Winter is in full swing and South Africans are urged to take proactive steps to adequately prepare their cars and homes for the chill. Not checking these things could lead to anything from an inconvenience to massive expenses and even loss of life.
Here are 9 tips for driving and maintaining your car in winter.
1. Wiper motors – If your car is parked outside, be sure to turn the wipers off before turning off your car. Ice build-up on the wiper blades may strain or burn out the wiper motor if the wipers are used immediately on start-up. Before you leave the house on a cold, winter morning, clear any frost from the windscreen and wipers with warm but not boiling water as boiling water can cause your windscreen to crack.
2. Tread – Make sure your tyres have adequate tread. Driving with worn or unmaintained tyres is a hazard not only for yourself, but for other drivers on the road as well – especially in icy conditions.
3. Pressure – Low temperatures can cause low tyre pressure. A tyre that is inflated at 2 bar in spring and summer could easily drop to 1.8 bar in cold weather so make sure your car’s tyres are correctly inflated.
4. Charged and oiled up – In winter, engines are harder to start due to lower battery power and lower oil fluidity caused by lower temperatures so make sure that your car’s battery is checked and the oil is changed if needs be.
5. Rough start – The lower the temperature, the lower the rate of fuel evaporation and the harder it is for the fuel in your engine to ignite. If you haven’t had your car serviced in a while, now’s the time to get it done. Even a fresh set of spark plugs can make a significant difference.
6. Fogged up – Foggy and frosty windows are big safety risk in winter. Make sure your car’s defogger and defroster work. Also, make sure the heater is working, but take care, as a too hot interior can lead to drowsiness.
7. Chip check – Small chips can turn into major cracks when the temperature fluctuates, especially if moisture gets into them, so it’s best to have your vehicle’s windscreen checked and repaired as soon as possible.
8. Fuel smart – Always keep your fuel tank over half full. In the winter, if you do get stuck or stranded, the engine will be your only source of heat.
9. Beware the glare – Winter glare, where drivers are temporarily blinded by the sun, contributes to thousands of accidents worldwide. In winter, the sun is near the horizon during peak morning and afternoon traffic and sun visors offer little or no protection. Wear a good pair of sunglasses and adjust your speed when there’s reduced visibility.
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“Even with all these boxes checked, there’s a chance that the unforeseen may happen. Always make sure that you have an emergency plan in place, the numbers of emergency services saved and that you are sufficiently insured”, concludes Ricardo Coetzee, Head of Auto & General Insurance.