The holiday season is here, which means road trips with the family are on the menu for many South Africans in the coming weeks and months. While there is nothing more enriching for the soul than kilometres of open road with your nearest and dearest in tow; that festive feeling can quickly dissipate if your car isn’t willing to play along.
Not only can a burst tyre or flat battery severely delay the start of your holiday and cause immense frustration, but it can also compromise the safety of you and your family on the roads this holiday season. So before heading off into the sunset, it’s important that you arm yourself with the knowledge you need to reach your destination swiftly and safely.
For many of us, the inner workings of a car are a complete mystery, with any malfunctions usually followed up by a panicked call to a mechanic. But the reality is, when you’re halfway between home and the middle of nowhere, the accessibility of qualified car service professionals is somewhat limited.
Luckily, performing basic fixes on your car isn’t rocket science – in fact, anyone with a basic set of tools and two working hands is perfectly qualified for the job. So rather than ending up stranded on the side of a highway this holiday, arm yourself with the know-how before getting that engine started.
Here are three easy car maintenance tricks you didn’t know you needed to know:
Changing a tyre
This is one of those basic skills that all motorists should know, but very few do. Luckily, getting well-versed in the art of tyre changing isn’t all that difficult. Once you’ve ensured your car is safely in 1st gear (or ‘Park’ if it’s an automatic), loosen the wheel nuts with the wheel wrench, which comes standard in all vehicles. Sometimes the nuts can be quite tight, in which case you might want to use your foot to loosen them.
Then, take the car jack and place it on flat ground, attaching it to the reinforced sill underneath the car. Then, slowly raise the car before releasing the nuts and the wheel, and then replace with your spare wheel. Reattach the nuts, being sure to stand on the wrench to ensure tightness, and then slowly lower your car back to the ground.
Jump start your car
Car batteries can die without warning, so if you want to avoid getting your holiday off to a slow start, it’s important to know how to give your car a jump start. First, you’ll need to find another working car, and park it so its front is facing the bonnet of your car – it’s important however to make sure that the two cars aren’t touching for safety reasons. Then, attach a set of jumper cables to the positive (red) and negative (black) leads of the working car battery, attaching only the red cable to the positive side of the dead battery. In order to avoid sparks, you’ll want to find a piece of bare metal on which to ground the negative lead.
Once your cables are in place, start the working car, and run the engine for about two minutes, which should allow enough time to transfer some power back to your battery. Once the waiting period is over, start your car and run the engine for ten to fifteen minutes. Then, switch off the working car before disconnecting the leads, and you should be ready to go.
Filling up your windscreen wiper fluid
Like the human body, cars require plenty of liquid to function optimally. In cases where you’re heading off-road and exposing your car to dusty conditions, it’s vital that you’re topped up with windscreen wiper fluid so that you can maintain optimal visibility throughout your drive. To do so, open your bonnet and look for a lid saying ‘Windscreen washer fluid’ or marked with a symbol depicting two spurts of water. Then, simply use a funnel to fill up with store-bought fluid, or make your own using two parts water and one part window cleaner.
Remember, before heading out on the road this summer, ensure that you give your car a thorough once-over, checking for any problems that might hamper your holiday plans. And make sure you save your emergency and road assist contact numbers just in case.
By: Nthabiseng Moloi, MiWay head of marketing & brand
For more information visit www.miway.co.za. MiWay is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (Licence no: 33970)