The inspection should start with the cabin door. If the door is hard to open or close, or if the carpeting or seats are wet from a recent rain, there is a good chance that the door, fuselage, or both are misaligned. This may be a sign of structural damage.
The windshield and side windows should be examined for cracks and/or crazing. Crazing is the first stage of delamination of the plastic. Crazing decreases visibility, and a severely crazed window can result in near zero visibility due to light refraction at certain angles to the sun.
The airspeed indicator should be properly marked, and the indicator needle should read zero. If it does not, the instrument may not be calibrated correctly. Similarly, the vertical speed indicator (VSI) should also read zero when the airplane is on the ground. If it does not, a small screwdriver can be used to zero the instrument. The VSI is the only flight instrument that a pilot has the prerogative to adjust. All others must be adjusted by an FAA certificated repairman or mechanic.
The magnetic compass is a required instrument for both VFR and IFR flight. It must be securely mounted, with a correction card in place. The instrument face must be clear and the instrument case full of fluid. A cloudy instrument face, bubbles in the fluid, or a partially filled case renders the instrument unusable. [Figure 2-5]
The gyro driven attitude indicator should be checked before being powered. A white haze on the inside of the glass face may be a sign that the seal has been breached, allowing moisture and dirt to be sucked into the instrument.
The altimeter should be checked against the ramp or field elevation after setting in the barometric pressure. If the variation between the known field elevation and the altimeter indication is more than 75 feet, its accuracy is questionable.
The pilot should turn on the battery master switch and make note of the fuel quantity gauge indications for comparison with an actual visual inspection of the fuel tanks during the exterior inspection.