Owning a vehicle is liberating. It gives you the freedom to get into your car when you want and to do what you want without relying on public transport or a willing neighbour. But what do you do if you find a dead battery the next time you want to start your car up to take a drive? If a vehicle stands for long periods, the unlucky motorist will find a flat battery at some point, but it is as easy as six steps to jumpstart a car the right way.
Be careful though to read the owner’s manual to check if there are any specific instructions to follow – you want to avoid any damage to the electrical system. With jumper cables in hand, and once you’ve located the jumpstart terminals and a good Samaritan with a healthy car battery, you are ready to start the process.
Step 1: Park
Make sure your car and the booster car are lined up as close together as possible and turn both cars off. Be sure to engage the handbrakes and select the neutral or park position on the gear selectors. Check that all electronic devices are unplugged from the cigarette lighter and power sockets, switch off all lights, and other electronic accessories such as the radio and air conditioner.
Step 2: Prepare
Locate the car batteries and jumper terminals. If the battery terminals are gunky or corroded, wipe it off but at the same time check that the battery is not cracked or damaged in any other way. Make sure that the jumper cables are untangled and in good condition and you know which end goes where.
Step 3: Attach
Time to connect the two batteries. The positive cable is usually red or orange and has a plus (+) on it while the black clamp is traditionally the negative (or ground) and has a minus sign (-) to indicate such. Attach one red clamp of the jumper cable to the dead battery’s positive post, and the other red one on the good battery’s positive terminal. Then, connect a negative end to the good battery and find a clean, shiny bolt or bare metal on the dead vehicle to attach the other negative clamp on. The negative cable should only be connected to the dead battery’s negative terminal when there is no shiny bolt or nut option. Leave the jumpers attached for a few minutes before starting the cars.
Start the booster car first and then start your dead vehicle. Run the engine for at least five minutes to allow enough voltage to pick up in the flat battery to keep running when the jumper cables are removed. Before removing the cables, switch on the lights or radio to avoid a damaging voltage spike.
Step 5: Remove
Remove the jumper cables in the reverse order you attached it. Remember to keep the red and black clamps from touching each other. Once the jumpers are safely removed, switch off all the electrical components again.
Step 6: Let it run
Your car is revived! Let the engine run for several minutes, either in one place or drive for at least 15 minutes before turning the car off.
Prevention is better than cure, so be sure to start your car every couple of days when it is parked for a long time. But if you do land in a situation where the battery has gone flat, and the jump does not work, it means that the battery is too far gone. Speak to your vehicle service centre for any recommendations and assistance with selecting and fitting the correct replacement battery for your vehicle.
Hitting the brakes
One of the most imperative systems in your car is the brakes. You rely on your brakes to bring your vehicle to a stop safely when placing your foot on the brake pedal. To give you a better understanding of everything that is involved in stopping your car, we have highlighted the primary parts of a typical brake system in a passenger vehicle and what ‘wear and tear’ warning signs to look out for.
All cars aren’t created equally and can have different brake systems. Some vehicles use disc brakes on all four wheels, and some will use disc brakes on the front and drum brakes on the back. The parts discussed below are for a passenger car.
Brake Pads are friction-generating cushions that work with each wheel’s brake calliper and brake disc to stop your car safely. Essentially, every time you apply pressure on the brake pedal, you push a piston against a calliper. The friction between the pads and brake disc slows the vehicle in a controlled manner.
There are several warning signs that your brake pads are deteriorating, for example, squealing or clicking noises, your car takes longer to stop than usual, your car’s front pulls to one side when you brake, or your brake pedal vibrates when pressed. If any of these ring true for you, contact your vehicle service centre to inspect the brakes as non-maintenance of your brake pads can lead to a loss of braking power putting your life and the lives of others on the road at risk.
Brake hoses are responsible for transmitting the hydraulic pressure to the brake callipers and wheel cylinders. This action assists brakes to engage correctly when slowing or stopping your car.
There is one telltale warning sign that the brake hose is leaking – a stain on the ground where the car stands for a while. Otherwise, to be sure that the brake hose is still intact, visit your vehicle service centre who will do a physical examination. They can look and feel for cracks, bubbles, corrosion, rust, or any other irregularities on or within the brake hose.
Brake fluid is not just a lubricant and corrosion preventer – itassists in transferring the movement and force created when you press down on the brake pedal. Braking builds intense heat, and that can cause moisture to condense in the hydraulic system. Brake fluid absorbs this moisture and avoids boiling that will lead to brake failure.
If you have an older vehicle with no ABS warning light to caution you to replace or top up your brake fluid, then these two warning signs can help:
- Like with the brake hose, if you find a dark, glossy spot on the ground, you likely have a brake fluid leak.
- If you find you need to push the brake pedal flat on the floor or pump it to stop, it’s time to take a closer look.
Brakes are kind enough to give fair warning that they need replacement, but it is essential not to ignore any of the warning signs. Be sure to take your vehicle to a trusted services centre as soon as you notice anything out of place, and be sure that your car will stop smoothly and safely every time you hit the brakes.
If you drive a manual car, you probably have a very good relationship with its clutch and gearbox. For a smooth gear transition, one has to step on the clutch pedal to disengage the clutch, change the gear, and gently lift your foot off the pedal to fully engage the clutch system again. Proper clutch control might be the most challenging part of learning to drive a manual car, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll possibly never consider an automatic gearbox. Whatever your preferences, keeping your clutch in good shape is mostly up to how you drive and how much you ride the clutch.
What exactly is riding the clutch?
Riding the clutch is when you rest your clutch foot on the pedal while driving. This causes pressure on the system as you keep the clutch half released – causing excessive wear on the plates and shortening its life. It is not the same as slipping the clutch as you do when you need to pull away on an incline or to perform parallel parking. Riding the clutch can be avoided while slipping the clutch is necessary sometimes.
A clutch is a wear and tear item, much like brakes and tyres, which means it won’t necessarily be covered by your insurance. Resting your foot on the clutch while driving your car is most likely a bad habit that will force costly and unplanned visits to your vehicle service centre.
How to avoid unnecessary wear on the clutch:
- Correct a poor riding position – perhaps you sit too close to the steering wheel, and you don’t leave yourself enough legroom to remove your foot from the pedal. Adjust your seat so that you can only push the clutch pedal to the floor with your leg fully extended.
- Get into the habit of using the off-clutch footrest (if your car has one). Remind yourself to remove your foot from the clutch pedal the moment you let go and place your foot in a naturally comfortable position in the car’s footwell.
- When stationary at a traffic light, remove your foot from the clutch and use the handbrake to keep your car from rolling. Disengage the clutch to select a gear only when you can drive off again.
- Buy an automatic or semi-automatic car. In that way, you don’t have a clutch pedal to rest your foot on.
One way of telling that you are causing harm while riding the clutch is the distinctive burning smell you get when the clutch plates slip on the gearbox shaft. But if you can’t rely on your senses to stop the bad habit, visit your trusting vehicle service centre regularly to maintain this much-needed mechanical device.
It is upsetting to drive past a car that’s crumpled like a tin can on the side of the road from a car accident. It makes you wonder how safe your car would be if it were involved in a similar situation. Of course, it would be wonderful to think our cars are rugged and tough enough to withstand a nuclear bomb, but as any vehicle service centre will tell you, this is not the case.
Most car manufacturers build strategic crumple zones into the front and back of motor vehicles to absorb the force of impact within the crumple zones. The middle (cabin) of the car, where the driver and passengers sit, is known as the safety cell, and the exact area that needs the most protection. When a crash happens, these crumple zones will do what they are designed for – lessen the impact on the safety cell while the front or rear will be severely damaged. To put it into perspective, a crumple zone can stop a car upon impact in 0.2 seconds as opposed to 0.1 seconds if the vehicle had no crumple zones. It reduces the force by 50%.
However, this is a delicate balancing act according to Richard Green, National Director of SAMBRA (South African Motor Body Repairers’ Association) an association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) who says, “On the one hand, a car’s frame has to be strong enough to resist a certain amount of force, but too much resistance may lead to injury for the car’s inhabitants. Getting this balance right means considering the size and weight of the vehicle. You also need to think about the force that may arise if a car collides with a moving object as opposed to a stationary one. All of these dynamics must be taken into account”.
Additionally, the driver and passengers are responsible for their safety within the vehicle too, such as wearing seatbelts. If wearing seatbelts is not a priority while travelling, the safety cell’s integrity depreciates, and unabsorbed force can still cause injury to the occupants. Remember seatbelts can save yours and your passengers’ lives so if they are in need of repair or a check, contact your local vehicle service centre for help.
If crumple zones are so effective, one can question why the entire vehicle is not a crumple zone. The reason is simple. The vehicle’s doors, ceilings, and floors create the safety cell and are far more rigid, and if these fold in onto occupants in the vehicle, it will lead to a tragic outcome. The driver and passengers are further protected by airbags which, like the crumple zones, are strategically placed within the vehicle to handle the force of impact and prevent the driver and passengers from colliding into the dashboard and steering wheel.
Next time you see a tin can car next to the road, you will know the chances are good that the occupants are safe. It is no heart-warming thought that your expensive vehicle is designed to crumple and will most likely be a write-off after a severe accident, but your safety comes first. If you are unsure whether your family car or fleet vehicles are indeed safe, contact your vehicle service centre for check-up and peace of mind.
Peace of mind starts from appreciating that your car is up to the task to take you from one point to the next, be it that long-distance excursion you have been preparing months for, or simply a brief trip to your grocery store. So, what if your car is over ten years old, should you still spend money to maintain it? The answer is: absolutely, yes! To have that peace of mind, and keep your vehicle reliable and trustworthy, routine maintenance is a must.
Research conducted and published by the Automobile Association revealed that 40% of motorists own their cars for between five and ten years, and just under 35% of vehicle owners keep their cars for longer than ten years. There are various reasons for driving older cars these days and if you are one of these car owners, here are several tips to increase your car’s life expectancy:
- Performing regular upkeep will aid with picking up minor repairs early instead of suffering from major faults later on.
- Remember to keep an eye on your vehicle’s fluids such as the brake fluid, oil, and transmission fluid. These, when changed regularly, can extend the mileage of your car, and keep the engine protected. If you are uncertain of when you are to change vehicle fluids, reach out to your regular vehicle service centre who will assist.
- In addition, check all the filters from time to time. It is no good having clean fluids and/or oil run through filthy filters.
- Know how often your car should be serviced and set a reminder to make the appointment in time. Having your vehicle serviced routinely will again assist with finding minor issues instead of delaying and risking a larger problem to develop such as the cooling system or suspension, which could run you into the thousands in cost.
- Keep a record of each scheduled maintenance appointment and ask your vehicle service centre to stamp and confirm the maintenance performed on your car. It’s an excellent form of proof of all maintenance checks completed on the vehicle over the years, especially if you looking to sell it later on.
- The thickness of the brake pads is of extreme importance in the preservation of your car’s braking system (and your wallet). If your car’s brake pads have worn down to the metal, it can destroy both the brake discs and callipers and its repairs will cost you much more than a set of brake pads.
- Your car has a handbrake – use it, especially if you park or stop on an incline. It will help the brake pads last longer.
- Pay close attention to any blinking caution lights or unusual noises your car may make. Ignoring these noises and warnings could make the problem worse, and the longer you wait, the more difficult it could get to locate parts. Don’t wait for an emergency.
No matter what your reason is for driving an older car, regular vehicle maintenance ensures its roadworthiness and your safety. It helps to prevent unexpected accidents or the inconvenience of breaking down at the most inopportune time – rather be safe than sorry. If you need peace of mind, take your vehicle to your trusted vehicle service centre for a full assessment.
So, it is time to buy a new set of wheels.
Over how many months do you want to pay off the car? Do you want the car fully paid off at the end of this period, or will you opt for a balloon/residual payment? These are typical questions we are asked and things we need to consider when applying for vehicle finance, but do you really understand what a ‘balloon payment’ is? Here are two scenarios to help you grasp car finance – one with a balloon payment and one without:
Roger is purchasing a car for R170,000. He does not have a deposit and the full amount of the car will be financed. If the interest rate is 11% and the car is financed over 48 months with no balloon payment, Roger’s monthly repayments will be approximately R4,453.
If Roger chooses to include a balloon payment in his car finance, for example, 25% (R42,500), his monthly repayments will be lower, around R3,807. However, at the end of the four-year term, the outstanding balloon amount must still be settled. Here are some typical ways how to settle balloon payments:
- Use additional funds you have saved to settle the balloon payment once-off.
- Use your existing car as a trade-in towards a newer model and use that payment to settle the balloon payment.
- Approach your bank and refinance the outstanding lump sum (repayments will continue as normal once the bank agrees to refinance).
There are pros and cons to consider before you rush out to find your dream car and sign on the dotted line. Here are a few recommendations to take note of:
- Budget, budget, budget. Know exactly what you can afford to spend on a car every month, and remember to include vehicle maintenance, insurance, and fuel to your monthly cost. Try not to add any unnecessary extras, for example, a sunroof, as this will only tighten your budget.
- Be sure you understand the financing terms before committing. One vital piece of financial information is that you will pay more in interest over the life of the loan if a balloon payment is added to the finance agreement.
- Do your homework! Research worldwide reviews of the make and model you are interested in. Take the car for a test drive and maybe ask a family member or a friend to accompany you and give their view.
- Ask your regular vehicle service centre for their opinion on the vehicle you are looking to buy. Mechanics can share valuable information in terms of service costs and maintenance of the particular make and model. They will also be able to direct you to an appropriate financial institution for assistance if you are still not sure if you want to include a balloon payment or not.
We hope your new vehicle takes you the extra mile.
Sanitising is the new norm for all of us and disinfecting and anti-bugging your vehicle is no exception. Except, whoever thought about deep cleaning your car to prevent the spread of a virus, and how do you go about it?
There are all sorts of recommendations by the health gurus on wearing disposable gloves and wiping down all surfaces with soap and water before disinfecting, but does that count for your car’s interior as well? We say yes and no. Sure, wear your gloves for your own safety, especially if you had a passenger in the car with you, but be mindful of the sanitising products you use and which surfaces you clean with what.
The best and safest option is alcohol-based wipes or liquid. Use a sanitiser that contains at least 70% alcohol to wipe down all the hard surfaces inside your car. Avoid using harsh chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide, bleach, benzene, thinners or any other abrasive cleaners – these will damage upholstery and interiors. Also, be mindful not to use ammonia-based products on infotainment or other screens in your car. These can be cleaned with a microfibre cloth dampened with soap and water and wiped dry with a clean, soft cloth. Your leather car seats can handle a wipe-down with an alcohol-based cleaner or a damp cloth, but over time it would need to be treated with a good leather conditioner.
Think about all the areas that you touch while using your vehicle and sanitise them all, for example:
Outside door handles, including the boot knob and handle
Inside door handles and panel, and all controls on it
Car keys, remotes, and the start button (if applicable)
Indicator lever and windshield wiper controls
Infotainment centre and controls
Centre console and armrest
Seat belt and its buckle
Hand brake/parking brake
- Disinfect your vehicle in a well-ventilated area.
- The more you use your car, the more often it should be sanitised.
- No ammonia products should be used on interior screens and avoid any harsh chemicals inside your car.
- If applicable, try to avoid touching the screens in your vehicle and use voice commands more often.
Happy sanitising your car!
Most of us have been there before – walking out of a mall to where your car is parked, and the horror hits – you have a new ding in your car door! Almost involuntarily, you turn to rub it with your finger or even your clothes waiting for the relief that it is simply a dirty spot, which, when reality sets in, it is not.
The next thought that enters your mind is the costs and trouble involved to get your car door back to what it was. Even the smallest of dents and scratches can be costly to repair, and the fact that these are generally caused by a complete stranger is even more annoying. So, the best thing to do is to try and avoid these shocking and expensive moments. Here are a few precautions to consider when parking your car in a public parking area:
- Observe the cars next to you when parking, for example, if there’s a baby seat in the car, it’s a clear indication that space is required to move a child in and out of the car. This action nearly always results in damages to the next-door car. Also, if a car is riddled with dents, you can immediately tell the driver has very little regard for their car, and undoubtedly anyone else’s.
- Avoid areas where shopping trolleys are stored. You cannot be sure that your car will not accidentally be bumped.
- You may want to park in that perfect spot right in front of the entrance, but finding an end bay with only one neighbour (which may be a bit of walk from the entrance) is the best option.
- If you can avoid it, do not park next to SUVs and other large vehicles. They barely fit into a standard parking bay and need a little more space for opening doors.
If you do find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having a ding in your car door, speak to your vehicle service centre who can refer you to an accredited company to assist you.
With the new coronavirus in our midst and the consequential national lockdown ordered by the government, we’re getting used to the ‘new normal’ – a new way of doing the same old things.
For many people, the new normal means staying at home for longer and using your car less. Remote working is encouraged, which means for those who can work from home there’s no more daily commuting to and from the office, and while touristy getaways are prohibited, your car stays put over weekends too.
It’s not an altogether bad thing to drive less, but cars are designed for driving and shouldn’t stand for too long. Your car will still need a bit of attention while you are practising social distancing and saving on fuel costs to ensure that it’s ready to run when it has to.
Here’s how you can make sure your car stays healthy and ready for action:
1. Keep the battery alive. Unfortunately, car batteries discharge over time when the car doesn’t run. The easiest way to keep it going is to go for a short drive, even if it’s just around the block. If you have one, you can connect a trickle charger to your car’s battery terminals to keep it fully charged.
2. Short drives are healthy. If you don’t drive your car, surface rust can build up on the brake rotors, especially in high humidity conditions, so go out for a short drive and apply the brakes as normal to wear off any rust build-up. A short trip out will also circulate all the fluids and charge the battery.
3. Check the fluids. Fluids such as brake- and transmission fluids and engine oil can cause engine issues if left for long periods – oils can settle and fluids can start to separate.
4. Keep the tyre pressure in check. Your car’s tyres can develop flat spots if it stands in one position for long periods. Check the tyres regularly and keep it to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. Alternatively, sneak out for a quick drive around the block to avoid those nasty flat spots.
5. Give it a wash. Your car’s paint work can get damaged if left covered with dust and grime for long periods. If you don’t fancy washing your car often, then protect it with a car cover.
If you’ve never done any of these easy maintenance checks and you’re not sure how to, visit your vehicle service centre for help. Pay close attention to what they say and what to watch out for in your vehicle, because these mechanics have a wealth of knowledge that will save you lots in the long run.