Look after your car this winter – AA

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With the winter cold setting in across South Africa, now is the best time to perform maintenance on your vehicle.

According to the Automobile Association (AA), many problems that stay unnoticed during warmer months can be exacerbated with lower temperatures and checking these problems now is a good way to extend the life of your vehicle.

“Research shows that people tend to drive less during winter. This is an ideal opportunity to check your vehicle in for either a regular or extra service, especially if you are using it less. Regular servicing of a vehicle is critical not only to ensure your vehicle functions at optimum capacity but also from a road safety perspective,” notes the AA.

The association says many motorists also neglect to protect their vehicles adequately for winter. Vehicle batteries, for instance, are always trickier during this time, as the starter draws increased amps to crank a cold engine. The AA reminds vehicle owners that a fully charged battery in winter provides less than half the power than in warm weather.

The AA offers the following tips to motorists for winter:

• Warm the engine. Before setting off, start the engine and let the vehicle idle for a short while. This will help the engine oil cover every corner it needs to and will prevent wear and tear on the engine.

• Check the water (electrolyte) level of batteries. Water must cover the fluid plates and, if necessary, top it up. Use only distilled water (water that is boiled and allowed to cool). Avoid overfilling and clean any spillage.

• Keep the battery clean. Clean the terminals with warm (not hot) soapy water and remove any acid or dirt build-up, which can cause the battery to self-discharge quicker.

• Switch off before you switch on. Switch all other devices in your vehicle off before you switch the car on. These include the air-conditioner, radio, lights, seat warmers, windscreen wipers, and demisters.

• Alternator belts. Check the belts for fraying or cracking. A loose alternator belt is a common cause of battery failure.

• Service your car. A poor engine condition can overload the battery, so ensuring your car is maintained according to the manufacturer’s specifications will extend the battery’s life.

• Examine the brakes. Examine the brake pads and the disc for wear and tear and get them replaced if required.

• Check the tyre pressure and tread depth. Tyres are the first contact point between the car and the road surface. Check the tyre depth for wear and tear and replace them if necessary. According to the State of Festive Road Safety Report 2022-2023, by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), one of the leading causes of crashes is tyre bursts. It accounted for 37% of crashes in the 2021/22 festive period and increased to 61% during the 2022/23 festive period.

Compiled by Justine Fortuin