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Keep safe! Remember these car checks

2014-07-07 10:52


ROLLING ALONG: Car ownership is expensive, so it pays to check all fluid levels – it’ll only take five minutes of your time. Image: DAVE FALL

Columnist DAVE FALL offers a few tips for peace-of-mind driving during the awful wintry weather we’re experiencing in the Western Cape (or anywhere else in the country) right now – whether it’s that short trip across town or a family holiday,

For those who have passed their driving test in the past five years or so, I know you’ll be familiar with most of them, but they still bear repeating… if only to keep you on your toes!

Tip 1: With the school holidays with us right now perhaps the most important item on your car to check is the life blood of your vehicle: the radiator level (this must always be checked when cold or you could be scalded if you try and remove the hot, pressurised cap).

The engine-oil level is again best checked cold – be sure the vehicle is level and the handbrake on - to avoida false reading. Ensure the oil-filler cap is replaced tightly if you do need to add a half-litre or all the oil will be blown out of the engine and you might not know about it until it’s too late.


While the bonnet is up it’s a good time to top up the windscreen washer bottle and check the brake fluid level is adequate. There’s no need to remove the screw cap – you can see the fluid level. If it’s not near the top you need to investigate why immediately.

Tip 2: Tyre-pressures need to be checked at least once a month. Tyres need to have plenty of tread spread evenly across them to a good depth – 1mm is the acceptable minimum: Wheels24 says NEVER go below 2mm. Your car, your call...

Two bars pressure all around is a fair guide for the average sedan but refer to your handbook for the exact pressure. Never take a chance with tyres, there are plenty of tyre companies around who will give good advice for free, and who are happy to advise accordingly if there’s a problem looming.

Tip 3: By law your car must have a light on each corner, as explained in my column last week – obviously two white lights up front and a minimum of two red ones at the rear. A blown lamp (globe) is usually a straightforward replacement – get a neighbour or friend to stand behind the car (with the car's gearbox in neutral) to check that the all-important brake lights are working.

Tip 4: Indicators are vital when you turn a corner or change lanes – true, BMW and Mercedes-Benz drivers don’t bother with them – but that’s another story! Seriously, they are easy to check: if they “flash” twice as fast as normal when in use it’s a given a bulb has failed... again, usually easy to fix.

Tip 5: Wiper blades are usually only checked (or cursed) when it rains. Their performance from one year to the next can only deteriorate in our harsh summer climate. Change them annually – always buy good quality blades in the first instance and you will be pleasantly rewarded.

Tip 6: Check your licence disc – is it still valid? If you are stopped in a road block the first thing usually checked on the vehicle is the disc, after all, it is the vehicle’s ID. Likewise, don’t forget to carry your driving licence – there’s a hefty spot-fine for not doing so.

• I haven’t touched on brakes, steering or suspension – I hope you have your car properly serviced at least once a year, or every 15 000km. Take the trouble to follow the above golden rules and you won’t go far wrong.

It goes without saying to be sure to buckle up and have the safest journey possible.    
Read more on:    dave fall  |  western cape  |  winter  |  driving tips

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