As we head towards the end of the 2013/2014 financial year and you’re all looking at new cars and contacting the friendly, knowledgeable staff at Private Fleet, it’s also the end of the first month of June. The southern part of Australia is being swept by an almost Antarctic blast of cold, high speed winds and with the Australian Alps copping snow in levels that haven’t been seen in years, it’s apt that we take a look at driving in winter.
First up, tyres. These are, criminally, the most underrated part of any car on the road. Tread depth is the first thing to have a look at; check out the outside and inside part of the tread, is it worn, looking feathered? Across the tyre, does the tread look shallow, the rubber shiny? Just about any tyre retailer can assist in giving you some idea about this even if you don’t know the first thing. Then there’s the tread pattern itself. Cheaper tyres tend to have both lesser quality construction and average tread patterns, effectively offering up a less than ideal compromise when it comes to handling. Better brands will be designed to give better grip, with the tread (or block) pattern holding on better.
Oil change time is a given; oil comes in different “weights” and oils designed for winter or cold climate usage will have a W in the code. If you were to pick up, most commonly,a five litre container of oil with something like: 10W – 30, it means that the first number is rated for the viscosity of the oil under winter conditions and the second at 100 degrees Celcius. This is called a multigrade oil and the higher the second number the THICKER the oil will be. It’s more likely that your car will already have multigrade oil in it, but a yearly (or even six monthly) change will go a long way to looking after your engine.
I’m sure we’ve all heard of spark plugs and these little fellas can be responsible for making your car run smoother when they’re new. When everything else is running as it should be, a properly set spark plug can measurably help in the overall efficiency of the fuel consumption. Sure, they may cost a bit, but it’s money well invested and, over a longer period of time, will give you more value than the equivalent once off cost of a night out with a good dinner. Part of the cost goes towards the actual material used, such as platinum or neodymium, rare earth metals that have an astonishing cost per kilo. There’s also “heat temperature” range plugs, designed to burn or ignite across a range of combustion temperatures and tend, nowadays, to be for older generation cars.
When we drive we should be looking through a nice and clean windscreen, however when it rains, even a little, we should be using the windscreen wipers. But if they’re old, they’re accumulated dirt, possibly become brittle and may scrape against the glass, which will then make it more prone to sludge and dirt not being easily washed away. Periodically you should also be checking your wiper fluid levels and putting in the proper cleansing agent (Windex is NOT considered the right one). You may have noticed, as you drive around, how many vehicles seem to have faulty indicators. When a bulb is blown the ticking noise you’ll hear inside the car will be quicker, a simple sign something’s not right. Any auto electrician can sort you out and remember, indicators are NOT fitted as an optional extra. Same goes for headlight and tail light bulbs; have someone stand a few feet from the front and rear of the car, turn on your headlights and flick between the parkers to low to high beam. Use the brakes and if any bulb is out, visit your local auto sparky.
Driving a car safely is one thing, driving a safe car is another. With weather conditions during winter so changeable, a few simple steps to check out your chosen chariot could make a lot of difference to fuel consumption and, importantly, the safety of yourself and others on the roads.