Modern cars report every little problem these days, including a warning when your tire pressure has gone down so you can deal with it yourself. Professional service centres, on the other hand, do all necessary checks as part of your regular warranty inspections. Early spring is the ideal time and opportunity to go through a basic list of “to dos” that a good driver never underestimates.

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1. Operating fluids

All drivers should keep tabs on whether they have enough engine oil, coolant and brake fluid in their car. In modern cars, insufficient quantities of some of these fluids are reported by indicators, but why let things get as far as this when checking them is so quick and simple? Everybody can do this themselves, and your garage does this check during regular services.

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2. Battery

You can’t tell what shape a battery is in just by looking at it, and few people have a special battery tester at home. It is therefore advisable to ask your garage to check the battery using a load tester in order to find out whether you need to recharge or replace the battery now that winter is over. “The average lifespan of modern batteries is five to six years, but a lot depends on the conditions in which the battery is used, of course, and the load test is a reliable way of identifying what shape your battery is in, so you can be sure that your engine will start straight away every morning,” says Tomáš Procházka.

3. Lights

Any driver can spot when a bulb has burned out, but a headlamp check is more than just “works/does not work.” To see and to be seen is the key road-safety rule,” says Tomáš Procházka. “The diagnostics software used by professional service centres checks whether the headlamp casts the beam in the correct direction and over the correct distance and also whether or not it dazzles oncoming drivers.”

4. Wipers and washers

Another seemingly run-of-the-mill area that many people only start addressing when a problem crops up. Fluctuating winter temperatures may cause little cracks in the rubber wiper blades, and wiping a frozen windscreen may impair adhesion precision. Spring is therefore an ideal time for checking and, if necessary, replacing these parts.

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5. Air-conditioning

Experts recommend checking the air-conditioning system for leaks and functionality, cleaning it and, if necessary, topping up the refrigerant. “As a rule, we recommend checking the air-conditioning at least once a year, preferably as part of a regular service,” says Tomáš Procházka, Service Centre Manager at ŠKODA Auto Jarov. “If you haven’t got an annual service coming up, spring is a suitable time, too, because many people do not use air conditioning in wintertime, so it may take a while to discover any faults.”

6. Diagnostics

Modern cars report all major faults with red and amber indicators. When you take your car for a service, there is no harm in asking for the staff to print out a fault log to provide you with key data about the condition of your car, i.e. information you cannot check at home.

7. MOT validity

As with a first aid kit, a good service centre should check your MOT status as part of regular service inspections and warn you when the MOT expiry date is approaching. Anyway, spring is a good time to check your registration plate for the MOT inspection date.

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8. First aid kit

If the police stop you, they won’t just want to make sure you have a high-visibility vest. Another piece of compulsory equipment they may check is your first aid kit, and you should bear in mind that these kits have a limited shelf life. Fines for a first aid kit past its expiry vary from market to market. In the Czech Republic, for example, it can be as much as CZK 2,000 (EUR 80). When you do your spring check, make sure to add the first aid kit expiry date to your checklist to be on the safe side.

9. Tires

While all drivers should be checking their tires regularly, the spring tire change is an opportunity to check the pressure and tread depth in all of them, including the spare wheel. By law, the minimum tread depth required for both summer and winter tires is 1.6 mm in the Czech Republic. We recommend checking the depth at multiple points around the tire – if it varies, you may have a wheel alignment problem.

10. Brakes and chassis

The brakes and chassis should be checked by an authorised service centre as part of every regular service. After winter, however, the brakes may be clogged with impurities picked up from the gritted roads, and the chassis, too, may have weathered a lot of grit and aggressive road salt. “Small abrasions that typically appear in wintertime could eventually lead to bodywork rust,” says Tomáš Procházka. “So it’s best to identify this in time.”

“The more care we put into cars, the better”
Igor Sirota, ÚAMK Press Officer

The benefits of taking a car in for a regular service are obvious to most people. But what about special check-ups in spring or before winter descends? Is there any point?

With tongue only a little in cheek, cars are like people – the more we look after them, the better. Good care pays off, including spring and autumn check-ups to prepare the car for the most critical periods, i.e. winter and summer. These two seasons have their own specific requirements, and skipping or forgetting about them may lead to problems for both the car and its owner down the line.

 

What do you believe every car owner should do after winter, besides the seasonal tire swap?

The tires are definitely first on the list. As thrifty drivers, we tend to think that, if our winter tires are old, we might as well keep them on in the summer and then get new ones next winter. That is certainly not advisable, and there are three reasons why not: micro-particles flying off the winter tires (not designed for higher temperatures) pollute the air. The tires behave differently in emergency manoeuvres, because they kind of “drift”. Ultimately, they have a longer braking distance. No wonder that in Italy, say, you can end up paying a high fine for using winter tires in summer. The next thing to do is to check (or change) all operating fluids, such as the washer fluid and brake fluid. Another useful thing is to check the condition of the battery, because high summer temperatures do it much more harm than low temperatures in winter. ÚAMK (czech car club) statistics indicate that the largest number of road assistance services involve flat batteries, running out of fuel, and similar minor problems. Not many people will check their brakes at home, but the brakes may be damaged after winter, and you should therefore take your car for a service and have them checked, along with the wheel suspension, wheel alignment, air conditioning, and so on. Things we can do ourselves include checking the tire pressure and cleaning the whole body and chassis.

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What do drivers underestimate most in the routine use of cars… whether things they can do themselves or those that should be done by a service centre?

Generally speaking, the “home car care” era is coming to an end, the main reasons being time savings and the fact that cars have simply become too “smart”. We should leave most things to a service centre and just make our car a pleasant place to sit by cleaning it properly in spring, removing things we don’t need, etc. Don’t forget that, on average, we spend more than two years of our life in a car, so we should be making this time safe and pleasant.

We spend more than two years of our life in a car, so we should be making this time safe and pleasant.