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Top Gear Philippines


Because it's been raining hard the past few weeks, it’s a good time to review some things in your car and have them repaired or replaced.

1) Check/change your wipers. The first, most obvious, and cheapest thing to replace would be your car's wiper blades. Wiper refills cost as little as P300 for a pair, all the way to P1,500 per piece for high-end silicon blades. Remember, your wipers improve your visibility during the rain, so don’t skip on checking their condition. And don’t go cheap on them. If you can’t remember the last time you changed your wipers, that means you should do so right away.

2) Check your lights. At night, during heavy downpours and foggy driving conditions, your lights not only help you see ahead, but they also help you be seen. In a safe place at night, turn on all your lights: low-beams, park lights, foglights, taillights, signal/emergency/hazard lights to see if everything is working. Then step on the brake pedals to see if the brake lights illuminate. Don't forget to flip the high beams to see if they are working, too. On the road ahead, you should see at least 35-50m ahead with your low beams, and about 70-80m ahead with your high beams. Not sure? Bring them to a shop that has a headlight alignment system to make sure you are getting the most performance out of your headlights.

A detailing shop is also a good place that can clean yellowish or foggy-looking headlight lenses, as well as windshields that look a tad murky or hazy. They use specialized chemicals that remove acid rain residue yet won’t damage your headlight lenses or your windshield. And if you do need to replace any lights, particularly the headlights, from my experience the best colored lights are either the ones close to daylight, or lighting that has a slightly yellow-gold tinge. This color of light gives the best contrast at night, and the yellow-gold tinge helps penetrate fog and heavy rain better versus bluish-white or greenish-blue colored ones. 

3) Check your horn. Much like the lights, horns help motorists alert each other of their presence. Check the horn, the wiring, and the relay. From what I've seen, installation and wiring on many aftermarket horns are the key cause of horn failure, as installers use fake branded relays and undersized wire gauge or thickness. Bring your car to a reputable electrical wiring shop, and replace the wires and relays with original branded quality items. Of course, the horn brand itself should be of good quality. If installed with good items, with the right gauge of wire and good relays, the horn should easily last five years or more. And have the horn and relays mounted high-up in the engine bay to prevent damage from water ingestion. 

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4) Check your tires. The tires are the only part of the vehicle that remain in constant contact with the ground. Make sure the tires still have decent tread depth left, have even wear, and are always properly inflated to the manufacturer’s specs. At the very least, perform a full-wheel alignment to make sure the tires are pointing in the right direction, again within manufacturer’s specs. You can also rotate the tires as needed, ideally in an x-pattern to help tire wear management and to even out tire wear front to back, left to right. If you need to change tires, at the bare minimum, change in pairs. So replace the fronts or the rears together and never just one piece, and same for the left and right sides.

Once sorted and aligned, air them up to the high side of the recommended specs. This is to help prevent tire damage when driving through flooded roads, because you might miss a pothole or bump covered by standing water, or sharp objects such as rocks and road debris that might be hidden underneath. If your tires are over five years old, it’s also a good idea to replace them regardless of tread depth. A tire’s rubber has a tendency to cure or harden over time, reducing grip and making them prone to true blowouts at highway speeds, or when you hit a modest bump or object which wouldn't normally cause any problems. While you’re at it, check the spare tire’s condition, if it is actually properly inflated, and if the jack and toolset are still complete. You never know when you might encounter a flat and need to change a tire

5) Check/change your battery. Batteries take a heavy beating during the rainy season. Wipers, lights, horn, air-conditioning, plus the heat from your engine bay are very taxing on the battery. Bring it to a car battery shop that has a tester which can diagnose if it’s still healthy or needs replacement. Clean up the corrosion on the battery poles and terminals using some distilled water and an old toothbrush. Score some contact point cleaner, and dab a small amount of dielectric grease to prevent the surface of the metals from corroding. 

All of these seem expensive, but done right, these changes will last at least five years. More important, they will help you drive safely and much more confidently in adverse weather conditions.

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Botchi Santos
Consumer Editor
Botchi eats, lives and breathes cars (aside from hotdogs). Aside from wanting to drive any car, preferably through some scenic destination, he's always thinking of ways to "improve them" by modifying the (insert any car-related word here).
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