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Photo: Charlie Deets, Unsplash

Looking after your car’s vital organs

A look at how to maintain the six most important parts of a car.

Consumers are always looking for ways to save money, especially when it comes to grudge purchases essential for safety and car maintenance. With this in mind, we have compiled a list of the most important car components; those which have the potential to undermine a car’s safety and which therefore require extra special care.

Tyres: Exposure to sunlight, heat and coastal conditions all contribute to the degradation of rubber, which is why it’s worth checking these, even if the tread appears to be in perfect condition. In fact, even ‘new’ tyres may be compromised because of perishing. MIWA Chairman, Dewald Ranft,  says it’s important to check the age of a tyre before buying it and to seek advice from an accredited workshop or mechanic.

Brakes: Although brake failure can be caused by any faulty component, it’s most often the result of worn brake pads. This can lead to other issues, like a damaged rotor. Dewald says that to prevent such damage, motorists must check their brake fluid with every regular oil change, and replace it every four to five years. This will ensure that the fluid flows steadily; critical for keeping the entire hydraulic braking system in good condition. That said, if the brake fluid is emitting a burnt odor, has become cloudy or opaque in appearance, and is at a lower level than it should be, it should be attended to immediately. Dewald informs that it is best to stick to the same type of brake fluid, as recommended by the manufacturer.

Lights: Simply asking someone to watch the car while you switch lights and indicators on and off is enough to let you know that your lights are in good working order. Dewald points out that this is crucial, as safety is severely compromised when lights do not come on and the car becomes less visible to other drivers. Motorists should check driving lights, brake lights, indicators, reverse lights, and the light above the number plate.

Cooling system: Running an overheated car can damage the car’s cooling system. Given that 70% of the energy burnt from petrol in a car engine is converted to heat, the role of the cooling system is critical. The cooling system – which comprises a radiator with a fan, water pump, thermostat, sensors, and fluids – must be kept primed by replacing recommended coolant at intervals suggested by the manufacturer. Remind motorists to flush the cooling system when replacing old coolant so that the correct mixture ratios are maintained.

Charging system: A faulty charging system – comprising the alternator, voltage regulator, and battery – can compromise the car’s functioning, because the system charges electrical components that get the car started. Motorists should be aware that leaving their cars in the cold during winter affects the charging system by placing strain on the battery life. They also need to keep the battery clean, using a damp cloth to wipe off any white residue on the battery terminals. It’s important to check that the alternator is charging quickly. This can be difficult to gauge because most motorists drive short distances, but if it is undercharging, the alternator may fail the next time they take a long trip. Regular servicing will also make sure that the system remains in peak condition, as an accredited mechanic will be able to identify and address small issues before they grow into larger problems.

Wiper blades: Because wiper blades are fairly fragile, manufacturers recommend that they are changed every six months or, at the very least, once a year. Once a wiper blade starts leaving streaks on the windshield, ‘stuttering’ when it wipes or cleaning only one side of the windscreen, it is definitely time for a change.

Photos: Unsplash