, wild boar hunting, and the turkey and deer were a fovored so wqe usually had the roasts on the base beach with the usual kegs of beer.

  • Asafari_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    Check your vehicle for your safety as well as other's. Smart, is safe!

  • Shrel-only_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    Very Good article. I may add that while checking under car for bomb or other device also check for any fluid leaks under the car.
    As I was assigned a take home vehicle and parked it over our great Florida sand I would start my search for intrusion from ten feet away by noting the undisturbed sand around my vehicle. Yes, I was working in a high risk undercover situation so it made sense to be extra careful.

  • Image010_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    Especially important is checking under the back seat before and after the shift as mentioned. I have found guns,knives as well as drugs and other items left by prisoners transported by other officers who didn't check under the back seat.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 5 years ago


    While under the hood of the patrol car, the officer should check the engine oil level as a life may depend on it. Nothing would be worse than going to back up a fellow officer calling for help and the engine lets go because it only had quart of oil in it because someone had failed to check in awhile. The brake fluid reservoir should also be check, a low fluid level could indicate a possible leak, worn pads, all of which could cause system failure when you need them the most. Coolant level, power steering, transmission oil level, and belts all of which by themselves or all together could cause major problems. I know this sounds like a lot but it could all be check in less than 5 minutes. if you don't know how to check these things than ask the mechanic to show you, some agencies hold the officer responsible for their vehicle.

PoliceLink School Finder

Save time in your search for a degree program. Use PoliceLink's School Finder to locate schools online and in your area.

* In the event that we cannot find a program from one of our partner schools that matches your specific area of interest, we may show schools with similar or unrelated programs.

Recent Activity

Irishcop1961 commented on: "Beverly Thoma Bullock", 27 minutes ago.
Irishcop1961 posted in: "new girlfriend of an upcoming officer", 29 minutes ago.
36TR posted in: "Lake County Correctional Officer Study Guidean", about 1 hour ago.
southiebev commented on: "Ed Keeney", about 2 hours ago.