Seriously, we want you to get a grip!
As we career slightly under control towards Christmas once again our good friends in ZF Aftermarket remind us of those really important autumn and winter checks. One can hardly ignore the depressing dark morning starts and night time commutes as we go about our daily grind but outside the cosy warm stereo audio plumbed cockpit of our car things are tough. The conditions are dark, cold, wet, windy and these days, icy too! Add to this extra traffic volume as folks park their bicycles and abandon public transport for the comfort of the car and our reactions must be sharper and our contact with the road more secure than ever, some research suggesting stopping distances up to 10 times further in winter conditions!
Aside from the need for us to pay closer attention to other road users in the dark and slippery conditions, is there much else we can do to mitigate these higher accident risks? Well yes actually. There are four areas in particular that we should attend to in preparing and servicing our car for winter time use:
- Lighting – Our own front lights and visibility to others
- Visibility – Screens and wipers
- Brakes – The predictable, balanced operation of all four brake units
- Suspension – Critical components keeping wheels on the ground and facing forward
We have prepared some hints and tips specific to lighting and visibility which will be a separate article but with the help of the guys in ZF, here’s how you should ready your car for the next few months. ZF being original equipment suspension and brake part manufacturers know their business very well and point out just how intrinsic each system is to the other. The brake system must be able to exert a very precise braking force to each of the four wheels on your car to minimise the stopping distance. This is even more critical in a modern car with high tech anti-lock brake systems and stability control programmes. These complicated electronic safety aids function where along-side your brake pedal control, a powerful computer system will try to increase or moderate brake pressure to certain wheels unbeknown to you, improving stopping power. For these complicated “systems” to work, each component of the system must be perfect. Otherwise the result is simply less than 100% efficiency, the potential of an accident, cost or even injury. If you are not completely sure about the condition of the parts listed here, we strongly advise that you have them checked.
Inspection means inspection – a good relationship with your service garage is peace of mind!
Is hygroscopic meaning it absorbs moisture from the air and degrades with time. Poor quality fluid doesn’t function correctly and promotes corrosion inside your brake system. Seized brakes are common and almost always related to old brake fluid. Brake fluid is not expensive!
Brake pads are the prime wearing “sacrificial” parts of your brakes. The pads can sustain massive mechanical and thermal loads which occur under heavy braking but this requires that they are not worn below minimum limits. When worn too thin they have insufficient strength to grip your brake rotors and the remains of bonded brake friction material can break-up under heavy mechanical or thermal pressure.
New does not mean stupidly expensive! You may be surprised if you check our TRW brake prices
Brake Rotors (Disks):
The rotors normally survive several sets of brake pads and while they are not the prime wearing part in the brake system, the rotors sustain enormous wear and thermal pressure. Over time the metal surface is slowly polished away and they become “thinned”. There is a minimum safe limit where the strength of the rotor is compromised, they can deform under the thermal stress “buckling” or even crack or break. Over their life they are a negligible price to pay for good brake operation!
Remember that your service garage will not tell you to change these parts if they are in good condition but you really should heed their advice if they suggest that you do!
When things go badly wrong. Yes, the brake surface is totally gone!
Again reminding us of their expertise the guys in ZF Aftermarket highlight how important good quality properly functioning suspension is. Aside from isolating you from the harsh road in your comfortable cockpit, your suspension system is what keeps your tyres pressed constantly and evenly against the ground. Irrespective of your road speed and the surface under your tyres, it really is critical that the tyre surface is maintained flat against the road, that both wheels on each axle are perfectly parallel with each other and that the wheels and tyres are not bouncing over rough ground. So just how does your suspension system achieve all of this or more to the point, what parts do we need to have checked and why?
Your shock absorbers, correctly called dampers are critically matched to the mass of your other suspension parts, wheels, brakes etc. Their job is to slow the travel of your wheel and suspension in upwards and downwards motion to keep your tyre pressed hard against the road.
Suspension springs take a battering over Irish roads. Technically these are helically wound torsion bars, all you need to know is that they can and do break after years of hammering, typically close to either end. This may not be instantly apparent but the weight over each wheel becomes unbalanced as does grip and braking power. This does happen and radically increases stopping distance!
Whether these are the steering joints keeping your wheels parallel, rubber bushings or “ball joints” allowing wheel hubs to steer and move vertically, they wear over time, bearing the weight of the car and absorbing harsh road surface impacts. This is the same front and rear though the rear may not steer on your car. It is a bit unpleasant to ignore knocking, clicking or creaking as you drive but if you can hear your suspension then it is broken! This simply means your tyres are not necessarily vertical with respect to the ground, are most unlikely to be pointed straight ahead or parallel with each other and certainly not pressed evenly against the road. If this makes you feel at all unsafe then have an inspection carried out, ignore this at your peril!
You are probably starting to see how there is a complicated interaction between you, your car, your car’s high tech computer controlled ABS and ESC systems and the brake and suspension systems. This refined and carefully engineered solution is only as good as each one of the components in the system. Whether you drive low mileage in a VW Up or a BMW 5 series or knock out massive miles in an Audi A4 or Skoda Octavia then you can be assured that you can buy premium quality original equipment parts from OTTO. Our selection of Sachs and Boge springs and dampers with matching suspension parts from Lemforder and brakes from TRW are the highest quality your money can buy. We carry massive stocks of these parts and supply the biggest service businesses in the country.
Why not visit our web shop where you can look up your car parts from your registration or call in to any of our branches in Dublin (Tallaght or Airside, Swords), Cork or Galway? Try clicking on the Branch Locator button below.