Car Care: Don’t let wheels fall off
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Check brakes, tyres and wheels before the holidays, advises Jack Biddle
Before we know it, the holiday season will be well and truly upon us. For many, it will be time to hitch up the trailer, caravan or boat and head away for that well-earned break.
Trailers and caravans tend to sit idle for long periods between outings and very few are awarded the luxury of being tucked up for the winter months under covered shelter. And although the boat may get launched at the local boat ramp on a fairly regular basis in the off-peak season, the demands placed on the trailer can be quite different come holiday time.
Ask any authorised Warrant of Fitness site and I’m sure they would say the weeks leading up to Christmas can get very frantic with customers lining up for that last-minute inspection. And some can get agitated with a WoF rejection.
Some owners don’t allow for general fatigue and deterioration. For older trailers and caravans, the worst case scenario can be structural corrosion, which can be time consuming and expensive to repair. What’s the old saying? “Rust never sleeps.” Yep, it still holds true for many old undercarriages and drawbars.
Other important and often-forgotten areas that can suffer from lack of use or age are brakes, tyres and wheel bearings. They may have passed the last inspection but that’s no guarantee of a pass next time.
Owners should make the time, while there is a little less pressure, to tick off a couple of important checks on whatever it is they may be hitching up to the back of the car this holiday season.
Checking the validity and expiry dates of the registration, mechanical and electrical (where applicable) WoF labels and making sure all the lights still work is easy enough, but there are a couple of other often-forgotten self-checks owners can easily do. And it just might help avoid turning a bit of bad luck into a complete disaster.
It may have never happened in the past, but it’s not a bad idea to prepare for the worst and ensure the correct tools are on hand to at least remove a wheel. Think about the safety of the person squatting by the roadside; not a bad idea to throw in a hi-vis or reflective jacket and a warning triangle or cone.
Next, locate the wheel brace. Never assume it’s the same as the tow vehicle. Many scissor jacks can multi-task (it pays to check) but the wheel nut sizes are bound to be totally different. The next step is using the wheel brace to undo the wheel nuts because if the local garage used an airgun to retighten after a previous repair there is a chance they have been overtightened and your brace will not do the job.The other reason is wheel nuts and threaded studs sometimes don’t like to be separated after many years of togetherness.Gentle persuasion and lubricant may be required.
In a worst case scenario, the stud and wheel nut will turn together, which is a problem that needs to be well and truly sorted before heading away. And check the wiring harness, tow ball and coupling are compatible especially if the vehicle has been upgraded since the last tow.
■What other tips or past experiences can you offer? email [email protected]