Prepare Your Vehicle for the New Zealand Winter
As the temperatures drop and the ski fields beckon, now’s a great time to get your vehicle ready for the winter. We’ve rounded up a few tips to help keep your vehicle performing at its best.
Check Your Tyres
Winter begins to affect your tyres when temperatures fall below 7°C. Roads become slick as temperatures drop and rubber compounds become hard, diminishing traction.
Begin by checking that the tread on your tyres is adequate. The legal minimum tread depth in New Zealand is 1.5mm, but the more tread you have the better the grip. For reference, a new tyre will be around 8mm. The NZTA has a great resource on choosing and fitting tyres.
If you live in an area where winter conditions are prevalent, it might be worth considering winter tyres. These tyres provide better grip than traditional summer tyres in ice, snow, and cold conditions. Be aware that these tyres provide less grip than summer tyres in non-wintry conditions, so if you’re considering the switch, check out this guide first.
And Your Fluids
Cold weather thickens oil, making it less effective in lubricating your engine. To check the oil, make sure the engine has cooled and check. Rub a small amount of oil between your fingers and if it leaves a smudge, it’s time for a change. If the oil feels thick and sludgy, then change immediately.
Keep Windscreens Clear and Protected
Keeping your windscreen clear and protected is especially important in winter months. Dark mornings and evenings, wet and cold conditions, and glare from lights all cause potential hazards. If your wiper blades are worn, replace them immediately to avoid streaky windshields.
It’s smart to carry extra windscreen washer fluid in the boot. When passing cars splash slushy, dirty snow on your windscreen, you don’t want to have an empty windscreen fluid reservoir. If you’re expecting really low temperatures, you’ll want to use a winter mixture that won’t freeze down to −20°C.
If you plan on driving in mountainous areas (or at lower altitudes when the weather is at its worst) consider keeping snow chains on hand.
Note that if you have just one pair of snow chains, fit these to the wheels that are driving power to the road. If you have a 4WD vehicle and just one pair of snow chains, fit these to the front wheels to help with steering.
Batteries can often be overexerted in the winter, which can cause premature failures. Test your battery to make sure it’s in good working order and replace it if necessary. It’s also a good idea to carry a set of jumper cables in case of a breakdown.
Before You Drive Off
Clean your roof, windscreens, bonnet, and boot if it has snowed overnight before driving off. This prevents chunks of snow that could potentially fly off your roof onto other cars, obscuring the views of other drivers.
You should pay attention to your lights, too. It is always a good idea to brush them off a little before driving. Consider whether your car is sufficiently visible during harsh winter conditions when visibility is low.
You can avoid having your windscreen steam up from the inside if you keep the inside surface as clean as possible. Less moisture condenses on clean glass. If the windscreen does steam up, turn on your front windscreen, rear window, and wing mirror heating if available.
Before setting out, take off your heavy coat so it won’t restrict your movements or slow your reactions.
As You’re Driving
In winter conditions, pay extra attention to how closely you’re following other cars. When conditions are slick, stopping, turning, and other basic road actions can take longer than expected, and if you’re too close, you may hit the car nearest you. Watch speeds in these conditions as well and don’t be afraid to go a bit below the speed limit. New Zealand’s roads, especially around the South Island, are particularly dangerous so allow yourself plenty of time to arrive safely at your destination.
Brake slowly and further in advance when approaching a stop. If you do hit an icy patch, turn the wheel smoothly and avoid jerky, fast movements. Icy situations can exacerbate spinning out of control, so keep your movements slow and remain calm.
When visibility is low and conditions are out of your comfort zone, it is best to find a safe space to pull off to wait out the weather. Try to find a roadside petrol station or cafe rather than pulling off on the side of the road, as this can create a dangerous hazard. You’re in no hurry when your life is on the line.
Prepare for Winter Emergencies
To avoid unpleasant surprises in winter during emergency situations, it pays to carry these items with you in your boot.
- A container of sand is a lifesaver on icy surfaces. Even a couple of handfuls of sand tossed down in front of your tyres before leaving a parking space can save a lot of time.
- A small snow shovel can save the day in some situations, plus warm clothes and additional blankets. These situations can sometimes last several hours and you’ll need to stay warm.
- Always carry a phone charger in your car during winter. Phones can lose their battery charge quickly during colder weather and you don’t want to risk being far away from home without having use of a phone. In many modern vehicles, this is simply a case of carrying a charge cable with you that you can plug into your vehicle’s USB port.
- Finally, consider carrying spare fuel in an approved container. Not just for cases where you may run out while driving, but to help you feel more comfortable about running your car’s engine to keep warm should you get stuck.
Above all, drive safely and enjoy! If you happen to take some awesome photos of your Kia in wintry conditions, be sure to share them with us on our Facebook Page!