5 tips for beating winter-driving woes

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 BE SAFE ON OUR ROADS: Our top tips could help you avoid disaster our SA's roads. Image: Supplied ~ Shutterstock

Driving in winter is vastly different to commuting at other times of the year, and South African drivers need to be aware of the dangers.

The winter months brings added risk in the form of slippery roads and reduced visibility.

Johan Jonck from Arrive Alive says that most road crashes are attributable to human error – disregard for the rules of the road, including unsafe following distances and unsafe overtaking, speeding, drunk driving and driver fatigue.

DRIVER AND VEHICLE ERROR

Arrive Alive says 10% of crashes occur as a result of "vehicle error" - when poor vehicle maintenance overlaps with human error. As winter sets in, vehicle maintenance becomes even more important.

Read: New SA road rules: 20km/h speed cuts

Michael Turnbull, Midas group, marketing manager said: "Winter temperatures in South Africa can have a real impact on your vehicle, the cold season magnifies existing problems such as hard starts, sluggish performance and rough idling."

According to the Automobile Association (AA), the top five parts that should be well maintained in winter are your car’s cooling system (radiator), battery, windscreen and windscreen wipers, tyres and lights.

1. Use antifreeze

Your car’s cooling system protects the engine against damage by ensuring that it operates within normal temperature ranges. Antifreeze lowers the freezing point of the coolant and raises its boiling point, so for your car’s cooling system to work effectively, its antifreeze levels must be kept topped up, and the system shouldn’t contain rust, dirt or mineral deposits. Antifreeze also makes it easy to notice any leaks in the system.

2. Care for your battery

Batteries tend to give more problems during winter, as a result of the increased amps drawn by the starter to crank the cold engine. The best way to avoid winter car troubles is to ensure your car battery is in good working order: keep its water (electrolyte) level topped up, using only distilled water (water that’s boiled and been allowed to cool). Clean the terminals regularly with warm (not hot) soapy water and remove any acid or dirt which may have accumulated on the battery case.

3 Windscreen and wipers maintenance

If your car has to stay out in the cold, there will probably be a layer of frost blanketing the windscreen in the mornings. Don’t be tempted to use warm water to get rid of the ice, as this may cause cracks in the glass. Rather use a scraper – an old credit card works well. Wiper blades must be in good condition and need to be inspected regularly. Don’t use your wipers to clear mud and soil from the windscreen – this could scratch the glass.

4 Keep your tyres in good shape

Tyres must always be in an overall good condition – not only the tread, but the sidewalls as well. And maintaining tyres at the correct pressures is of the utmost importance for optimum road holding and tyre life.

5 Check your lights

Winter usually means more driving in the dark, so it’s very important that all the lights on the vehicle are in good working condition and that the focus of the headlights is correctly adjusted. Keep a spare set of globes in the cubbyhole, just in case.

And lastly as a precaution, always keep your vehicle stocked with jumper cables, a torch, a blanket, extra clothes, bottled water and a basic first-aid kit. Safe winter driving!