Friday 28 October 2016

Beware of the damage Storm Frank has done to your car

Our Road Safety Authority experts tells of his own experience at the hands of Storm Frank

Published 13/01/2016 | 02:30

Storm Frank created challenging conditions.
Storm Frank created challenging conditions.

Thanks to 'Storm Frank' conditions were really challenging on the roads over the Christmas and New Year period. This was especially true in West Cork, which is where we spent the festive season. The towns of Skibbereen, and particularly Bandon were really hard hit with flooding.

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When we did venture out, between lulls in the weather, what we encountered were wet roads, spot flooding and major flooding caused by overflowing rivers and high tides. The storm had also caused quite a bit a damage to the roads especially to local country roads. For example, minor landslides, fallen trees, gravel and stones washed onto the road and some quite large potholes. The roadside verge was very treacherous too. Drive onto it and you risked sinking into the ditch because the ground was so soft.

Added to this, you really needed to be on guard for the odd cyclist or jogger who was intent on braving the weather. Maybe not the brightest of ideas in such conditions.

One of the casualties of the conditions was the headlight on our car. Typical, these things always seem to happen when you haven't a hope of getting to a garage to repair the problem. All the local garages were shut for Christmas. And before you ask: No I don't have spare bulbs. Have you ever tried to change the bulb on a modern car? Open heart surgery would be easier. I take the car to my local mechanic to replace the bulb and every time I do it looks like he has to remove the engine block to get access to the broken bulb and replace it. It's a painstakingly difficult job.

I'm not alone. When I did take the car to our local garage, when it reopened after the holidays, I was told that I was car number 23 that day with a broken headlamp that need to be replaced. "It's been a conveyor belt here all day changing light bulbs," the mechanic told me. "Headlights are just too difficult to change on most modern cars so they have no choice but to take them to us," he said. Why, oh why do car manufacturers make it so difficult to get access to the headlights on a car? Has it been done deliberately to force drivers to go to their local garage? Maybe some of the manufacturers might care to answer that one for us.

A broken headlight is not the only and obvious way that the conditions may have affected your car. Tyres may be impacted. You should check your tyres' tread depth. While the legal limit is 1.6mm we recommend you consider changing them once they start going below 3mm. Remember a new tyre has 8mm of tread depth and you really need this given the difficult driving conditions we have been experiencing lately.

Check for any obvious damage to the integrity of the tyres too. Low-tyre pressure is also something you should look out for. Another problem to check for is the car's handling which may have been affected if the tracking is knocked out of kilter, from driving on damaged road surface. It won't cost you anything to take the car to a mechanic to get your tyres checked and most garages will check the tracking for free if you bought the tyres from them in the first place. If not it's something to negotiate as an added service from the garage next time you are buying a new set of tyres.

According to the National Coordination Group that's been established to manage the states response to emergency situations caused by Storms 'Desmond' and 'Frank' there is no doubt that we are going to see more severe weather and more often.

So while we don't know what Mother Nature has in store for us in 2016 one thing we can do is make sure our vehicle, whether a bike, motorbike, car, van, truck or bus is roadworthy and able to cope with any severe weather situation on the road.

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