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Safety First, how to prepare for the changing of the seasons

While the arrival of spring reminds us to switch from winter tyres to summer tyres, there are also other aspects of your vehicle to consider

Home road Safety First, how to prepare for the changing of the seasons
Safety First, how to prepare for the changing of the seasons

Systematic car checks extend the life and the efficiency of all car components. So in view of the journeys we are all eagerly awaiting to go on - and after months during which our car has been left unused more than usual - it makes sense to prevent rather than cure. The first thing that needs to be checked in a spring check-up is the efficiency of tyres and brakes. If your car was fitted with winter tyres, these need to be removed and replaced with summer tyres. If, however, you have already replaced them or have opted for all season tyres, then just check the pressure, without forgetting the spare tyre.

The right pressure

Have the pressure checked – our advice is at least once a month and in any case before a long-distance journey – as this is also a great opportunity for a ‘full work-up’ by your tyre specialist, starting with the fundamental tread wear check, and also the visual and tactile inspection of the surface. This allows you to uncover any irregularities, paying close attention to even minimal swelling and tiny cuts. Always remember that the correct pressure for the tyres is indicated by the manufacturer of the vehicle, in a section of the user manual. Over and above safety considerations, respecting the “little bar numbers” carries a double advantage: It increases the useful life of the tyre, which can become worn by up to 20% more if the pressure is incorrect, and it ensures that reasonable limits apply to fuel consumption as this can rise by up to 6% in order to compensate for a tyre’s reduced adhesion to the road surface.

Brake pads and discs

Checking the braking system, starting with the condition of the brake pads and discs, is essential for safety. Modern cars have been designed to facilitate the anticipation of this check, so on several vehicles a warning light on the dashboard indicates when the brake pads need to be checked. On average, although it all essentially depends on your use of the vehicle, this check should be carried out every 30,000 km, if no sign of brake defects (lines, grooves, deformations, cracks, breaks) has been detected beforehand. The brake pads wear more quickly, so they are replaced more often: in general, a set of brake discs lasts twice as long as a set of brake pads. Which means that the discs should be replaced when two sets of pads have been worn out. Although a mechanic is a specialist in the field, there is nothing to stop you from checking these personally, but you need to know the minimum thickness of the disc defined by the manufacturer. If you exceed this value, the braking system will be significantly less effective and the stopping distance will be greater in an emergency. The measuring device is called a micrometer (or Vernier calliper) and it allows comparison with the values defined by the manufacturer. If the disc is scored, replacement is unavoidable. Checking the brake pads obviously means removing the wheels and checking that the thickness of their seal is at least 3 millimetres at the front and 2 millimetres at the rear.

Fluid levels

During your car check-up, it is essential that you check all fluid levels. Starting with one of the most important ones, the engine oil, without waiting for the indicator light on the dashboard to go red and making sure that you top it up – if necessary – with a quality product, which is vital for the efficiency of the vehicle. Another level that needs to be checked is the water in the radiator to ensure there are no possible leaks. Indeed, the hot season puts the engine cooling system to the test. Also remember to check the windscreen wiper cleaning fluid level: it is just as important to travel while seeing through the rear windscreen properly. No less important are the checks to be carried out on the on-board equipment. While tyre chains can be stowed away in your garage, the emergency triangle and the reflective vest must be available at all times. The same applies to the tyre repair kit (if you don’t have a spare wheel), the fluid that powers the air conditioner, and the battery condition, which may have suffered from the cold weather. Again: prevention is better than cure.

The air conditioning filter

In anticipation of the summer heat, another check should be conducted on the air conditioning filter. It is of fundamental importance for the health of the vehicle occupants because it separates and protects them from air pollution, pollens and other agents that may be disruptive. The filter must be replaced once a year or approximately every 10,000 kilometres (consult the Owner's Manual for the intervals recommended by the car manufacturer). This can often also be done by the tyre specialist when you swap out your winter tyres for your summer ones; just ask your trusted dealer. At the same time, to make sure that the air conditioning is now fully efficient, have the coolant level checked as well. Otherwise, as soon as the heat strikes, there’ll be no avoiding the sweat.

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