For me, flight instructing is my second career soulmate. I love it! Obviously, or I would not have flight instructed for 5 years before going to the airlines, nor would I have flight instructed again while I was on maternity leave with my first son.
Today I want to talk instruments- what is required for an IFR flight. Of course, even if you are doing a VFR flight, it's still a great idea to make sure all your instruments are working properly. I have always checked my instruments in the same order each time to make sure I don't miss one, and I recommend you do the same. Pick an order, and stick with it.
Airspeed Indicator: Should indicate zero unless you are pointed into the wind and it is a pretty intense wind (in which case, maybe you should be flying?).
*Attitude Indicator: Make sure the horizon bar on the attitude indicator tilts no more than 5 degrees during taxi turns. I took this photo before the engine was on, thus the gyro is not spinning. If you saw the instrument show this during a taxi, it would not be legal for instrument flight.
Altimeter: Must indicate within 75' of the airport elevation when set to the correct airport altimeter setting. I flew out of KBFI, which sits at 21'; this instrument shows within 75' of that, so it would be legal for an instrument flight.
VSI (Vertical Speed Indicator): Make sure it shows zero... if it doesn't- no big deal! It's not a required instrument, so make a mental note of where "zero" is, and use that as your reference. Looks like 50 feet climbing is my zero reference for this little guy.
*Heading Indicator: Align the heading indicator with the magnetic compass and make sure before you takeoff that it doesn't precess more than 15 degrees in 3 minutes.