How about going on holiday by car with the whole family in tow? Sounds great. When it comes to your everyday vehicle you’re fully aware of all the niggles, but how about cars with seasonal license plates? If your precious summer toy came out of hibernation only now and you’re planning to go on a long holiday with it, you may miss a number of small faults. They tend to appear during a cold wet winter and could spoil your holiday big time. That’s why it’s best to thoroughly check before heading off.
Seasonal license plates have long become socially acceptable. Those who can afford to drive an extravagant, cool or classic automobile in summer (protecting it from the rain, the cold and salt in winter) will have two cars registered, one in winter and one in summer. Just for a change. But only few of us have a dry heated garage in which they can jack up their beloved summer car in winter, inspect it regularly, and connect the battery to a trickle charger. In most cases, the 1981 T-Model Mercedes, the high-roof Bulli camper, or the convertible end up in a carport and won’t budge for half a year. Now that the days are getting longer and warmer and you’re preparing for a trip, you should do more than just take a quick look at the car’s electrics.
Is the battery really fully charged and are all cells still working? If you don’t have your own equipment, you can have the generator’s condition and output checked at a workshop without great hassle. After about six to seven years a battery may well fail, which, in modern cars in particular, has an impact on many items of equipment that require a consistently high voltage. If in doubt, buy a new one; the tired generator will thank you too.
Are all headlight plugs and lamps in place, is the rubber still flexible, or has corrosion built up at the contacts because of moisture? Often contact spray alone is not enough; sometimes you need to do a bit of sanding down and sealing. But this is how you can prevent failure while driving at night. It’s also worth having a look at the car’s relay and fuse box. Have moisture or old splash water caused any contact issues? Can you switch smoothly between dipped beam and high beam or do the relays “stick”? Is there clean contact between the indicator lamps and the cable harness?
Loose earth connections (mostly brown or black) often cause several problems at once, while loose current-carrying connections (red or multicolored) come with a risk of short circuits or blown fuses. When inspecting headlights, rear lights, and the appropriate plugs and connections, and treating them with a moisture-repellent spray, it’s also worth checking out the surrounding areas of these components because many minor and major electrical issues are not noticeable from outside. Is the rubber still sealing off the lights properly? Did moisture get inside the lamps?
You should always carry a small set of replacement lamps; depending on your destination, the required lamps may be very expensive or not available at all, which would leave you in the dark. OSRAM offers complete sets and many other solutions for your car to bathe the streets in fresh bright light.