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Vehicle body preventative maintenance...


Simply keeping your vehicle’s body clean and waxed isn’t enough to keep your vehicle in top condition.  There are a few extra things that will pay large dividends if you spend just a bit more time taking care of them.  The following list of preventative maintenance items will ensure that the body of your vehicle is kept in the best possible condition, inside and out:


Protect the vehicle’s exterior plastic fittings from ultraviolet damage…

Protect the plastic fittings on the vehicle’s exterior such as indicator lamps, brake lamps, bumper bars and plastic body trim from exposure to the harsh, damaging sun using the same high-quality wax with UV protection every six months that is used to protect the paintwork (provided it is a fairly transparent wax)  If it’s not transparent, ArmorAll Protectant or similar silicone spray can be used instead.


Use a reflective sun-visor to protect the inside of your vehicle from ultraviolet damage…

When parking your vehicle outside, use a reflective sun-visor to cover the inside of the entire front windscreen in order to protect the interior dashboard area and other parts of your vehicle’s interior from ultraviolet damage from the sun’s harmful rays, such as fading and cracking.

Without this protection, you can rest assured that your dashboard, in particular, will develop extremely ugly cracks over time which will greatly detract from the resale value of the vehicle.  In addition the general appearance of other fittings in your vehicle’s interior will be compromised without this protection as a result of excessive exposure to the sun’s harmful rays.

Importantly, using a sun-visor to cover the entire inside of the front windscreen will greatly reduce the escalating build-up of heat inside your vehicle from the sun’s rays so that when you return to it, the temperature inside is manageable rather than unbearable.

Personally, I don’t make a judgement about the prevailing weather conditions when using a sun-visor on the inside of my vehicle’s front windscreen.  The sun’s rays can still have a damaging effect on the interior of my vehicle on overcast days.  I’ve also found that rain that is falling when I park my vehicle for the day can give way to sunshine later on.  It’s true that the sun’s rays are at their strongest in Spring and Summer, however they can still do damage in Autumn and Winter.  So I generally use a sun-visor all year round when I park my vehicle outside, even at the risk of appearing strange to passers-by!  This is a habit of mine which has a powerful role in keeping my vehicle’s interior in excellent condition.

It’s a good idea to purchase a reflective sun-visor that’s slightly bigger than the front windscreen of your vehicle and to cut it down so that it fits snugly on the inside of your windscreen.  The way to do this is to set the sun-visor inside the groove that often exists between the inside of the front windscreen and the dashboard and then to mark out with an appropriate pen where the sun-visor meets the left, right and top edges of the windscreen by pushing the sun-visor up against these edges and tracing over the edges on the sun-visor.

When you cut the sun-visor along these lines, it’s a good idea to cut a little bit outside of these lines for a better fit.  Whether you want to cut the sun-visor so that it butts right up against the edges of the windscreen or overlaps the edges of the windscreen, bear in mind that you’ll probably need to fold down the two interior sun shades that are screwed onto the inside of the roof near the windscreen to hold the sun-visor in place.

The objective is to protect as much surface area as possible of the interior fittings of the vehicle from the sun’s damaging rays by blocking up as much of the windscreen as possible with the sun-visor.  The edges of the sun-visor that have been cut to fit may need to be sealed up with clear packing tape to prevent them from fraying.


Leave the front windows down slightly to ventilate the vehicle…

It’s advisable to leave the front windows down slightly during the summer and during days of warmer temperature throughout the year to prevent a build-up of high temperature inside the vehicle far in excess of the outside temperature as a result of the sun’s rays continually passing through the windows into the vehicle.  Such a build-up of heat can result in plastic parts of the vehicle’s interior softening up so that they actually change shape.

It’s advisable to leave the front windows down slightly in this way even when using a sun-visor on the inside of the front windscreen, since heat can still build up inside the vehicle as a result of the sun’s rays entering the vehicle through the side windows and the rear windscreen.  Because hot air inside the vehicle rises, the slightly open front windows allow this air to escape from the vehicle which prevents the temperature inside the vehicle from escalating like it would if all the windows were fully closed.

It’s important to only leave the front windows down slightly so that if it rains, no water will pass through the gap into the interior of the vehicle and so that it’s not easy for anybody to break into the vehicle.  For windows which have manual window-winder mechanisms, it’s important to push the windows down firmly by hand to take up any slack in the winder mechanisms before winding the windows up so that there’s only a thin gap of open window.  This ensures that nobody coming across the vehicle can push the windows down by hand and obtain easy access to the vehicle, since all the slack in the window-winder mechanisms have already been eliminated.


Protect the vehicle’s interior plastic fittings from ultraviolet damage…

Clean the plastic fittings in the interior, including the dashboard, every six months with a damp, clean cloth such as a Chux wipe.  Then spray some ArmorAll Protectant or similar silicone spray onto a clean cloth and wipe over these plastic fittings.  This will protect the fittings from the sun’s harmful UV rays so that they don’t crack or fade as they normally would.

On its own, using a sun-visor on the windscreen when the vehicle is parked isn’t enough to protect the plastic fittings in the interior from the sun.  In spite of the use of a sun-visor, most plastic fittings are exposed to the sun at some point as it changes position in the sky and shines through the side windows and rear window.

All plastic fittings are exposed to the sun when the sun-visor is removed and the vehicle is being driven.  These fittings need all the help they can get to ensure that they have a long life in spite of the constant onslaught of the sun’s rays.  Protecting these fittings from cracking and fading has a positive influence on the resale value of the vehicle.


Use seat covers to protect the seats from wear and tear…

Use seat covers to protect your vehicle’s seats from wear and tear and to keep them in optimal condition.  Your vehicle’s seats are one of several key items that determines your vehicle’s resale value.  (Other key items are the amount of corrosion in the body, the extent of other damage to the body such as dents and scratches, the condition of the paintwork, the condition of the interior of the vehicle and the mechanical condition of the vehicle.)  A vehicle with badly worn seats isn’t nearly as enticing to prospective buyers as a vehicle with seats in excellent condition.  Apart from increasing your vehicle’s resale value, keeping the seats in excellent condition increases your enjoyment of the vehicle.

The seats are prone to wear and tear over the course of six months or more.  They can become marked, worn and generally not very smart-looking.  They’re also vulnerable to the aging effects of exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays which can cause the seats to fade in appearance and, in the case of leather seats, to crack.  It’s wise to protect your vehicle’s seats with high-quality seat covers to ensure that, underneath, they’re always looking their best.

The fact is that if you don’t protect them with seat covers, you’ll eventually have to clean them or suffer a drop in the vehicle’s value on account of their dowdy appearance.  When you come to clean them, you may find that it’s not possible to get them looking as good as they used to because some irreversible wear and tear has taken place.  This is a disappointing landmark to arrive at in the course of the ownership of your vehicle and one which is best avoided.

A much better option is to get your vehicle’s seats into the best possible condition you can using an appropriate cleaning product (such as ArmorAll Carpet & Upholstery Foam Cleaner) and then to immediately cover them with high-quality seat covers.  Not only will you be preserving them for the future in their best possible condition, but you’ll be ensuring that you never again have to perform the thankless task of cleaning them, saving you significant time and effort in the future.

If you come to sell the vehicle, you can impress prospective buyers by showing them the pristine seats underneath the seat covers and it will be up to you to decide whether you want to retain the seat covers for your next vehicle (depending on whether they will fit and match) or sell them with the vehicle.

There are excellent seat covers on the market which are designed to protect the seats in the toughest conditions such as four-wheel driving where mud and water are involved.  Even though my vehicle isn’t a four-wheel drive, these are the covers that I use.  They’re made by a company called Town & Country Covers.  Because my vehicle’s seats are beige and the vehicle’s interior is brown, it was difficult to find covers that match.  So I chose black seat covers.  These have worked out well because the vehicle has black trim around the windows on the outside and black, polyurethane bumper bars.

A really good thing about these Town & Country seat covers is that they’re really easy to put on quickly and take off quickly if required.  Because their purpose is to protect seats that are already in excellent condition, there doesn’t have to be a pretence that they’re being used to enhance the appearance of the seats, so they’re slightly baggy.

These Town & Country seat covers are elasticised and extremely well-made, not to mention that they’re comfortable to sit in.  Being water-resistant, you can be confident that they won’t allow moisture through to the seats after you’ve been exercising.  The only caveat is that they may not be suitable for vehicles with air-bags installed within the seats.  The website for Town & Country Covers is www.townandcountrycovers.com.

It’s really important to be aware that some seat covers will leave your seats in worse condition than they were in when you put them on!  To my horror, I discovered this myself.  Some seat covers are merely designed to mask the ugly wear and tear of the seats underneath rather than to protect the seats from wear and tear.  I had previously put seat covers on the front seats which had a dark grey foam backing inside them.  A year later, I replaced these seat covers with the same type.  It wasn’t until I took them off a year after that to replace them, that I realised they had left a dark grey shadow on the seats which had come from the dark grey foam backing inside the seat covers!

I was astounded, having thought that I was protecting the seats, only to have to tediously clean the seats twice to remove the dark grey shadow.  After that step backwards, I made doubly sure that I found seat covers that wouldn’t mark the seats!  Town & Country seat covers are such covers that can be relied upon.  They don’t mark the seats at all, which is a major reason why I purchased them.  I’m expecting to not have to clean the seats again.  Ever.


Lubricate all hinges on the vehicle every six months…

Lubricate all hinges on the vehicle (ie. doors, bonnet and boot or hatch) with a small amount of engine oil every six months to prevent the hinges from seizing with use.  Also lubricate the bonnet latch mechanism and the boot or hatch latch mechanism.  It’s advisable to obtain an inexpensive trigger-type oil-can from your local automotive parts shop for this and to use a rag to mop up any excess, dripping oil as you lubricate the hinges and the latch mechanisms.

When filling the oil-can, don’t pour the oil in all the way to the top of the can because you still need to screw in the trigger assembly which will displace some oil, making it spill out and cause a mess.  Instead, it’s a good idea to leave some space at the top of the oil-can so that you can screw in the trigger assembly without displacing any oil.

I’ve personally witnessed the hinge of a rear hatch on another person’s vehicle causing a hole to form in the hatch as a result of the hinge seizing from a lack of oil.  Because the hinge was seized, the metal of the hatch around where the hinge bolted on to it was bending back and forth when the hatch was opened and closed, rather then the hinge rotating normally like it is designed to.  This soon led to a gaping tear forming in the metal of the hatch around the hinge, which is the same principle as bending a coat-hanger back and forth until it breaks.  Trust me, you never want to damage your vehicle like this.  This especially applies if your vehicle has a rear hatch.


Lubricate all latches on the vehicle with dry lubricant every six months…

Lubricate all latches on the vehicle (ie. doors, bonnet and boot or hatch) with dry lubricant every six months to prevent excessive wear of the latches and to avoid the latches having ruts cut into them as a result of the closing action of the doors, bonnet and boot or hatch.  Also lubricate the bonnet latch mechanism and the boot or hatch latch mechanism with dry lubricant where the bonnet latch and the boot or hatch latch come into contact with them.  Dry lubricant can be purchased inexpensively from your local automotive parts shop.


Lubricate all locks on the vehicle every six months…

Lubricate all locks on the vehicle with graphite powder or silicone spray every six months, including the ignition lock.  Locks on the vehicle operate less smoothly over time as a result of continued use.  Lubrication with graphite powder or silicone spray is essential to keep them working properly and to protect them from internal wear.

Graphite powder is an extremely fine dust and will stain things such as carpet if it’s spilt on it so it’s very important not to dispense the graphite powder inside the vehicle when lubricating the ignition lock.  A good method for lubricating all locks with graphite powder is to squirt some on to the key that fits the lock being lubricated outside the vehicle where spillage doesn’t matter and then move that key in and out of the lock to lubricate it with the graphite powder on the key.

Using a silicone spray like Nulon Ezi-Glide actually eliminates all of the messiness associated with graphite powder and is probably a superior method of lubricating the locks.  Just spray a bit inside each lock – not too much – and you’re done.  It’s easy and mess-free.


Clean and lubricate the rubber window tracks every six months…

Clean the grooves inside the rubber window tracks every six months with methylated spirits and a thin, clean cloth such as a Chux wipe.  Then lubricate these grooves with a spray of silicone lubricant such as Nulon Ezi-Glide.  This will enable the windows to move up and down more smoothly and greatly reduce the chance of failure of the manual or electrically-powered window-winder mechanisms in the doors by reducing the strain on these mechanisms.

The best way to clean the grooves inside the rubber window tracks is to keep wiping inside the grooves with a thin, clean cloth such as a Chux wipe soaked in some methylated spirits until very little dirt or grime appears on the cloth.  When spraying silicone lubricant inside the grooves, you can use the thin pipe attachment that comes with Nulon Ezi-Glide to avoid over-spray.  After a couple of days, it will be probably be necessary to wipe the excess silicone lubricant that materialises off of the tops of the windows on the insides and outsides.

Seemingly insignificant maintenance procedures such as this one are more important than they appear to be.  A failing window-winder mechanism can really dampen your enjoyment of your vehicle, especially since it’s likely to be the mechanism in the driver’s door that fails.  In order to rectify this kind of failure, it’s necessary to take off the door trim (upsetting the original condition of your vehicle) and deal with the greasy and awkward workings of the window-winder mechanism.

This kind of repair requires a significant investment of time and is frustrating whether you do it yourself or take the vehicle to a mechanic.  This is exactly the kind of annoying problem that is best avoided altogether and which can be avoided altogether with the help of a bit of relatively painless maintenance a couple of times a year.


Clean the door rubbers and boot or hatch rubbers every six months…

Clean the rubbers surrounding the doors and the rubbers surrounding the boot and hatch every six months with methylated spirits and a clean cloth such as a Chux wipe.  Then spray some ArmorAll Protectant or similar silicone spray onto a clean cloth and wipe over the rubbers, to coat them liberally.  This will protect them from the cracking and degradation that results from exposure to the sun’s UV rays and save you from having to replace them over time.


Take care when cleaning the inside of the rear windscreen…

If your vehicle has a rear demist electrical grid on the inside of the rear windscreen, it’s very important to exercise care when cleaning the inside of the rear windscreen so as to avoid damaging this horizontal grid and rendering the rear demist inoperable.  It’s best to avoid direct contact with the horizontal grid when cleaning the inside of the rear windscreen.  By carefully wiping over the inside of the rear windscreen between the lines of the horizontal grid of the rear demist, damage to the grid can be avoided.

If it’s necessary to wipe over the actual electrical grid itself as opposed to the space inside it, it’s very important to only use very light pressure.  Methylated spirits on a clean, cotton, lint-free rag or Chux wipe is good for cleaning the inside of the rear windscreen, as it is for cleaning the inside and outside of the other windows of the vehicle.

If the rear demist electrical grid is damaged so that electrical current will no longer pass through it, a product made by a company called Permatex can be used to repair the grid and restore the electrical circuit.  This company also makes an electrically-conductive adhesive that can be used to stick the metal tab back on to the grid where the wire that supplies electricity to the grid joins on, if that tab has come unstuck and separated from the grid.  The website for Permatex is www.permatex.com.



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Copyright 2016 Andrew Mackinnon.  All rights reserved.