It might not feel like it in parts of the country but the recent cold snap that coated the South Island in snow was a reminder that winter is just around the corner.
Winter in New Zealand is a different experience depending on where you live. In the far north you might have to close the windows in the evening and put on a warm jumper. Down south you will likely have to wrap up every inch of your body and dig the car out of the snow. For those in the middle it will be somewhere in between, but wherever you are it will pay to get your car ready for winter.
One thing is sure over winter and that is at times there will be some difficult driving conditions, which is why your car should be prepared.
See and be seen
An often over-looked safety feature, windscreen wipers play an essential role when it is raining or snowing. The wiper blades should be in good condition and should clear the windscreen – not smear the water around. If you turn the wipers on and you still can’t see it is probably time to change them. While you are checking your wipers check the liquid level in the windscreen washer container as well.
With the longer nights, bad visibility and possibility of fog you need to have your exterior lights working. It might seem obvious but you won’t know you have a rear light out. It pays to give your lights a quick check. Make sure they are clean and free from snow or any other debris.
Don’t freeze up
The last thing you want if you live somewhere the temperatures drop to below zero is to have your engine freeze up. The same is true if you are heading to the mountains to ski. Make sure you have enough anti-freeze in the coolant and it won't be an issue.
Perhaps the most important thing over winter – and summer for that matter – is road worthy tyres. Rain, snow, ice, fog and whatever else the winter throws at us can make the roads treacherous. It is vital your tyres are up to the job. Check your car tyres have adequate tread depth (standard tyres must have 1.5mm over three-quarters of the tyre, around its entire circumference while snow tyres have a 4mm requirement) and check your tyre pressures are correct. If you need new tyres change them before winter sets in.
It is always worth giving your battery a little TLC before the change of the seasons. Make sure the battery’s posts and connections are corrosion-free and the fluid levels are correct. If you need a new battery then replace it before it is too late.
It doesn’t matter where you are in New Zealand it will at some point be cold – especially in the morning as you cart the kids to school or yourself to work. It is a lot more comfortable in a car where the heating is working properly. Not only that but if you live in a region that gets frost or snow you will need to heat the front and rear windows to see. Don’t be one of those people who drive with their head sticking out of the window because the windscreen is frosted up. Keep the car warm and the windows clear. And keep an ice scraper in the car.
And in an emergency
Hopefully your winter will be hassle free, but in case it isn’t it is always worth being prepared. Pack an emergency kit that has some basic first aid as well as blankets, a torch, spare batteries, bottle water, matches and some non-perishable food. If you get stuck in a snowstorm or bad weather it could make the wait a lot more tolerable. And before you leave home make sure your cellphone is charged and you have enough petrol.
Winter driving shouldn’t fill you with dread, not if you are prepared and if in doubt then give your a car a pre-winter service and keep safe on the road.