Category Archives: Winter Service

Snowblind: Essential Checks for your Car for the Coming Months

Snowblind: Essential Checks for your Car for the Coming Months

You may think that we’re being premature, but it’s better to think ahead now and prepare than to be caught out down the line. These are our recommended checks for your car for the colder season.

The aim of any winter check is to increase driver safety and to ensure that the vehicle is well protected against the cold, rain,frost, and other seasonal elements. Below is a handy list of the key checks that technicians should carry out when a vehicle rolls into the workshop for a winter service.

The right tyres

The first step should always be to check the tyres. Is the tread depth sufficient and are they free of damage? These factors are key in ensuring that the vehicle does not skid under braking or start to aquaplane dangerously if the driver encounters black ice, rain or slush on the roads. Like in most European countries, a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm is prescribed in the UK. However, this should be considered the bare minimum.

The aim of any winter check is to increase driver safety and to ensure that the vehicle is well protected against the cold, rain,frost, and other seasonal elements. Below is a handy list of the key checks that technicians should carry out when a vehicle rolls into the workshop for a winter service, as well as details of just some of the components available from Herth+Buss, which can help give added peace of mind.

The right tyres

The first step should always be to check the tyres. Is the tread depth sufficient and are they free of damage? These factors are key in ensuring that the vehicle does not skid under braking or start to aquaplane dangerously if the driver encounters black ice, rain or slush on the roads. Like in most European countries, a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm is prescribed in the UK. However, this should be considered the bare minimum.

The tyre pressure also plays an important role. Ever since November 2014, a tyre pressure monitoring system has been required on all new cars for safety reasons. In this system, sensors check the tyre pressure and notify the driver if the pressure drops. Faulty sensors can easily be replaced.

Lighting

The lighting fixtures on the vehicle obviously play an essential role in winter. Darkness, rain, snow and fog all reduce visibility, as do mud and dirt thrown up from the road. Headlights can lose up to 60% of their luminosity after just half an hour of driving on dirty roads. In addition to ensuring that all lights are fully functional, you also need to check that the headlights have been correctly adjusted. If they have been set too high or too low, oncoming drivers will be dazzled.

If a light on one side of the vehicle is faulty, it is always recommended to replace the light on the other side too, so as to stop that light failing as well. This is because the two lights usually have a similar service life. In contrast, moisture on the inside of headlights does not pose a problem. It manifests itself as a thin layer inside the lens. It is produced when cold outside air meets the heat produced by the headlights, and generally disappears when the headlights are switched on.
However, if there is a relatively large quantity of water inside the headlights, it is recommended to replace them. In many European countries, it is now also compulsory to switch on the headlights during the day. Special daytime running lights are ideally suited to this task. They are used in addition to the headlights, but are weaker, use less power and last longer.

Windscreen and rear window

When it comes to ensuring that drivers have a clear view, the windows are just as important as the lights. As any drives can attest to, if the windows are iced up, it is easier to clear the ice from a clean windscreen or rear window than a dirty one. To ensure drivers have a clear view even when the temperature drops below freezing, the windscreen washer system also needs to be filled with a suitable antifreeze agent. So- called nano-seals can also be used to help rainwater run off the vehicle. If your customers keep a sharp ice scraper in their glove box, please note that it will damage the glass. Recommend to your customer that they use a plastic scraper which is kinder to the glass!

Body and suspension

Road salt is used by city and municipal authorities to stop ice forming on roads. According to new findings, it is less harmful to modern paints than was generally assumed to be the case. Salt only becomes a problem if it rubs against the vehicle and causes scratches, which then allow the ingress of moisture. Customers should be informed about such paintwork damage as there is a risk that rust will form here, and treating rust can be expensive. Another important way of stopping rust forming is to clear leaves from corners and nooks/crannies to ensure that water can drain away correctly and exhaust- air ducts are clear. You should also check, clean and, if necessary, seal the underbody.

Suspension parts such as the axles, joints and hinges are at much greater risk of suffering from rust. Unlike the sheet metal for the body, these components are not galvanised and are therefore particularly susceptible to rust. Rust can be prevented using greases and penetrating oils from spray cans. However, this protection needs to be reapplied regularly as it is rinsed off by water over time as the vehicle is being driven.

Battery

The battery is by far the most common cause of breakdowns in winter. It is placed under high loads as the heating and lighting systems on the vehicle are constantly in use. Modern maintenance-free batteries generally no longer require a great deal of time and attention. However, you should ensure that they are not discharged completely as this usually means they fail.

When removing batteries, always remove the negative cable first and then the positive cable (follow the reverse order when installing batteries). To charge batteries using a charger, the correct voltage first needs to be set on the device. If the batteries are not maintenance-free, the technician needs to cast their well-trained eyes over the ‘magic eye’, which indicates the battery’s state of charge and acid level. Fluid may, of course, need to be topped up and the battery charged.

A battery tester is recommended for this. Additionally, you could recommend a jumper cable to your customers if they do not have one yet. Powerful assisted start devices and chargers should form part of the basic equipment in any workshop, particularly in the cold winter months.

Radiator

Here, it is important to ensure that the coolant contains enough antifreeze agent. If the engine’s water circuit freezes, it can cause expensive damage. The best way to check whether there is enough antifreeze agent is to use a cooling spindle. Please note that not every antifreeze agent is suitable for use in every radiator. Therefore, always carefully read the respective manufacturer specifications before using the product.

Air filter

In winter, the interior air filter is in heavy demand as the windows frequently fog up. If the filter is clogged, less air will flow through the filter and the windows will fog up faster. Therefore clean and, if necessary, replace the filter.

Brakes

When the roads are wet and slippery, drivers need to be able to rely fully on their brakes. As such, it is crucial to test them to ensure they are working properly. You should set great store in using high-quality products because the brakes – as a safety-critical component – leave no room for errors, particularly in winter.

It is crucial to regularly check and, if necessary, clean all components in the brake system, particularly in winter. From the brake cable to the pads, pay careful attention here to ensure everything is in perfect condition.

Control system and shock absorption

The aspects to bear in mind for the brakes apply in equal measure to the control and shock absorption systems. After all, the roads themselves are also affected by the weather. Minor damage may become worse in winter due to the higher loads, causing a domino effect. If the shock absorbers are affected, the handling will be significantly impaired. Rubber parts designed to mitigate the friction from metal parts become brittle due to the moisture, and therefore fail. As such, it is important to take action promptly if required, by replacing damaged or faulty parts. When doing so, only use parts of OE quality or a comparable quality level.

Diesel fuel filter

Owners of diesel vehicles need to take particular care in winter because the fuel gels at low temperatures and clogs the fuel filter. In the worst-case scenario, the engine stops receiving fuel and stops working. In the winter months, this is why petrol stations offer winter diesel, which is less susceptible to this problem. If winter diesel is not available or a significant drop in temperature is imminent, additives can offer additional peace of mind. They are added to the tank and ensure that the diesel remains in a fluid state down to temperatures of –31°C.

Ensuring total customer satisfaction

As a specialist, the most important advice that you can offer your customers in winter is to ensure their vehicles are regularly maintained. If you look after your vehicle all year round, there will be no nasty surprises come the winter months and you will ultimately save money. Similar advice applies to spare parts: If something needs to be replaced, we strongly recommend opting for a part manufactured to OE or a comparable quality level. Although it might cost a little more, this investment will pay off and the benefits will be clear to see when it comes to performance, durability and maintenance.

The Three B’s of Winter Service

During a winter service, it is imperative to check and, if necessary, replace, the three ‘B’s of winter service: batteries, bulbs, and blades. Life is made much easier for garages when they are able to source these products from the same company, which is where HELLA comes in.

Bulbs

“As lights are such safety critical components, it is best practice to replace left and right side bulbs at the same time, as both have a similar life span.”

As the clocks go back, headlights are switched on earlier in the morning and kept on for longer in the evening, which is why it is common that bulbs fail and need replacing more often in winter. HELLA is an OE manufacturer of lights, so whether it’s a headlight, sidelight or taillight that needs replacing, the company claims to provide a high quality and durable solution, catering for virtually all of the vehicle parc. As lights are such safety critical components, it is best practice to replace left and right side bulbs at the same time, as both have a similar life span.

Blades

Drivers frequently put wiper blades to the test under difficult conditions. These consumables must withstand temperatures of -30 to 70 ̊, as well as the changeable winter weather conditions such as snow, sleet and rain. It is easy to see when wiper blades need to be changed: if the visibility is even slightly impaired, it is important to change them. HELLA understands just how crucial it is for high quality wipers to be fitted onto a vehicle, which is why the manufacturer’s range covers a large portion of the passenger car parc. All HELLA wiper blades are said to be long-lasting and durable, featuring a graphite-coated edge, which ensures the blades glide smoothly and quietly across the windscreen for a perfect view.

Batteries

Underperforming batteries remain the root cause of the majority of winter breakdowns, with one in four vehicles at risk of battery failure, while battery performance is reduced by 35% if temperatures hit freezing. HELLA has recently updated and expanded its battery range to provide the most appropriate solution to the varied needs of drivers. The company says it has focused on high quality and choice, offering four ranges within the battery portfolio – Classic, Premium, Supreme and AGM – all of which cater for a variety of needs, vehicles and applications.

hella-range-batteries

Overcoming three tricky winter faults

Make: VW
Model: T5, Transporter
Model year: 2003 onwards
Those affected: All models with rear double-wing doors
Issue: Malfunction of rear window wipers

With some of the above-mentioned vehicles, a fault in one of the rear window wiper motors can lead to various malfunctions of the system. These affect the functioning of both the rear window wipers and also the front windscreen wipers.

In some cases, the rear window wipers work non-stop and/or they do not react to the various settings on the steering column switch. Fault codes are not necessarily stored in the control unit.

Defects in the rear window wiper motor can be caused by water entering via the wiper shaft. Severe oxidation or dampness in the interior can lead to “electromigration” or to a permanent positive connection. In such a case the wiper motors at the rear (as the culprits causing the problem) can first of all be disconnected so that (until the motors are replaced) at least the front windscreen wipers can function properly. In this situation, the rear window wiper motor(s) had to be replaced. The experts at HELLA resolve three tricky issues that garages may encounter this winter.

Make: Honda
Model: CR-V
Model years: 07.11.2001-17.09.2004
Engine: 2.0i (K20A4)
Issue: Failure of dipped headlightSide

The dipped headlight can fail on this vehicle with the cause often attributed to a defect in the connection between the light switch and the cable plug.

Friction can wear the coating on the contacts between the light switch and the cable plug which can result in increased resistance. In extreme cases, the high temperatures can melt the connection with the plug and the dipped headlight can fail.

The VM has acknowledged the problem and the 16-pole plug on the combi-light switch is now being checked in the garage and replaced where necessary.

Make: Mazda
Model: RX-8
Those affected: All models from 10/2008 onwards
Issue: Coolant level warning light illuminated

If the coolant level warning light comes on in the abovementioned vehicles although the coolant level is correct, a possible cause of the trouble is a faulty coolant level sensor.

In such cases, the coolant level sensor, the lead and the plug are to be checked for any form of damage and also for continuity of electrical current. If the sensor is welded to the expansion tank, then this tank has to be completely renewed.

The manufacturer now offers a modified coolant expansion tank for this purpose, under part number N3H1-15-350L.

Visit Hella’s knowledge portal for garages by logging on to www.hella.com/techworld

 

Shocks and springs – key winter checks

As a critical item on the MOT tester’s checklist, KYB recommends that every vehicle that comes into the workshop during (and after) the winter months is checked for broken coil springs as a matter of course.

The majority of drivers will not even realise when they have a broken spring on their vehicle.

Rapid corrosion

During harsh weather conditions, any road spring can ultimately break. Grit thrown up from the road hits the coil springs and can damage the surface coating. This means that the metal becomes exposed and it therefore rapidly corrodes, especially when there is salt on the roads. In addition to this, debris which collects on the spring pan acts as a grinding paste between the spring and spring seat.

Even though a coil spring may appear to be in perfect condition when viewed in-situ with the shock absorber, the coil which is in contact with the shock absorber itself may have suffered from extensive corrosion, making it liable to breakage at any time.

The ongoing trend to reduce the shape and size of coil springs versus the continuing increase in vehicle weight is also a contributing factor to the increase in coil spring breakages. Drivers demand more optional extras, such as air conditioning and sound systems – but this additional weight puts more strain on the spring. High strength steels have been introduced, which are capable of working at higher stress levels, however even with a good surface coating on the spring, the harsh conditions on the roads in the winter mean that they are still susceptible at this time of year.

What if the spring needs replacing?

If the inspection of the coil spring highlights a breakage, resulting in a replacement being required, why not take the opportunity to check the shock absorber, suspension mounting kit and protection kit at the same time?

Shock absorber and coil spring manufacturers always talk about the importance of fitting shocks and springs in pairs – the reason for this being that shock absorbers wear gradually over time. If one is identified as leaking and worn, it’s most likely that the other one is too, as there is no significant difference between the wear rates on each side. However, if oil isn’t pouring out, the second one is not recommended for replacement. If a shock is worn, it is no longer keeping the tyre in contact with the road – which is dangerous. It also leaves the car imbalanced.

Coil springs should be replaced at the same time as this in order to maintain an even ride height on the vehicle. They also return the vehicle to the correct ride height, as they can become coil-bound over time – this is essentially losing their ‘bounce back-ability’.

The most effective way for the vehicle owner to understand this issue when it comes to their vehicle service is to explain to them the importance of fitting a pair. To help back this up, manufacturers all have a range of point of sale material – such as posters and leaflets – that garages can use in their MOT viewing area or reception.

Winter coolant servicing – profit opportunities and tips

Contemporary coolants have become every bit as ‘vehicle specific’ as engine oil. There are now three very distinct technologies used as ‘original fill’ by vehicle manufacturers. These coolants all perform the same essential functions – i.e. prevent freezing and overheating, while simultaneously protecting engine and cooling system components against corrosion and erosion. But their chemical additive formulations  – also called ‘packages’ – are entirely different, one from another, and can’t be mixed or substituted.

It means that for technicians to protect warranties, vehicles presented for servicing must be re-filled or topped up with the exact type of OE coolant that went in on-line. And that makes winter servicing with manufacturer-approved coolants a significant profit opportunity; an opportunity that switched-on independent workshops should be quick to grasp.

The most recent research conducted for Comma’s Professional Partner Programme revealed that franchised dealers typically charge £120 – and more – for a coolant drain and refill. Yet with the latest coolant re-filling equipment, the job can be done professionally, using the correct, manufacturer-approved coolants, in under half an hour at a charge-out rate around half that figure. In fact, three vehicles an hour could easily be serviced, making this a viable ‘while you wait’ proposition with high returns. The equipment is readily available, easy to use, requires no special training, and eliminates the need for thermo recycling – i.e. running the engine hot and cold to bleed off air.

Coolant technologies – What’s the difference?

For the European passenger car and LCV market, the three types of coolant specified by vehicle manufacturers are:

1) Silicate based technology.

2) OAT (Organic Acid Technology) based technology.

3) The most recently developed technology, based on a combination of both Silicate and OAT, and known as Si-OAT.

Silicate products have a 2/3 year service life before replacement; OAT and Si-OAT products have a longer, 5 year service life.

BASF Glysantin® coolants are the original equipment (OE) fill to most European VMs. These are designated either G48® (Silicate) G30® (OAT) and G40® (Si-OAT). The last of these – G40® – was specially developed in collaboration with VAG Group, and is  manufacturer-approved for all VAG (Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, SEAT, Skoda and Volkswagen) models from 2005 onwards, plus selected Mercedes Benz and Porsche models..

Finding the right coolant

Comma’s coolant application data covers the entire UK vehicle park, dating back over 30 years (visit the VRN look-up at www.CommaOil.com) with every one of the 7,000+ recommended applications being covered by a 100% guarantee of compatibility and quality.

Technicians’ tips

For best coolant practise, follow these guidelines……and don’t forget to inform your customer about what you have done, and why.

  • When the additive package is ‘spent’, replace all coolant to restore full protection.
  • Check the vehicle handbook and always fill with the correct, manufacturer-approved or OE compliant coolant.
  • Never mix coolant types – it cancels out their individual protective properties and could actually lead to mechanical damage.
  • Use only de-ionised/distilled water – never tap water – to dilute concentrated coolants.
  • Flush old or dirty systems with cleaner before re-filling.
  • Visually check the entire coolant system for leaks after re-filling.

Brush up your engine coolant knowledge by visiting the Comma online training academy at