- The cold season’s effects on safety-relevant vehicle components are frequently underestimated
- Component damage may lead to critical driving properties and unevenly worn tire treads
- Tire change is a good opportunity for a workshop inspection of chassis and steering components
At the beginning of spring, vehicle owners have mainly one thing in mind: changing from winter to summer tires on their vehicle. Often, they do not seize the opportunity to also have the chassis and steering components checked when they are at the workshop. ZF Services knows: This is risky because these components, in particular, may have been adversely impacted by the cold season.
Even a comparably mild, rather snowless winter is no guarantee that a vehicle has not been adversely affected by the cold season – on the contrary: Salt was nevertheless used on the roads. At temperatures above zero and in combination with moisture, the spreading material shows its corrosion-accelerating effect even more quickly. This may not only detrimentally affect the vehicle body, but important chassis and steering components as well. If these components are damaged, drivers must expect critical driving properties. Still, only few drivers are aware of this potential danger, particularly as wear is a creeping process that is hardly noticeable by the driver. Therefore, ZF Services recommends all independent workshops to proactively inform their customers about the particular importance of a professional inspection of safety-relevant components in spring. Tire change provides a very good opportunity for that.
From tire tread to the condition of shock absorbers
Unevenly worn winter tires at one axle, for instance, may indicate that shock absorbers do not work properly anymore. In this case, they should be urgently inspected and replaced, if they are defective. After all, the shocks do not only absorb vibrations, but ensure optimal contact between tires and road at all times. Moreover, shock absorbers must function perfectly to guarantee the required driving safety. Only if they ensure short stopping distances, prevent the vehicle from pitching in case of sudden evasive maneuvers, and perfectly interact with electronic systems such as ESP and ABS can they minimize the risk of an accident. Furthermore, a spring inspection when changing tires can also prevent uneven wear on newly installed summer tires.
Focus on the chassis
Additionally, defective components lead to increased wear on other chassis components and to reduced travel comfort. Therefore, mechanics should inspect in particular whether the rubber bellows at the chassis joints are worn, damaged, or leaking. Ingressing splash water will wash out the special grease enabling dirt particles to enter the joint. The particles will destroy the inner spherical plastic shell and will damage both the ball and the joint housing. As a result, the joint clearance will no longer correspond to the requirements. This is also the case if pitting corrosion is to some extent recognizable on the spring clamping rings. When it comes to the steering system, a particular focus should be given to the tie rod: In addition to the rubber bellows, the steering boot should also be inspected for damage.
ZF Services’ experience shows that other chassis components such as supporting joint, control arms, and the stabilizer links can also be severely damaged by corrosion, intruding foreign matter, or dirt. Additional causes of defect may be driving over potholes, e. g. frost heaves, and curbs.
ZF Services regards it as an obligation to make drivers aware of the necessity of regular inspections of the chassis and steering components as the damage may have severe consequences: It may not only detrimentally affect the vehicle’s driving properties, but also the safety of the passengers.