Ready for those winter roads?  30 minutes of essential car maintenance to do yourself

Why is it that we only remember to change the wiper blades during a storm?  Without fail, the sun comes out, and that irritating squeak vanishes from memory. 

As we head into winter, our automotive tutors have shared a few simple tips to ensure driving is not only pleasurable, but safer as well.

Antifreeze: Mornings can get pretty chilly as we head into winter.  Don’t let a frost catch your engine by surprise – pick up a PH test kit from your local automotive supply store to check the percentage of antifreeze.  Take off the radiator cap and do the test on a cold engine.

Anti Freeze

(Photograph by Airman 1st Class Alystria Maurer)

Tyre tread: Not only does the tread on your tyres provide grip, it also acts to disperse the water on the road.  If your tread is worn, the grooves on the tyre are not deep enough to push the water out from underneath, and you can end up aquaplaning on the Coast’s wet roads.  Either use a tread depth gauge or look at the wear indicator tab on the tyre to make sure your tread is well over the 1.5mm minimum.

Tyre pressure: The required pressure will be stated on the tyre.  It pays to pop into your local tyre agency to have them checked, which will usually be done at no cost, and if you ask nicely they are usually happy to pump them up for you too.

Battery: As we get into the colder months, your battery’s ability to crank up from cold diminishes.  You can help it out by keeping your car undercover, which makes it easier for the electrics to supply the power around the car. 

Windscreen: Top up the windscreen washer with bug liquid for better cleaning.  It’s a good idea to replace the blades before and after winter, as the frosts we get here on the coast tend to damage blades, and something as small as a bug can damage the rubber.

Check the function of the wiper arm as well, by lifting it off the windscreen, manoeuvring the rubber blade and making sure the pivots of the arm are moving freely. You can either fit new wiper arms yourself or ask a mechanic.

Oil change: For most cars, the engine oil should be changed every 12 months or every 10,000 kms, depending on the type of vehicle.

Brakes: Brake fluid can absorb more water in the wet months, and too much water can create that spongy feel underfoot as you brake.  If this is the case, get your brakes checked out by a mechanic, who will also ensure there is sufficient lining on your brake pads and shoes.  These do wear down over time; when it comes time to replace them, ask for a metallic-free or ceramic brake pad to reduce this common source of metal pollutant in our waterways.  Ceramic friction materials can now outperform other friction materials and they do not compromise vehicle safety or performance.  

Finally, check all the lights are functioning, and keep an eye on your warrant expiry – did you miss that reminder in the mail?

A general service covers all of these regular maintenance items.  It’s a good idea to keep your car’s service record up to date, so that you’re ready to hit the road this winter.  And if you have teenagers in the house who enjoy getting oil under their fingernails, our Trades Academy programme provides an excellent introduction to automotive engineering, while our NZ Certificate in Automotive Engineering is ideal for those looking for a career under the bonnet.