How detailed my inspection will be of an aircraft before I fly it depends a great deal on the EXACT circumstances. The small ship maintenance chief at one base I flew out of regularly called my preflights a daily annual inspection...
Start with the maintenance record (log book, ALWAYS!!!!).
Talk to the pilot who flew it that day, if it's someone I know well and TRUST a great deal, my check might be fluids and obvious damage. Mostly I look the whole aircraft over in this process.
Otherwise it's my personal preflight, look at everything, grab it and if it requires/allows push/pull/twist, it gets it. Rock the aircraft to see if fluid moves in the sight glass or is it a stain. I carry small disposable inspection mirrors, and use a flash light for some checks. A familiar aircraft type and with inspection stands convenient, it adds between 5 and 10 minutes to the bare naked preflight card.
Twins run to the longer side of the list, there is more to check, and one must get out the RFM for W&B stuff.
The idea is to KNOW what is what before you takeoff.
The maintenance log book is your FRIEND, read it.
Edited by Wally, 20 November 2017 - 18:13.