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Leave it out this autumn

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Leaves decorating the streets in an array of colour may be an autumn delight to some, but for many motorists they lead to frustrating breakdowns and expensive repairs. When autumn leaves start to fall they don't just disrupt trains - they can have a devastating effect on the electronics of many modern cars warns the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists).

Most modern cars have one or two chambers known as a plenum chamber at the back of the engine bay where the windscreen meets the bonnet and the heating system draws in air. These chambers have a drain-hole so water can run off the windscreen into the chamber and then into a tube which carries water safely to the ground. At this time of year it's quite common for leaves to accumulate in the chambers, blocking the drains and causing them to fill with water when it rains. The water then leaks into areas that should be protected from the elements, such as the computers which control the engine, braking systems and other expensive electronic equipment. Trapped water can also make the windows constantly mist up, impairing visibility and reducing safety.

So the next time the bonnet is up, perhaps when checking the oil or topping up the windscreen washer, have a look at these chambers and clear out the leaves and any accumulated grime.

Autumn can also take its toll on car batteries as the first frost settles, but some basic maintenance can help to prolong battery life.

The top of a battery must be clean and dry, the terminals must be tight and free from corrosion and the battery itself must be mounted securely in its tray. Modern batteries need be kept fully charged by the car's alternator. A loud screeching for the first few seconds after the engine starts, is a sure sign that the drive belt needs tightening and if this is left, a flat battery will inevitably follow, probably accompanied by a broken belt later in the year. And, if a battery is more than three years old, it is worth having it checked now to save many a frustrating start to an autumn morning.