The end is in sight! The evenings seem longer and if you’re lucky, you catch a glimpse of sunlight on the drive to work. The last grips of Winter are starting to loosen, although step outside the past few days and you’d be easily duped into thinking it was mid-December. While we as motorists are inundated with Winter Essential tips and products, now that Spring is imminent and Summer on the horizon (albeit distant!), it’s really time to look at some key tips and tricks to help with the transition back into the good weather or at least a period of warmer rain!! Each of these are cheap, easy little jobs that will have your car in tip-top shape once the urge to take a sunny evenings drive kicks in or you're lugging the family off for a week at Easter.
Give Your Car a Deep Clean
I know it seems like a bit of an effort at this time of year, and all the good work will go to pot after a handful of miles, but regularly giving you’re a car a scrub is massively important for the long term health of the metal work and helps avoid nasty rust appearing in the future. Almost every journey you make at the minute, it’s hard not to notice dark road dirt and mud
covering every surface. While that’s fine splashed all over the visible exterior, its grime lurking in hidden places that can lead to problems. Most cars have an inner lip on the wheel arches that are a devil for gathering dirt, and if left untouched then it’s going to work through the steel over time. I’ve seen cars that are kept in fantastic shape from a distance, but up close the arches and other areas are bubbly messes from neglected grime.
The best and easiest way to sort this out is to get the power washer out, jack up the car and one corner at a time remove the wheel and get stuck in with some elbow grease. On my own cars, I have found that a duo of Automotive Degreaser
and a decent scrubbing brush is a winning combo, but don’t rush the job while you're under there cleaning. Get right up into the suspension turret with the power washer
and brush to get rid of as much dirt and grime as possible. Also, remember to stay safe when jacking up a car, especially if you’re going to have your head in the wheel well. Sticking the removed wheel and even the spare is a handy safety tip, although decent axle stands
are strongly recommended. Get into the habit of taking on a job like this once or twice a year and that will really keep a handle on things.
Clear your Windscreen
Now that the cold weather is coming to an end, it’s time to prepare for the prospect of the sun shining in your eyes as you drive along. The worst thing that can happen at this time of year though is becoming completely blinded by the glare of a dirty windscreen. Think of every morning you hopped into the car, the screen was fogged up and you gave it a quick rub with your hand.
Although perfectly fine, each rub will have left marks on the glass and although generally, you’ll not notice anything, when the light hits at the right angle while your flat out on the motorway and it's gonna be a scary one!
All it takes here is a few minutes, a decent window cleaner and some kitchen paper or a microfibre
. The same way as you’d clean your household windows, windscreens are generally no different. There are countless auto glass cleaning products
available, but I find Windolene hard to beat!! Make sure to be careful around any electrical connections on the screen, generally as part of a warming or de-misting unit, or for any wiring that may be routed around the edges of the screen. While you’re at it, take a few extra minutes to give the side windows and mirrors a rub as well, as chances are they got a rub of your hand one cold morning, and you’ll be thankful for the improved visibility.
Get Your Tyres & Suspension Checked
The recent coupling of bad winters and economic ruination have left much of our road network in a shocking state. While the headline grabbers like Pothole come Jacuzzi in Cork, or the chunk of Motorway crumbling last week aren't exactly par for the course, it’s the countless small holes and bumps that can have a big effect on your car. Over the Winter, its certainly not uncommon for large crevices to be hidden by standing water, and hitting such a bump at speed can lead to serious problems.
Besides the obvious threat of punctures, any large impact can damage suspension components or alter the wheel alignment of your vehicle, which can affect steering as well as encouraging un-even wear on tyres. Also, it’s become increasingly common for alloy wheels to fail from road surface impacts, so be vigilant for visible cracks or leaking air. All good local tyre shops should offer on-site alignment facilities which for generally less than €£50 can have everything lined up perfectly to an astounding degree of accuracy. Any decent person doing the job should also be able to spot any hidden damage to suspension components, so not only might you save on having to buy tyres sooner than expected, but prevent serious suspension issues before they become a major headache.
While looking at those four black rubber beauties at each corner, it's also worth checking over the tyre pressures. Keeping an electric
tyre pump in the boot can be a real life saver, I use mine all the time, in fact it's probably one of my most frequently used tools! Quite often I find myself with a slow puncture and not having to drive on an under inflated tyre till I find a forecourt with a working air line is certainly a huge benefit. The recommended tyre pressures are often found on a sticker inside either the driver or passenger door or inside the fuel filler flap. Having the correct tyre pressures can improve handling, safety and fuel efficiency, so they're well worth sorting. Also, anyone sensible enough to invest in Winter Tyres, now may be the time to switch back to your normal set.
Light Up Your World
How people continue to drive around with faulty or blown lights is beyond me! Besides being dangerous to the driver themselves, not being properly illuminated can be dangerous for other road users as well due to a lack of perception of what lies ahead on the road. While you may think that the dark Winter months are the most important time to have a fully working compliment of lights, going into Spring and Summer this becomes even more critical. As the evenings get longer, and the sun sits right in a driver’s eye line, it’s very easy to get dazzled or blinded. Simply having your headlights on during the daytime, as is the law in many countries, is a massive help to fellow motorists to see you approaching.
Coupled with a low sun and many dusky evenings, this time of year sees more uncommon vehicles on our roads than ever before. Tourists flock
to visit our wee country, but many of them will be driving on a completely opposite side of the road to normal, so you definitely don’t want to be mistaken for a motorbike by a rental car struggling to remember on which side of the white line to reside. Added to that is the influx of farm machinery that will be whizzing about the roads for the next few months as the Silage and Harvest season cranks into life. With these vehicles, many are often driven by young, inexperienced drivers out to make a few quid at the peak times, and so movement can go on well into the small hours. A fully working set of lights gives tractor and machinery drivers the chance to see you approaching in the distance and make some safe room to pass.
Checking your lights is as simple as having someone watch as you operate the various controls, and for most makes the bulbs are inexpensive. We stock a full range of bulbs, specific to your car make and model, and ordering is as easy as a few clicks. For anyone into a bit of DIY, changing a bulb is not the most difficult job, although the complexity of the job can vary wildly from car to car. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, simply pop down to any local garage or mechanic and they’ll have you sorted in no time.
Just like ourselves, the change of temperature from Winter to Spring can affect how your car engine performs. As the temperatures creep higher it's a good time to give a quick check over the various fluid levels inside the engine bay, and add a wee drop here and there where needed. Just as if you were to go out playing football on a sunny day, warm air can cause the working temperature of the engine to rise, and as such more emphasis has to be put on the cooling system to keep everything in check. Make sure your engine is cool and you're parked on a flat surface. Check your engine oil level and make sure it's in between the min and max - aim for just under the max line, that way if the engine does burn a little in between checks you should still be protected.
has to be put on the cooling system to keep everything in check. Make sure your engine is cool and you're parked on a flat surface. Check your engine oil level and make sure it's in between the min and max - aim for just under the max line, that way if the engine does burn a little in between checks you should still be protected.
As with any product that you will be putting into your engine, take care to make sure it's the right stuff for your car! Car makers spend millions developing engines which now run extremely tight tolerances and have complex, integrated emissions control systems which rely on the lubricant to function correctly - long gone are the days where you can just throw the cheapest 10w40 engine oil into the car! Check your owners manual to find the right spec of oil for your car.
A quick visual check of the coolant and brake/clutch fluid reservoirs is also a good idea. Just ensure they're in between the min and max marks. Again these can be specific to your car, so check your owners manual. If you're not comfortable working on your car then leave any noticeable drops in Brake or clutch Fluid to a trained mechanic.
So there's 5 cheap, easy tips to get your car converted from Winter Warrior to Spring Samurai and ready to enjoy come the warm sunny days. All’s left to do now is start practicing your best hand-on-the-sill pose and stay glued to the weather forecast to get those epic road trips planned!