Spring Checkup

Spring Checkup
When we look at the tail end of winter and early spring, it’s the time of year when the most damage can be caused underneath. (Photo: Barbara Heintzman)

Body maintenance is just as important as mechanical servicing.

It might not seem obvious, but spring is the time of year when you should encourage your customers to not only bring their vehicles in for tire changeovers and mechanical servicing, but also for undercarriage inspections.

When we look at the tail end of winter and early spring, especially March to May, not only is it a time of year when it’s hard to keep grime off the vehicle, it’s also the time of year when the most damage can be caused underneath.

The constant fluctuation of temperature and the aftermath of winter roads, namely road salt and brine, often have a huge impact. Today, many city planners have switched from traditional salt and sand to calcium chloride compounds that are applied to the road as a liquid before any storm hits the area.

Regular under vehicle inspections should be an integral part of a customer’s maintenance strategy. (Photo: Huw Evans)

Corrosion promoter

The problem with these new calcium chloride formulas is that they still promote corrosion and rusting of the body and frame, as well as creating brittle electrical wiring and connectors, even though it’s claimed that they have corrosion inhibitor added to the liquid.

Because this calcium chloride liquid lasts longer on the roads, it also sticks to the underside of our vehicles longer. Now here’s the worst part. Because it is liquid, it can penetrate almost every nook and cranny you can think of. Not only can it attack exposed parts such as suspension bushings, ball joints, brake lines, fuel lines and exhaust system components, it can also work its way into frame box sections, floor pans, rocker panels and the vehicle’s entire structure. If neglected, this can lead to corrosion that can ultimately compromise the vehicle’s integrity and safety.

Furthermore—as this liquid seeps into cracks and crevices—we as technicians need to understand that any salt will absorb moisture and eventually dry out rubber compounds such as bushings and driveshaft boots. When we think about the winter and spring months, the constant and extreme temperature fluctuations can see the mercury dip into the 30°C range and range as high as 10°C. This constant extreme change has the effect of causing both metal and rubber parts to prematurely wear due to the constant contracting and expansion related to cold/hot conditions.

Perfect storm

If we then add placing the vehicles in a warm garage or underground parking, not to mention the average operating temperature of the typical engine that ranges anywhere from 90 to 105 degrees Celsius, it arguably creates an almost perfect storm for extreme wear and tear on our vehicles.

Shops and technicians can help their customers by providing simple education when it comes to preventive maintenance. They can encourage the customer to have a twice-annual inspection, once in the spring and once in the fall to examine the condition of the vehicle underneath. During the inspection, both the technician and the service advisor should document the condition of the vehicle and relay to the customer what needs attention.

Secondly, they can also advise the customer to maintain the structural integrity of the vehicle by recommending an annual rust proofing service and incentives to wash the vehicle on a regular basis during the winter and spring months.

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