FOR the past year, many of our cars have seen little use during lockdown restrictions. Now, with the possibility of restrictions easing, many people will be back to using their cars more often as life slowly returns to normal. Before using your car, however, there are some crucial checks you must carry-out.
Many of our vehicles will benefit from being used on a more regular basis and knowing that not everyone is an expert in car maintenance, I hope that by sharing this little bit of knowledge, we can help drivers get to their destination safely, securely and with the minimum of fuss. Here are some basic but important checks for your car.
Your car’s oil plays a vital role in keeping your engine running smoothly and checking it is quick and straightforward. Lift your bonnet and locate the dipstick (see your car handbook). Pull the dipstick out and wipe off all oil with a cloth, reinsert fully then remove it again. If the oil level is halfway between the minimum and maximum markers on the dipstick you don’t need to do anything, if it’s on or below the minimum level mark, you need to top up.
Next, coolant prevents your engine from overheating in hot weather and freezing in colder weather. It’s stored in a clear plastic container located under the bonnet. Check your handbook or Google for location and levels and top up if necessary.
Top up your windscreen washer fluid. This is a simple DIY check. The reservoir is usually easily visible close to the top of the engine and is often marked with a windscreen wiper icon.
A battery condition check is not a DIY task and is best done by your mechanic. In the short term, however, and only as soon as it is safe to do so, take the car for a drive of at least 30 minutes on the motorway to help the battery to recharge. Minimise battery use during this drive – do not use the radio, heater and so on..
Check tyre pressures (including the spare) and check for any splits, holes, or tears. Look for any glass or nails stuck in the tyre and check for the tread depth. If in doubt, call into your local tyre supplier to have them checked.
When a car has been left standing for long periods, sticking brakes are a common problem. With little use, brakes can become covered in a light coating of corrosion, you'll notice a sticky sensation in your brakes and a grinding noise. This soon clears but remember that your brakes won’t be fully effective until the corrosion has worn away, so drive cautiously until they return to normal.
If the noises and sticking sensation continues have your car inspected by a mechanic.
Lastly, in case your car lets you down on one of your initial journeys, it is a good idea to pack a fully charged mobile phone, phone charger, jacket, blanket, snacks, breakdown cover details, torch, and ideally a high-vis vest and warning triangle.
Bahrain: from practice to podium
RED Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen (right) set a blistering pace to claim pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix. The Dutch driver beat defending seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) by four-tenths of a second and finished seven tenths ahead of Valtteri Bottas (also Mercedes).
Verstappen topped all three practice sessions, and the superior pace of his new Williams was evident from the opening runs of Q1 (qualifying session No.1). The first big surprise of the day was the departure of Sebastian Vettel who failed to make it into Q2 in his Aston Martin, qualifying a lowly 18th. her drivers failing to make it through to Q2 were Esteban Ocon (Alpine), Nicholas Latifi (Williams), Mick Schumacher (Haas, son of Michael) and Nikita Mazepin (Haas).
Perhaps the biggest shock of qualifying was the failure of one of the bookies favourites, Sergio Perez in the Red Bull to make it through to Q3, the pole position shoot-out.
Others failing at this stage included Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa), Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri), the oldest competitor Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa) and George Russell. (Williams). Ferrari surprisingly topped the timings in Q2 with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc. Verstappen, however, topped the timings in Q3 to take that pole position ahead of Hamilton, Bottas was third, fourth went to Leclerc ahead of Gasly (AlphaTauri), Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren), Lando Norris (McLaren), Sainz, the returning Fernando Alonso (Alpine) in ninth and Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) tenth.
And so to the race, which was not the start to the season the neutral wanted to see with Lewis Hamilton winning after a thrilling battle with race favourite Max Verstappen. It wasn’t quite an epic, but it was entertaining. The lead changed hands three times between Hamilton and Verstappen with what looked like poor race planning from Red Bull including poorly timed pitstops and the order that Verstappen hand the lead back to Hamilton with three laps remaining because of a possible track limits infringement.
Verstappen was understandably distraught after losing the chance to take his first-ever championship lead, particularly unhappy about his team’s call to make him hand the lead back to Hamilton.
“Why didn't you just let me go, man?” he said on team radio. He believed that he could have easily pulled away from Hamilton by more than five seconds [the potential penalty] and said: “I am prepared to lose a win like that rather than be second like this.”
Bottas was a distant third, not helped by a slow Mercedes pit-stop. But, adding insult to Verstappen’s injury, Bottas set fastest lap on the last lap after a set of fresh tyres, aking the bonus point off Verstappen. Norris was an impressive fourth, with Sergio Perez (Red Bull) recovering to fifth after starting from the pit-lane.
Yhis opener thankfully offered the promise of close racing to come, featuring plenty of wheel-to-wheel action right down through the field.