MOTORING NEWS - While most people ensure they are protected from the cold, many forget about their vehicles, but these valuable assets also need some care against the elements.
To ensure that your vehicle and your driving skills are winter-ready, here are some tips to keep you safe and moving during the colder months courtesy of Elton Olivier, owner of the Victoria Driving School in George and the Automobile Association.
Olivier has been involved in driver training for 15 years and represented South Africa at the 2008 Driver of the Year competition in Italy.
Car batteries tend to give more problems during winter because the starter draws increased amps to crank a cold engine.
- Check the water (electrolyte) level - it must cover the fluid plates.
- Keep your car battery clean by wiping the terminals with warm (not hot) soapy water and remove any acid or dirt build-up, which could cause the battery to self-discharge quicker.
- Secure your car battery properly.
- Charge your car battery regularly. Take a one-hour drive every week to ensure maximum lifespan.
- Make sure that you switch off all other devices in your vehicle when parking for the night. This includes the air conditioner, radio, lights, seat warmers, windscreen wipers, and demisters. In cold weather, a fully charged car battery provides less than half the power it does in warm weather.
- Check the alternator belts - a loose alternator belt is a common cause of battery failure.
- Service your car. Keeping your car's service history up to date will extend the battery's life.
If you struggle to start your vehicle, do not crank the engine continuously, as this may damage the starter, car battery, and other electronic components.
The average car battery lasts between two and five years when kept in good condition. Keep a record of your battery's age, and replace it when it starts getting old.
Battery life is also determined by the temperature, humidity and evaporation where you live.
Always ensure your tyres are in a good condition. The danger of worn tyres will be multiplied in wet and icy weather. Check that your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure to ensure optimal road holding and tyre life.
The law says your tyres must have at least a one-millimetre tread. Some tyres have tread wear indicators in the tread pattern to show when the tread depth is less than 1,6mm. In these cases, if the tread is level with the indicators, the tyre must be replaced as it is considered unroadworthy.
Your insurance policy may also require that your car is roadworthy before you drive it, and worn tyres may void that condition.
Keep your following distance - especially when it's icy, misty, or wet.
Windscreens and wipers
If your car is parked outside overnight, you may have a layer of frost on the windscreen when it gets really cold. Don't use warm water to clean this layer, as your windscreen may crack. Instead, use a scraper (an old credit card will do the trick) to remove the ice. Using the air-conditioner to demist the interior of the car will also help.
Avoid using the windscreen sprayers when driving in cold conditions as the water from the reservoir will freeze onto the windscreen, and the wipers will not be able to clear the ice.
Importantly, check the condition of your wiper blades and replace them if needed, and avoid cleaning mud and soil from the windscreen with the wipers as these can scratch the glass.
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