Heels & Horsepower Magazine

What You Should Know About Your Car’s Battery

When it comes to car maintenance, most car owners don’t give their hard-working battery a second thought.

The car battery is a component often taken for granted because it goes about its duty without much bother – until it dies and you’re left stranded. It’s function is to start your car when you turn on the ignition; by supplying an electrical current to your starter unit. After starting your engine, power is supplied via the alternator to other devices in your vehicle, such as LED lights, sound and safety equipment.

What Causes a Car Battery to Wear?

Driver behaviour, seasonal conditions, and vehicle age can drain your battery and affect its lifespan.

1.   Driver Behaviour

  • Plugging in numerous appliances while driving, for example, charging a fridge and a cell phone into your 4×4 at the same time.
  • Leaving your car standing for lengthy time periods.
  • Only using your car for short journeys which don’t give your battery a chance to re-charge.
  • Leaving the lights on after parking for more than four to seven hours depending on your battery’s make and age.
  • Playing the audio system for longer than 10 – 12 hours while the car is stationary.

2.   Seasonal Conditions

  • Chilly weather puts extra strain on older cars. The lower temperatures cause the chemical reactions needed to make batteries work slow down.
  • Extremely hot weather affects your battery’s health by causing vital liquids to evaporate and its charge to weaken.

3.   Vehicle Age

A battery’s life depends more on the age of the car than the cost or brand of the battery. Batteries fitted into new Original Equipment Market (OEM) cars last longer than those in the aftermarket where vehicle maintenance plans have expired. This is because power is drawn off batteries by other aging vehicle components such as vehicle trackers and aftermarket spotlights.

How can I tell if my Battery is Dying?

The first warning signs of a dying battery is the battery light in your dashboard turning on. Subsequent indicators are:

  • Dim vehicle lights
  • Electrical issues, such as, flickering interior lights
  • Slowly starting engines
  • Check battery light turning on as a direct indicator of a battery problem and an engine light turning on as a possible battery related problem
  • Bad smells, similar to rotting eggs, suggesting battery damage or an internal short
  • Visibly lower battery fluid levels
  • Corroded connectors

Car batteries need to be replaced every three to five years and maintained in keeping with your car’s service intervals. A well-cared-for car battery will give you many happy, troublesome miles of travel and keep you safe from unexpected breakdowns and untold inconvenience. Should you suspect your car battery is nearing its life’s end, visit your nearest battery specialist without delay.  

The 3 Major Enemies of your car’s Shock Absorbers

The lifespan of your shocks is dependent on a number of factors. These include the terrain you often travel on, the conditions you drive in as well as your personal driving style. 

As with all car components, shock absorbers are subject to wear and tear over time, however, there are a few things which accelerate their deterioration. 

  1. Potholes:  If you are driving on bad roads or hitting potholes often this will cause your vehicle to rebound more frequently and can damage your shocks.
  2. Dirt roads:  When travelling on dirt roads a lot of dust is generated in the air. These sand particles get into the seals of your shocks, damaging them and causing the fluid inside to leak out.
  3. Mud:  Mud gets into the inner components of your vehicle, including your shocks. This will damage the seals and cause leaks. Leakage reduces the effectiveness of your shocks as it diminishes their ability to absorb impact. 

There are however, a few things you can do to help extend the life of your shock absorbers.

  1. Drive slowly and with extreme caution through potholes, mud and on gravel roads. 
  2. Have your shock absorbers checked regularly checked (this will be done by a trained specialist whenever your car goes in for a service) 
  3. Clean the wheel hubs of your car to dislodge debris

Your shock absorbers should be checked once a year at the very least or alternatively every 20,000kms.

8 Daily Driving Habits to Keep You Safe on the Road

Weather you are a seasoned driver or are newly licensed, it is imperative to cultivate good driving habits. 

As any motorists will tell you developing bad driving habits is all too easy, but by consciously making a daily effort to drive with care and consideration, it is possible to significantly improve your on-road safety. Here are a few basics to keep in mind next time you turn on the ignition: 

  1. Maintain a safe constant speed and avoid weaving in and out of lanes.
  2. Use the 2-3 second rule to maintain a safe following distance from the vehicle ahead of you. Increase this to 4-6 seconds when towing a trailer and or when driving;
    • in bad weather conditions, 
    • at night
    • on gravel
  3. Reduce your speed to suit the road, traffic and weather conditions you are driving in.  
  4. Always have an escape route – space to manouver your vehicle should your immediate path of travel be unexpectedly blocked.  
  5. Be aware of the position and proximity of other vehicles within your surroundings. 
  6. Keep to the speed limit at all times, as driving too fast could compromise your ability to stop the car safely. 
  7. Always drive defensively. 
  8. Obey all the road rules including:
    • stopping at red traffic lights,
    • slowing down when approaching an amber traffic light,
    • giving way to pedestrians, joggers and cyclists
    • yielding correctly at all intersections (traffic circles and 4-say stops)
    • coming to a complete stop at STOP signs

Remember that driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol could lead to accidents, injury or in extreme instances, fatalities.