Check your Spring(s)

clouds and rain over the sea

Monday, 28 September, 2020 – almost a third of the way through Spring, already! That’s according to the official line on the seasons, which puts the three-month Spring season from the start of September.

In typical Spring fashion, it’s going to be chilly for a while yet so don’t be too hasty about packing away the jerseys and hot chocolate. We have visions about the start of this season being the beginning of summer but it is more about being the tail end of winter. Summer is coming soon, though.

Completely at random tonight, let’s talk about cars. Having written about cars of varying types for a good chunk of my life, there’s a few things I’ve come to expect that doesn’t always occur to the average motorist.

The first of these is … windscreen wipers. When you go out to your car next, give them a quick inspection, both front and back (if you have one there). These get dry and brittle over time. The ultraviolet (UV) rays we get from the sun ensures they age badly. You need them to be soft and supple so they work effectively. If they’ve gone hard or have cracked, replace them.

While you’re out there, check your lights – all round the vehicle. Make sure each of them work, both individually and together. If there’s a fault, sometimes a light – like the indicators – will work quite well by themselves but the moment you operate them along with the brakes they behave erratically. Also check that your taillights and brake lights work, it isn’t enough just checking one of the two.

A quick inspection of your tyres is also a good idea. Any cracks on the sidewall? Is the tread depth good? Are they all correctly inflated? Do you have dust caps on all the valves? Remember the spare tyre as well while you do this. Tyres hidden away behind covers or underneath the vehicle can be a pain to check, but it is necessary because finding out they aren’t up to muster when you need them is not ideal.

Since you’re already walking around the vehicle, check all the bits of glass for cracks or chips that impair vision or that will be affected by a sudden change in temperature. It isn’t just about visibility but also about the integrity of the vehicle. Unlike old vehicles, the windscreen is an integral part of the structure of modern vehicles and being cracked means it is compromised.

When last have you checked your fuel cap, to make sure it is there and that it seals properly. While you’re checking this, pop the bonnet and check the oil level, brake fluid and water. Also take a quick look under the car, is there an oil patch or drips of either oil and water – remember, if you have an aircon installed it might create a small puddle so stress too much about it until you’ve confirmed there’s a problem.

In tough economic times one of the first things that goes out the window is vehicle servicing. It is expensive and it doesn’t “feel” like a good expense because “the car is running fine”. It’s only fine until it breaks.

In South Africa the average age of the privately-owned motor vehicle is around 13 years, perhaps even a bit older now. That means the mileage is high and there will have been significant wear-and-tear over the lifetime of the car, so far. Keeping your vehicle in fine condition in a country where cars are as unnecessarily expensive as they are makes very good sense.

On a final note, the title of September derives from the Roman “September”- or seven – as that’s what it was, the seventh month on the Roman calendar. This month, according to the Romans, was under the purview of Vulcan the god of fire and forge.

This brings the Roman expectation of fire, volcanic eruption and … earthquakes. This last might be just that little bit familiar to us in SA right now.

Author: Morné Condon

Automotive journalist in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, following new models, old cars, car clubs and motorsport. My interests are not restricted to the automotive environment, although this is where I am mostly to be found.

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