10 tips to monsoon-proof your car
7th Jun 2018 11:06 am
Wary of a merciless monsoon ahead? Here’s how you can guarantee yourself a hassle-free drive.
The scorching summer is finally behind us and has made way for some welcome relief in the form of the monsoon season. A hearty rainfall may soothe nerves but is notoriously famous for playing havoc with cars and their components. With a car not fit enough to tackle the onslaught of the monsoons, you aren’t just leaving the door open for a flurry of niggles but also for disaster.
It’s far more pleasant to just be prepared with a car that’s in top-notch condition, right? Here’s what you need to go over – and you can do most of it yourself, too!
TREAD WITH CAUTION
Ensure you have tyres with a good amount of tread. Wet roads offer heavily compromised traction, made worse still by water occasionally mixing with leaked oils and other vehicular fluids. Adequate tread will be able to channel this inconveniencing mix (or even just water itself) with ease, making sure you go exactly where you want to – and definitely not sideways. If equipped with worn tyres (with inadequate tread, that is), we strongly suggest you change to a new set before the monsoons set in. Most tyres have tread-wear indicators – a small rubber bar between the grooves on a tyre – built into them that you should keep an eye on. As your tyre rubber wears down, the tread indicator starts thinning out, too. Once the tread indicator wears off, it’s definitely time to replace the tyres.
It's common knowledge that water and electricity are forever at odds. The electrical components of your car aren’t exempt from this principle. Firstly, avoid cutting corners and provide proper insulation – no matter how casually your friendly neighbourhood mechanic may suggest the former. Ensure that the car’s battery, including its terminals and leads, is in good condition. The battery undergoes a lot of strain during the monsoons, as many electrical systems such as headlamps, wipers and the aircon run at the same time. Take a patient look at visible cables and also make sure any aftermarket electrical fitments are wired using high-quality cables. If they aren’t, it wouldn’t be unrealistic to expect to experience a short-circuit with highly unpleasant consequences – least of which will be a void warranty.
You need a perfectly working set of lights in every season, not just the monsoons. However, especially in this season, you will find visibility at an all-time low, owing to overcast skies amidst spells of heavy rain. Begin with running all lights together – the headlights (in both, low and high beams), brake lights and hazards/indicators. If you’ve noticed your lights get dimmer or inconsistent, you need a new set of bulbs. Flickering or fluctuating lights can also indicate a weak battery. Fixing an uneven beam is equally crucial to your safety as well as that of oncoming vehicles. Both these things can be fixed by your own hands, but it’s important to be meticulous. Also, keep your headlights and tail-lamps clear and defogged. If your car has hazy or fogged lights, a rub of glass cleaner ought to clear things up – although there are specialist DIY solutions available in the market.
There’s simply no excuse for ignoring incompetent brakes. Brake fluids and pads may be inexpensive, but are absolutely crucial for safety – it’s not rocket science. Here’s how you can perform a quick brake-fluid check (that is, if you don't feel like opening your bonnet to look at the brake fluid reservoir); start your car and leave it to idle, and then push down on the brake pedal at a steady pressure. If the pedal continues to sink, it is a sign of a brake-fluid leak. It is recommended that you get the brakes checked by an expert and get the discs changed, if advised to do so. Disc brake units are expensive but fundamental to your safety. Also, make sure to replace a faulty brake-pedal foot pad, as a slippery pedal can prove disastrous exactly when you don’t need it to.
KEEP IT CLEAR
A clear windscreen means unhindered visibility – and we all know how precious that is. In the rain, dirt gets smeared on the windshield and can obscure your vision. It’s advisable to try a windshield repellent of reputed make; don’t be tempted to opt for dubious (and therefore, cheap) options online. The repellent forms a layer that doesn’t allow water droplets to stay on for long and also protects the glass from flying debris. Taking precautions with the regular application of a repellent is inexpensive and goes a long way in keeping you on the right side of the road. Additionally, do make sure your car’s defogger function is in working order – you’ll need it.
SEE IT ALL
Wipers are a motorist’s best friends in the monsoons. Having a fresh set of wiper blades is important, even if you changed them ‘just two years ago’. Owing to infrequent use throughout the year and particularly in the summer, the rubber on the blades tends to crack, making the wipers ineffective for when you need them the most. It is equally important to keep the wiper-washer fluids topped up with soap water (or windshield water fluid can be purchased online) as sticky debris can be difficult to clear from the windshield and might also damage it.
Leaks are as much of an irritant as they are commonplace. Replaced windshields and other glass panels make way for easy leaks – and it isn’t more than a five-minute job to take a close look at the rubber seals. Similarly, check for leaks forming at the doors and pillars as well. Sunroofs often tend to leak, too; mostly due to ill-fitting seals, drain lines, clogging or a punctured drain pipe. Aftermarket accessories like roof racks also tend to rust around the mounting holes and can be cause of seepage in the cabin. Of the leaks that need most serious attention are those coming from the car's footwell/firewall area. Even those annoyingly tiny drips can result in a serious electrical malfunction. No compromises here, please!
BODY OF WORK
Leaks owing to rust must be treated with a visit to the body shop. Resurfacing sheet metal and painting may be tedious and pricey, but an early treatment will save you a lot more trouble (and money) in the long run. Even if your car has minor scratches or flaky paint, get it repaired at the earliest since these can get worse, over time. Pressure-wash your car regularly to keep the body and undersides clean, as well as clear of the road grime and dirt; these are what lead to chassis corrosion. A coat of polish after a wash is highly recommended, as it not only makes your car look shiny new but also forms a protective layer on the car’s body.
DOWN THE DRAIN
You may need an expert for this job, or at least an additional set of hands since this can involve a lot of time and effort. The car’s body has many drainage holes that allow water to seep out from channels in the bonnet, roof and boot. These often get clogged in conditions like ours, where it only rains for a part of the year. Ideally, any well-equipped car wash should be able to prop your car on a service ramp and have the drains unblocked.
BACK TO BASICS
The routine checks and workshop visits will certainly help you be prepared, but you are one small step away from being fully monsoon-ready. This step involves setting up a monsoon kit which you are to keep in your car for emergencies. A basic one should have a torch, extra fuses, headlamp and tail-lamp bulbs, a small tool kit, a tyre inflator and an extra set of wiper blades. You can keep adding to your kit but ideally, these are some of the must-haves. Also remember to stock water, packaged foods and perhaps even a change of clothes in case you end up getting stranded in a deluge – it happens all the time, in India.