Did you know that the cold season magnifies existing problems such as hard starts, sluggish performance and rough idling? Make caring for your vehicle a priority during the winter. According to the Automobile Association (AA), the top five things that should be well maintained during the winter are your car’s cooling system (radiator), battery, windscreen and windscreen wipers, tyres and lights.

Make a note of the following tips:

• Use antifreeze
Antifreeze only costs a few Rands, but a frozen and cracked engine costs hundreds to repair. 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.

• 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.
Turn off electrical loads like lights, heated rear window and wipers before trying to start the engine on cold mornings and use the starter in short five-second bursts. If the engine doesn’t start quickly, wait 30 seconds between attempts.

• Always check your windscreen and wipers
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 but don’t drive off like a tank-commander, with a tiny hole cleared in the windscreen! 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.

• Make sure your tyres are in good shape
Tyres must always be in an overall good condition – not only the tread, but the sidewalls as well. Maintaining tyres at the correct pressures is of the utmost importance for optimum road-holding and tyre life.

• 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.

As a precaution, it is also suggested that motorists keep their vehicles stocked with jumper cables, a torch, a blanket, extra clothes, bottled water and a basic first-aid kit.

Adapted from http://www.toyotazone.co.za/safety-zone/car-care-for-your-safety/ (Jun 23, 2015)