The mornings have gone much cooler, the days are getting shorter and winter-like showers have arrived.
Winter tends to be the most treacherous season to drive in, so now is the time to make sure your vehicle remains up to the task to get you and your occupants safely from A to B.
Check that all your lights are working, and that all your lenses are clean, not damaged and free of moisture. This is to ensure you can see and your vehicle can be seen this winter.
They might not be the most glamorous of parts on your car, but the band of rubber that sits around your wheel is what could save your life. It's critical to check your tyres regularly.
Tyre depth is important to maintain traction in adverse winter conditions. While the legal minimum limit is 1.5mm, if your last WoF check revealed that your tyres were close to the limit, then it’s paramount that you think about replacement before winter really sets in.
Water is dispersed using the deep channels that run the length of the tyre and the less tread available, the more chance a tyre/vehicle could aquaplane (slide uncontrollably on a wet surface).
Comprehensive advice for motorists on when your tyres have given up can be found here.
Obviously, vision is vital when driving. Moist conditions combined with greasy screens – which are usually caused by people rubbing a fogged up screen clear with their bare hands - often causes a visibly smeared screen in certain light conditions, which can hinder visibility.
Make sure you clean your windscreen and all interior glass properly and remove any grease with detergents. If you don’t have any detergents, using a household glass cleaner and newspaper works really well too. Products like Rain-X Anti-Fog and Rain-X Glass Water Repellent are available to buy at AA Shop.
Paying a small price to replace your noisy wiper blades can make a huge difference. These often smear the windscreen when it’s raining, making it difficult to see the road clearly. Similarly, if you have any windscreen damage be sure to get this repaired or replaced as the cold weather could make it worse, and even damage the rubber on your wiper blades.
Cold weather service prep
It’s also important to consider the maintenance of your car when preparing for the winter season. Your engine will be enduring colder temperatures and, along with that, it will experience increased wear.
Make sure you get your car serviced, ensuring all your vehicle’s fluids are checked, along with things like tyres and wipers. There are 40 AA Auto Centre and over 150 AA Approved Repairer sites nationwide for all your vehicle servicing needs.
Fluids can freeze in sub-zero temperatures, so radiator antifreeze concentration will need to be up to scratch. It’s also helpful to add detergent to your windscreen washer reservoir and leave some room so you can top-up with warm water if it freezes overnight.
In cold and wet weather, your car’s battery tends to be pushed to its limit, which can cause it to fail sooner. If you have any doubts about your battery’s performance, we recommend getting it tested and replaced if necessary at your nearest AA Auto Centre or AA Approved Repairer.
It’s also worth keeping a set of quality protected jumper cables in case of a breakdown which could leave you (or someone not as well prepared as you) stuck in sticky situations.
Remember: Drive to the conditions
New Zealand can become incredibly wet during the winter months and it’s important to note that following distances need to be increased.
In adverse conditions, you often need to rely on your good judgment as the roads can become slippery, reducing the traction from the tyres. This can become particularly dangerous when driving around corners, as well as braking and accelerating.
Be sure to take extra care and avoid ‘jabbing’ your brakes, sharp cornering and harsh acceleration. Instead, be sure to do everything progressively to remain as safe as possible.
Going near the snow?
Driving on roads that have experienced snowfall may require you to use snow chains, so ensure you have a set and have practiced fitting them before your journey. There are a few different types and brands available from automotive parts stores. If in doubt, ask your service or supply centre to help with suitability and explain the fitting process.
All these points are very useful to consider while driving for the duration of the winter season, however, above all be sure to use best judgement before heading off on any journey and regularly check to determine if the roads are actually safe to travel on.
How can the AA help?
- AA Auto Centre - aa.co.nz/autocentre
- AA Insurance - aa.co.nz/insurance
- AA Shop - aa.co.nz/shop
- AA Auto Glass - aa.co.nz/autoglass
- AA Membership - aa.co.nz/membership
- AA Roadservice - aa.co.nz/roadservice
Vehicle experts you can trust