Niagara Gazette

Features

March 20, 2014

TOM'S CORNER: Winter gives way to spring in the car world

Niagara Gazette — This past winter was a particularly brutal one. Cars suffered all kinds of damage this year because of brutal winter weather conditions. The best place to begin looking at your car to get ready for spring is with the undercarriage:

Undercarriage damage

Have the vehicle closely inspected for undercarriage damage. Just to make it clear what we’re talking about here; any part of the car that is exposed to the roadway is considered undercarriage. Have the fuel, brake & emission system lines checked for damage. If during winter you ended up with a lit check engine light, you may have tore an emission system line from the underside of the car when you went over a frozen snowdrift. If a brake light is lit on the dash you may have torn a brake fluid line loose resulting in a hydraulic imbalance of the system. Emergency brake cables can freeze, causing the brakes to stay in the applied position wearing the brakes out, so have the e-brake brake cables checked for ease of movement and application. Repair/replace any questionable components. Electrical wiring closely affixed to the underside of the vehicle can be easily torn from their seats resulting in inaccurate fuel level readings, malfunctioning air ride systems, brake/turn signal/or running lights not lit and a host of other electrical gremlins poking their head up to the light of day. Diagnose and repair.

 

Steering system damage

On cars that have rack & pinion steering, tie rod ends are covered with a protective boot called a “Bellow.” These bellows look like an accordion to allow for left and right extension of the tie rods when turning corners. They protect the ball & socket joints that make up the tie rod systems. When the bellows tear, lubricant is lost, and the environmental elements are allowed in, which causes degradation of the joint/s. Over time, the ball & socket joints can separate resulting in loss of steering control. Replace any torn steering bellows. In vehicles with conventional steering systems, there are a lot more ball & socket joints to check along with protective rubber boots. Unfortunately, with torn boots on these types of systems, the whole tie rod end should be replaced. Additionally on conventional steering systems check idler and pitman arms for wear & replace any components that exhibit movement because this will wear tires and cause poor vehicle control.

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