Life is tough enough already. Make sure your car is the least of your worries…
After your home, your car’s probably your most expensive possession – and with almost all South Africans having to
tighten their belts, changing cars every few years is no longer an option. ‘In the past, people may have opted for new cars every three to five years. Now this has been stretched to seven years or more, so caring for your vehicle is even more important,’ says Layton Beard, spokesperson for the Automobile Association (AA).
Here’s how to take better care of your car so you can delay its replacement:
Extend the warranty on your car
All service and maintenance plans have limited lifespans when bought with a new vehicle. They only apply for as long as the car has a specific number of kilometres, or is of a particular age. ‘Keeping an older used car without a service plan, maintenance plan or at least a warranty exposes you to potentially crippling maintenance and repair costs and can result in a nasty financial surprise. Some of these warranties are available on a pay-as-you-go basis, meaning you can purchase them monthly and not only when buying a car from a dealership. For example, the AA offers a
month-to-month service plan,’ says Layton. So which one is best for you?
Mike Fourie of Cars.co.za says a service plan (which comes standard on most new cars) covers the cost of regular servicing (consumable parts and labour) and is usually limited to years and kilometres travelled from the date of first registration.
It covers the costs of regular scheduled services determined by the manufacturer. Items covered are marked by an ‘R’ (for ‘replacement’) at service intervals. You need to check with the dealer or consult the vehicle’s handbook to find out when these intervals are, so you’ll know when to take your car in for its next service.
- Your service plan will lapse if you don’t have your vehicle serviced at a franchised dealer according to its
manufacturer’s stipulations (time and mileage intervals).
- It doesn’t cover wear and tear or mechanical breakdowns.
‘A maintenance plan is just like a service plan, except that the cost of repairing or replacing wear-and-tear items (other than windscreens, scrapes and dents, tyres and fuel) is also carried by the manufacturer for the duration of the plan,’ says Mike. ‘And, as with a service plan, you have to take your car to officially franchised dealer workshops.’
- It covers all routine servicing, mechanical failures and wear and tear on your car.
- It’s standard on most mid- to luxury-spec vehicles, but can also be bought separately. While these plans have an initial limited lifespan, they can be lengthened through purchasing extensions or follow-on maintenance plans.
- You must follow the manufacturer’s stipulations (eg scheduled services at franchised dealers) to the letter. If you let the maintenance plan lapse, it will seriously limit your car’s resale value.
‘A warranty protects you from paying for replacement parts and labour to repair your vehicle, should you suffer a mechanical failure within a certain number of years and kilometres travelled after purchasing your vehicle,’ says Mike.
- You don’t need to budget for mechanical repairs as long as your car’s under warranty.
- Like a maintenance plan, it can also be extended or replaced with another warranty once the
manufacturer’s term ends.
- It could exclude certain vehicle components, like clutch plates and brake discs, and you can’t claim for parts of the car that deteriorate or fail due to wear and tear.
Genuine vs generic parts
If your car’s no longer under warranty or its service or maintenance plan has expired, you can use a reputable mechanic or workshop instead of an authorised dealer. There’s the option of buying cheaper, generic parts – but do they function as well as the genuine ones? ‘The advantage of genuine, manufacturer supplied parts is that they’re specifically designed for your vehicle. If you have your car serviced or repaired at a franchised dealer, you’re virtually guaranteed that genuine parts will be used (if a workshop fails to do that, it could lose its franchise rights with the manufacturer it represents). Using genuine parts is also key to keeping warranties and service and maintenance plans valid for their duration,’ says Mike. ‘It all depends on how critical the parts are. It might be better to use genuine parts, but save on labour costs by using an independent workshop instead of a franchised one. Get quotes from both and compare your options.’
Quick care tips
If you get a small chip on your windscreen, have it fixed as soon as possible. Keeping your windscreen in good shape
can also keep you safe. ‘Windscreens are designed to absorb forces being transmitted through the car’s body. A stone chip weakens the pane and this can lead to a crack, which will oblige you to replace the windscreen. If the damage to the windscreen interferes with the driver’s view of the road, the vehicle’s technically no longer roadworthy. Not only could you be fined, but if you don’t have a chip of this nature repaired professionally, your insurance policy may not cover you in the event of claim,’ warns Mike.
Regularly check your tyres for pressure, tread depth, alignment and balancing at any tyre fitment centre. Ensure your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure, which will ensure better fuel economy and reduce the chances of excessive wear, says Mike. ‘For an accurate reading, check your tyre pressure when the tyres are cold,’ he adds. You can check tread depth yourself. ‘All tyres have tread wear indicator bars moulded into the tread. When the tyre tread becomes level with these bars, it’s time to replace your tyres. If your tyres’ tread depth is less than 1.6mm, you should have
them replaced. Never drive on worn or smooth tyres, as this drastically increases the chance of tyre failure, which could lead to a serious accident.’
Check your engine’s fluids
- Oil: ‘Check your car’s service manual to see what type and grade of oil is required for your engine. Oil reduces friction between the engine’s moving parts, which has the effect of decreasing heat generation, lowering noise levels, reducing the build-up of harmful deposits and minimising component wear. Different engines operate best under different loads and conditions, so it’s essential that the oil you use has the right viscosity and chemical composition to suit your engine’s internal tolerances.’
- Water: It’s best not to use only water in your radiator. Coolant is an additive that works more effectively to
dissipate engine heat in hot temperatures, while the anti-freeze component prevents the water from freezing during cold weather. ‘When a recommended engine coolant with anti-freeze properties is mixed with water, it changes the temperature at which the water will freeze or boil. So when the car’s being used at top speed or for long periods, it will cool your engine down before reaching boiling point, and when outside temperatures are freezing, it will remain liquid and continue to regulate the temperature of your engine,’ explains Mike.
FEATURE: NOLWAZI DHLAMINI SOURCES: CARS.CO.ZA AND AA.CO.ZA PHOTO: STOCK.ADOBE.COM