Regular maintenance critical as sales slow

Recent sales statistics show that people are holding onto their current vehicles for longer, and resisting the urge to buy a new set of wheels. According to the National Automobile Association of SA (Naamsa) South African vehicle sales dropped 3.1% in February compared to the same period last year, with new passenger car sales falling by 5.4%.

“Following four successive years of growth in domestic new vehicle sales, prospects for this year would be affected by subdued economic growth, above average new vehicle price increases as a result of exchange rate weakness and upward pressure on interest rates,” the association said. This means the regular maintenance of motorists’ vehicles is more critical than ever, says Les McMaster, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA.) “Regular maintenance is key to extending the life of a car, and will help clients pick up smaller repairs early enough to prevent more serious faults occurring further down the line.”

Advise motorists to keep a close eye on the car's manual and schedule maintenance accordingly. “Even better, have them set a recurring reminder on their phone to alert them to get their vehicle checked annually. Keeping up with a car's recommended maintenance schedule can help avoid costly problems with their cooling system, drivetrain, suspension and other components.”

Motorists should also ensure their car is serviced by a reputable workshop that only uses quality oil, fluids and parts. “Although at that moment it might sound like an attractive option to clients to service their car for as cheaply as possible, the financial implications in the long run will outweigh the apparent short term benefit. Help them understand that it’s never wise to scrimp on a car’s maintenance costs.” 

In addition to regular maintenance there are a number of other things motorists can do to extend a car’s life. Motorists should regularly check the level of fluids in their vehicles, such as the anti-freeze, oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and brake fluid. “Even if a car doesn't leak fluids, it can develop a leak quite quickly which results in a dangerously low level of fluids. It’s also important to change the oil regularly as this will improve the mileage and protect the engine. To find the recommended mileage between oil changes they should check their vehicle’s service manual, and if still unsure consult with an accredited MIWA workshop. It’s important to change the oil filter as well - there is no sense in putting clean oil through a dirty filter,” says Mc Master.

Also advise motorists to monitor the thickness of their vehicle’s brake pads to prevent the pads from wearing down to metal. This will cause damage to the brake disks and possibly the calipers as well. It’s worth noting that disks and calipers are much more expensive to replace than brake pads. Another handy tip to make the brakes last longer, is to use the hand brake where possible, he says. “Even if they are driving a car with an automatic transmission, they should use their hand brake regularly, especially if they're parked on an incline. It helps keep the brakes adjusted in the rear of the car and makes them last longer.”

Furthermore, they should rotate their tyres often as it reduces uneven wear and tear on the tread, thus extending the life of the tyres too. Generally they should be rotated diagonally - front right to rear left and front left to rear right. “Clients also need to check their tyre pressure regularly. Proper tyre inflation will help the tyres handle better and last longer, and it will help them get the most out of a tank of petrol. It’s also a good idea to have their tyres regularly checked for wear.” But most of all, advise them to never ignore small problems. They should pay close attention to a vehicle’s noises and also to its warning lights and even cosmetic things, like a piece of rubber trim that’s loose, he says. “Ignoring a problem only allows it to get worse, and parts for aging vehicles are often difficult to locate.”