UN­DER-CAR CHECKS

Car Mechanics (UK) - - Servicing from Home -

Power steer­ing fluid leaks tend to come from ei­ther the top pin­ion, or be­neath the gaiters, caused by failed in­ter­nal seals – all of which dic­tates that the steer­ing rack has to be re­moved and dis­man­tled. How­ever, grease can emerge from end gaiters. Like drive­shaft gaiters, torn rub­ber is an MOT fail­ure point and will per­mit mois­ture and grit to per­me­ate the joint, wear­ing it out pre­ma­turely. While light per­ish­ing is ac­cept­able, check sus­pen­sion rub­ber bushes for deep cracks, or even dis­in­te­gra­tion. A typ­i­cal MOT in­spec­tion will check for ex­ces­sive wear (see Pass the MOT Test, CM, Novem­ber 2017), but a close look at ser­vic­ing time can pre­empt any po­ten­tial prob­lems. In­spect all pipes for ex­ces­sive rust­ing or chaf­ing and make sure they are all mounted se­curely to the un­der­body. En­sure that all plas­tic clips are in good con­di­tion and are not com­ing away from the floor­pan. Check the in­tegrity of any elec­tri­cal wiring as well.

On rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive cars, check and ser­vice the prop­shaft. En­sure that any sup­port bearings are in good or­der and that the univer­sal and slid­ing joints nei­ther ex­hibit play, nor re­quire greas­ing. If nec­es­sary, a grease gun can be con­nected to a nip­ple to in­ject lu­bri­cant into the joint.

Some 4x4 ve­hi­cles, no­tably those fit­ted with Haldex cou­pling sys­tems or sim­i­lar, re­quire pe­ri­odic oil and fil­ter changes. Again, con­sult your ve­hi­cle hand­book and main­te­nance in­for­ma­tion for ad­vice. While this task may be be­yond the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of novices, more ex­pe­ri­enced Diy­ers should have no dif­fi­culty.

Al­ter­na­tively, on rear-wheel drive, or 4x4 ve­hi­cles, check the dif­fer­en­tial oil level within the rear axle cas­ing in the same way as check­ing the gearbox fluid level. Note that the oil spec­i­fi­ca­tion might not be the same as that dic­tated for a man­ual gearbox.

As your in­spec­tion in­volves re­mov­ing the wheels, check the tyre tread for any un­even wear and both sides of the side­wall for cuts and bulges. Us­ing an al­loy wheel cleaner, clean both the in­side and out­side sur­faces of alu­minium al­loy rims, prior to coat­ing their con­tact points with cop­per grease. With the wheels off, in­spect the sus­pen­sion strut (if fit­ted) for bro­ken springs and leaks em­a­nat­ing from the shock ab­sorber. If vis­i­ble, es­pe­cially on the rear, check that the bump stops (which may be mounted to ei­ther the sus­pen­sion or, body­work) are in­tact and in good or­der – the one pictured is bro­ken. Af­ter ex­am­in­ing any other rel­e­vant parts that are ac­ces­si­ble with the wheels re­moved, in­clud­ing ca­bles, gaiters and sus­pen­sion balljoint gaiters (shown here), clear any ac­cu­mu­lated mud from un­der the whee­larch, prior to re­fit­ting the wheels and tight­en­ing the nuts or bolts to the spec­i­fied torque. With each wheel in the air, rock it lightly to check for play. While move­ment or light ‘clonks’ might be caused by a worn sus­pen­sion part, most wheel bearings should ex­hibit no play what­so­ever, un­less ta­per bearings are fit­ted, in which case the end-float might re­quire ad­just­ment. Con­sult your work­shop man­ual.

When re­fit­ting the un­der­tray, grease any bolt threads so that they will be easy to re­move at the next ser­vice. Do not be tempted to drive with any miss­ing or bro­ken clips, be­cause the tray can be­come de­tached sur­pris­ingly eas­ily. You may have to cre­ate your own in­no­va­tive means of re­pair­ing bro­ken sec­tions (see in­set pic).

When re­fit­ting en­gine cov­ers (see Step 2), check that the mount­ings are in good or­der – on diesels es­pe­cially, where they are im­por­tant in re­duc­ing vi­bra­tion be­ing trans­ferred into the cabin. Re­place­ments tend to be in­ex­pen­sive and hav­ing them in good or­der re­duces the risk of the panel work­ing loose, when the car is driven. Af­ter wash­ing the body­work, ver­ify that all drain holes in the doors, sills, sun­roof, etc, are clear. Check for any rust spots and ap­ply a rust con­verter, fol­lowed by primer and paint, to any sus­pect ar­eas. Lu­bri­cate any locks and latches – an op­er­a­tion that tends to be over­looked. Pay par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to door check straps, which tend to suf­fer the most wear. If the strap is se­cured to the door pil­lar by a bolt, en­sure that it is tight. Ad­di­tion­ally, bat­tery ter­mi­nals should be greased with pe­tro­leum jelly. Wind­screen wipers should be in good or­der – split or per­ished rub­bers must be re­placed. It is also good prac­tice to renew the wiper blades ev­ery 12-18 months, not only to main­tain op­ti­mum vi­sion but also to re­duce the chance of mi­nor scratches on the swept area of the wind­screen. Af­ter polishing and wax­ing the body­work, re­set the ser­vice in­dic­tor. This can be done by ma­nip­u­lat­ing the but­tons on your in­stru­ment clus­ter (see your work­shop man­ual), or by us­ing di­ag­nos­tic equip­ment (as de­tailed be­low). Do not for­get to make an en­try in the ser­vice his­tory show­ing that the work has been com­pleted. Re­place the air-con­di­tion­ing/cli­mate con­trol pollen/cabin fil­ter on cars where one is fit­ted. Con­sider pay­ing ex­tra for a new fil­ter that has been car­bon ac­ti­vated, which will re­move odours and cer­tain pol­lu­tants in ad­di­tion to capturing dust, pollen and other con­tam­i­nants. The evap­o­ra­tor within the air­con­di­tion­ing sys­tem (lo­cated deep within the dash­board) tends to at­tract mould growth. Con­sider us­ing an aerosol ‘bomb’ that kills the spores, thus pre­vent­ing them from en­ter­ing the cabin via the vents and caus­ing ill­ness.

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