Look after your car this winter

With the winter cold setting in across South Africa, now is the best time to perform maintenance on your vehicle. The AA says many problems that stay unnoticed during warmer months can be exacerbated with lower temperatures and that checking these problems now is a good way to extend the life your vehicle.

“Research shows that people tend to drive less during winter. This is an ideal opportunity to check your vehicle in for either a regular or extra service, especially if you are going to be using it less. Regular servicing of a vehicle is critical not only to ensure your vehicle functions at optimum capacity, but also from a road safety perspective,” notes the Association.

The AA says many motorists also neglect to protect their vehicles adequately for winter. Vehicle batteries, for instance, are always trickier during this time, as the starter draws increased amps to crank a cold engine. The AA reminds vehicle owners that a fully charged battery in winter provides less than half the power than in warm weather.

The AA offers the following tips to motorists for winter

  • Warm the engine. Before setting off, start the engine and let the vehicle idle for a short while. This will help the engine oil cover every corner it needs to and will prevent wear and tear on the engine.
  • Check the water (electrolyte) level of batteries. Water must cover the fluid plates and, if necessary, top it up. Use only distilled water (water that is boiled and allowed to cool). Avoid overfilling and clean any spillage.
  • Keep the battery clean. Clean the terminals with warm (not hot) soapy water and remove any acid or dirt build-up, which can cause the battery to self-discharge quicker.
  • Switch off before you switch on. Switch all other devices in your vehicle off before your switch the car on. These include the air-conditioner, radio, lights, seat warmers, windscreen wipers, and demisters.
  • Alternator belts. Check the belts for fraying or cracking. A loose alternator belt is a common cause of battery failure.
  • Service your car. A poor engine condition can overload the battery, so ensuring your car is maintained according to the manufacturer’s specifications will extend the battery’s life
  • Call the AA. If your battery is dying, call the AA first to replace it. The AA will come to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

The AA has acquired new battery testing technology known as B2Q Device that allows battery test results to be transferred to a client via email or WhatsApp message and can be stored in the cloud. The client can open the result of the test on site and decide to replace a battery based on verifiable data. This is particularly useful to avoid any disputes on the condition of the battery and validity of the testing. The AA is the only service provider in the country with this technology which was acquired to ensure better service to customers as it provides accurate information and reduces repair times. This device is also the only battery testing device used by the AA in the UK.

  • Examine the brakes. Examine the brake pads and the disc for wear and tear and get them replaced if required.
  • Check the tyre pressure and tread depth. Tyres are the first contact point between the car and the road surface. Check the tyre depth for wear and tear and replace them if necessary. According to the State of Festive Road Safety Report 2022-2023 by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), one of the leading causes of crashes is tyre bursts which accounted for 37% of crashes in the 2021/22 festive period and increased to 61% during the 2022/23 festive period.


In addition to the above, it is critical to consider visibility during winter. As the days get shorter, and the nights get longer, many motorists will leave for work in the morning while it is still dark outside, requiring the use of headlights. It is essential to check that the vehicle’s headlights are working properly. Switch off the headlights when you reach your destination as you may have left them on after the sun came out during your journey. Park facing a wall if you can, the reflection of the lights will function as a reminder to switch them off.

If your car is parked outside overnight, you may have a layer of frost on the windscreen. Do not use warm water to clean this layer, your windscreen may crack. Instead use a scraper (an old credit card will do) to remove the ice. Using the air-conditioner to demist the interior of the car will also help. Make sure it is clear before you drive.

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.

The AA advises, “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. If possible, park your car undercover at night to ensure your windscreen remains clear the next morning.”

Apart from vehicle safety checks, the AA also appeals to motorists, runners and cyclists, and pedestrians to be aware of different road conditions during winter, and the need for increased visibility during this time.

“Runners, cyclists, and pedestrians are vulnerable during this time because of decreased natural lighting – and the real possibility that streetlights aren’t working means that other road users are less visible. Anyone on the road must ensure they are visible through wearing high-visibility attire. All road users must make every effort to see and be seen when they are on the road,” says the AA.


In addition to vehicle safety, the AA says shorter days and longer nights may increase the need for greater personal security.

The AA says that criminals are opportunistic and will use any chance they can to pounce. Days that get darker sooner provide a perfect opportunity for criminals to operate under darkness, and unsuspecting victims may find out too late that they need protection.

“Personal security is vital, easily obtained, and affordable. Using AA Armed Response, for instance, will enable users to summon help from any one of the more than 250 security service providers collaborating with us at the push of a button. Personal security is becoming more important for everyone in the family, and with it being so readily available there is no reason not to consider getting it,” concludes the AA.

For more information on personal security offered by the AA, visit https://aa.co.za/emergency-services/.

“Colder weather requires a somewhat different mindset to vehicle care and maintenance than warmer weather so it’s important to be aware of what your vehicle needs during this time. Remember, if you have any issues with your vehicle the AA is always available to assist,” the AA concludes.