Automobile Association of South Africa
The Automobile Association of South Africa, often abbreviated AA has been operating in South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 since 1930. It is a non-profit organisation providing services to its Members such as roadside assistance, technical and motor-related legal advice. It also maintains liaison with government departments to influence decisions, either by lobbying or making formal representations on behalf of motorists.
In the beginning

Picture the scene: it’s 1897 in South Africa. Up until now, gravel roads and carriages were the order of the day. With the arrival of the motor car in largely rural, turn-of-the-century South Africa there came a host of new requirements. Indeed, things were about to change…

Roads suitable for ox wagons, horse carts and carriages became substandard overnight. Administrators were not prepared for the demands of an entirely new technology. The importing of the first car in 1897 was a watershed moment in history, and four years later the first incarnation of the AA was born.

So you see, the AA has had motorists’ best interests at heart since the very beginning.
The first motoring clubs are formed

The first established motoring organisation was the Automobile Club of South Africa, formed in Cape Town in 1901 just before the end of the Anglo-Boer War. This body began to lobby for improved roads and amenities for cars. The effect was a mere ripple in the pond, for numbers of car owners were growing slowly.

Soon afterwards however, motoring began to gather momentum: the first car in Johannesburg was registered in 1904, the first American imports arrived in 1906 and the first motor show was held in 1908. The lifestyle had begun. Other bodies began to spring up around the country: the Transvaal Automobile Club in 1903, the Natal Automobile Club in 1906, Pietermaritzburg in 1907, the East London and Border in 1908 and the Queenstown Automobile Club in 1916. In 1911 the original Cape Town-based Automobile Club of South Africa received a royal charter and became known as the Royal Automobile Club of South Africa.

By 1923, clubs existed throughout the Union, including those in towns and areas such as Winburg, Zoutpansberg, Somerset East, Tshwane, The Midlands, Mafikeng, Cathcart and Aliwal North. The groundswell was such that a Federation of Automobile Clubs was formed in 1923 (the same year local motor manufacturing commenced) in order to coordinate and act in the interests of motorists. The disadvantages of having many diverse bodies attempting to deal with councils, municipalities and government were recognised, so in 1928, the Queenstown AC was granted permission by the AA of Great Britain to use its car badge and name as a Federated AA, shuttling in the idea of a nationwide AA.

The AA is born

In January 1930 the federation of clubs was reconstituted as the Automobile Association of South Africa. The final improvement in the AA’s effectiveness came with the adoption of centralised control in 1934. There was now a significant and recognised body to lobby the interests of motoring in its broadest sense.

Lobbying for motorists

The AA began to tackle every motoring issue under the sun: the control and pricing of petrol, the call for a national and uniform motoring legislation, and the building of an oil pipeline from the coast to supply the Reef – these are just some examples of the AA’s advocacy on behalf of motorists between 1938 and 1948, all of which were of national and macro-economic relevance. Because each province had its own set of ordinances, uniform motoring legislation was only implemented in 1989 with the National Traffic Act. After decade-long battles with South African Railways, the oil pipeline was finally agreed to in 1963. Without the AA to champion such causes, the country would have had even longer to wait for these very necessary improvements.

Centralising operations

The Association’s first head office in De Villiers Street, Johannesburg, was called ‘AA House’. Built in 1940, it was designed by architect and committee member Rodger-Martin, who later became the AA’s first honorary life president. Larger premises followed in 1979 in De Korte Street, Braamfontein. In 1995, the AA moved to the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit. The thatch-roofed offices here were named in honour of long-serving chairman Denis Paxton. From here, the AA has grown in leaps and bounds.
AA Milestones=

1930s and ‘40s
  • The Automobile Association of South Africa is officially born.
  • Lobbying for motorists in 1938, the AA begins to tackle issues such as the control and pricing of petrol (an ongoing battle!), the call for national and uniform motoring legislation (implemented in 1989 with the National Traffic Act) and the building of an oil pipeline from the coast to supply the Reef (agreed to in 1963).
  • Creation of the AA Legal Division.

  • After the Second World War, the AA grows with the burgeoning motoring industry.
  • The first round-the-clock emergency service is implemented in 1955 and, a year later, AA Technical Services goes mobile.

  • Permanent area officers are acquired in all main centres.
  • AA Publishing produces the first edition of the internationally respected Road Atlas and Touring Guide of Southern Africa, in addition to maps and travel brochures.
  • In 1966 the Royal Automobile Club of South Africa is taken over by the AA.

  • A decade dominated by the fuel crisis and road safety issues.
  • The AA conducts studies into fuel consumption and alternate fuel options, as well as being instrumental in the adoption of mandatory seat belts in 1978.

  • The 1980s see another surge in the growth of motoring. The AA mushrooms and absorbs its rival motoring organisation, Rondalia.
  • While more than 100 000 Members are assisted by the AA’s emergency services, the organisation also tackles issues such as driving skills, toll roads and the high rate of car theft.
  • First call centre is launched, manned by six people in Auckland Park.

  • Increased growth and effectiveness in AA services continues. In addition to Emergency Rescue, the AA Plus and AA Auto Shops are established.
  • AA Fleetcare is launched in 1992, providing emergency roadside assistance to business-owned fleet vehicles.
  • The Kyalami racetrack facility is rescued by the AA, who purchased the entire property. In addition to upgrading the amenities and landscaping with indigenous trees, the AA ensures that the premises are self-funding, leased out for exhibitions, shows, conferences, sports and motor-sport activities. The AA Head Office is relocated here in 1995. The new buildings are decorated with historical memorabilia from the AA’s extensive archives.

  • AA Battery Services is launched.
  • The birth of the AA National Call Centre is a watershed moment, as it now means there is one centralised emergency call centre, instead of separate regional call centres.

  • The AA moves into mainstream travel with the launch of two Travel Experience stores. The TE concept stores were a conversion from the Auto Shop concept, which stocked only retail items, to offer Members a 360° travel experience (that’s everything from travel gear to package holidays), through a partnership with the South African Travel Centre. Today, there are 17 Travel Experience stores nationwide.

  • The AA opens a separate operations building in Midrand and launches its towing fleet after an absence of 10 years.
  • The AA Technical Training Academy is opened in Johannesburg.

  • The AA Battery Services launches its own fleet of battery service vehicles and the Cape Town-based AA Technical Training Academy is established.
  • A separate Legal and Technical advice service is established.
  • The AA hosts the very first Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile
    Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile
    The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile is a non-profit association established as the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus on 20 June 1904 to represent the interests of motoring organisations and motor car users...

     conference held outside Europe.

  • The AA’s Inbound Travel division is launched.
  • In August, extra tow trucks are acquired.
  • The AA forms an alliance with BP
    BP p.l.c. is a global oil and gas company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is the third-largest energy company and fourth-largest company in the world measured by revenues and one of the six oil and gas "supermajors"...

     South Africa in September.
  • The AA implements a mobile money collection device for its battery services so Members can pay for their new batteries on the spot.

  • Bloemfontein is added to the AA’s service network.
  • Another operational site is opened to host 40% of the AA’s fleet, reducing travel times and fuel costs.
  • August sees the AA open an in-house maintenance workshop. 23 Super Hybrid Patrols are trained to be multi-tasked for towing, battery servicers and patrol services, and these services are extended to Gauteng, Polokwane, Nelspruit, Port Elizabeth, Stellenbosch, Rustenburg and Pietermaritzburg.
  • The AA’s online routing facility is launched in conjunction with TomTom, enabling Members to plan their journeys using online maps and navigation systems.

  • The AA’s first female tow truck driver and road patrol are appointed.
  • The new-design website is launched in January.
  • In March, the AA launches an online travel booking engine, assisting Members with a 24/7 online travel planning and booking facility.
  • The AA invests in a state-of-the-art customer relationship management system, Nova.
  • The AA hosts its 100th board meeting on 18 March.
  • In May, the AA ventures into the world of social media by launching its Facebook page.

Evolution of the AA Fleet=
The AA has had 80 years to hone its special fleet of vehicles so it can respond to you appropriately in any emergency. Whether you run out of petrol or are involved in an accident and need towing, the AA is ready to assist you.

The AA fleet has always been recognisable by its branded yellow patrol vans, but the last decade has been particularly eventful on the operation side, spawning a host of new vehicles.
These are some of the highlights:
  • 2005: AA Cabs launched.
  • 2006: AA Towing Services launched (after the acquisition of 52 Iveco tow trucks in 2005).
  • 2007: Battery Service fleet launched.
  • 2008: The addition of six AA Trailers, two Piggyback Trailers and 24 new Yellow to All Trucks. This bumper year saw the normal towing operation becoming multi-skilled, with 23 Super Hybrid trucks combining patrol and towing functions in one.
  • 2009: Reintroduced Motorcycle Patrols on South African roads.

Meet the Fleet
  • Tow trucks are dispatched by the AA Breakdown Recovery Towing and Accident Assistance Service, which includes rollbacks (for caravan tows, breakdown tows and accident tows) and wheel lifts (for breakdown tows).
  • Patrol vans carry out the AA Roadside Repair Service, covering: jump-starts, flat tyre changes, broken fan belts, mechanical work, lockouts, overheating cases and fuel delivery. The AA Patrols operate in major metropolitan areas such as Johannesburg, Tshwane, Durban, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth, Polokwane, Rustenburg, East London, Bloemfontein, Stellenbosch and Nelspruit. In places where the AA does not have its own vehicles, an AA-approved service provider assists Members.
  • Battery vans carry out the mobile AA Battery Sales Service, jump-starting flat batteries and providing other roadside assistance.
  • Motorcycle Patrols (which were reintroduced due to traffic congestion in Gauteng) provide much faster response in emergencies and are also used for motorcycle trailer tows.

Through its acquisition of the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, the AA rescued the world-renowned racetrack in Midrand from near extinction.

The circuit opened in 1961 and in its heyday was very popular with both local and international competitors. You may remember that Kyalami hosted a nine-hour endurance race for many years and was the host circuit for the South African Grand Prix from 1963 to 1985.

Sadly this didn’t last and the circuit found itself in the financial doldrums from about 1983. Despite several buyouts and investor attempts, it unfortunately went into liquidation in 1993.

At the time, the AA was the controlling body of motor sport in South Africa, under the auspices of AA Motorsport. The AA felt it would be a tragedy to allow this world icon to be sold off for development and therefore made a successful offer to purchase the circuit.

Taking ownership in June 1993, the AA very successfully managed and operated the circuit until it was sold in 2004. During this period, Kyalami played host to several international events, including the superbike series. The circuit was also popular with F1 teams as a testing venue, even though South Africa no longer hosts Formula One events.
Taking the Bull by the Horns=

Over the past 80 years, the AA has campaigned for better safety laws and road maintenance, more comprehensive driver training programmes and access to knowledge on your behalf.

The demerit system

In 1962, the AA proposed a points demerit system to help curb the increasing frequency of road accidents due to driver negligence. Now, almost 50 years later, it is finally becoming a reality. Why so slow, you may ask? Well, the barriers to adopting this system were only removed in 1989 with the passing of the first National Road Traffic Act. Prior to then, the country has provincial ordinances, which made a national system almost impossible to implement.

Driver’s licence conversions

In 2002, the credit card format driver’s licence replaced the old driver’s licence format in ID books. Unfortunately, thousands of licence holders had to have their licences converted at the last minute before the cut-off date, which proved especially difficult for motorists living abroad at the time. The AA was instrumental in changing the legislation to permit expatriates and students abroad to convert their licences upon their return to South Africa, regardless of whether this was after the cut-off date. No mean feat, considering the time normally taken to pass amendments in parliament!

Road maintenance

It was decided in late 1998 to research the state of the country’s road infrastructure and determine to what extent road maintenance was lacking. The general condition of the South African road network was deteriorating rapidly and not many interventions were in evidence.

After extensive research on the state of South Africa’s road infrastructure, a road maintenance and funding report was released to the public in 1998, which became the industry reference. An update of the report in 2009 highlighted maintenance backlogs and significant changes to the condition of the road network and has once again become the industry reference.

Drunk driving

The issue of drinking and driving has come a long way from the early municipal by-laws and provincial ordinances leading up to the National Road Traffic Act. In 1944 a magistrate found a driver guilty of being ‘too intoxicated to exercise proper control of the vehicle’. In those days, technology did not allow for the determination of blood alcohol content
Blood alcohol content
Blood alcohol content , also called blood alcohol concentration, blood ethanol concentration, or blood alcohol level is most commonly used as a metric of alcohol intoxication for legal or medical purposes....

, so the law relied on the subjective view of the arresting officer.

Up until the mid-70s, the legal limit for drivers was an unheard of 0.15 g/100 ml blood – a level which, if presented in court today, would guarantee a hefty fine at the very least. Legislative changes dropped the legal limit to 0.08 g/100 ml in the 1980s and again in the 1990s to the current
0.05 g/100 ml (the limit for learner and professional drivers is 0.02 g/100 ml). Today, breathalyser technology is also used to confirm that a motorist is over the legal limit.

The AA has always cautioned motorists on the use of alcohol when driving, and has been part of the annual alcohol testing and awareness initiative Stay Alert Stay Alive since its inception in 1996.

In 2004, the AA commissioned a three-part combined study on the effects of speed and alcohol as contributors to crashes, and seat belts as a safety tool to reduce injury and fatality. The studies are available to the public. The current school of thought is to reduce the alcohol limit even further - to zero.

Driver training

The competency of drivers on South African roads has been an issue for the AA since the very early days of motoring in South Africa. Back then, vehicle owners simply taught themselves to drive, and even as recently as the 1950s a licence was issued if the candidate could drive around the block without crashing the car! My, how times have changed.

By 1970, the K52 driving test was introduced in South Africa, which brought a tougher approach to qualifying for a licence. The K53 version was introduced some 20 years later and is the current qualifying standard for learner drivers. As numbers of drivers and vehicles on South African roads increase, so too have the number of crashes and fatalities – and disproportionately at that.
The AA identified a need to provide additional skills for drivers, leading to the birth of AA Driver Training. In 2003, AA Driver Training was formally launched as a business at Kyalami, with a staff component of three. While there were a number of other advanced driver courses on offer, the AA offer a purely defensive driving-based course (which it continues to do today). A limited number of AA-accredited driving instructors offer the AA course in other centres in South Africa.

Seat belts

It’s laughable to think that in the late 1960s most new cars came standard with front-seat seat belts in the form of static lap belts (similar to those found on aircraft) after research in Europe and America had found that the use of seat belts could significantly improve the safety of occupants.

However, it was not until the 1970s that it became compulsory to wear seat belts in the front, and only in 1996 was the law amended to include all occupants, front and back.

According to the Department of Transport (DoT), every 1% increase in the seat belt wearing rate potentially saves 100 lives. This is a matter the AA has lobbied for continuously for more than 40 years. However, there are still grey areas regarding children and child restraints, which are inadequately covered by the law. The AA is currently addressing this problem.

Crash data compilation

Until 1998, the AA and Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is South Africa's central and premier scientific research and development organisation. It was established by an act of parliament in 1945 and is situated on its own campus in the city of Pretoria...

 compiled annual crash data reports, which were the industry reference. Unfortunately the standard and integrity of crash data has deteriorated to such an extent that it has become impossible to produce detailed data any more. This situation is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

Lights-on campaign

Over the 2004 Easter weekend, the Department of Transport requested motorists to drive with their headlights on at all times in support of the Arrive Alive campaign.

While the campaign itself was not particularly effective, the AA adopted the daytime lights-on policy for all its vehicles, resulting in a 30% reduction in damage and crash claims.

The AA has since been pushing the DoT to change regulations, making it compulsory for all trucks, buses and minibuses to drive with their headlights on at all hours. Draft amendments have been formulated and sent to government.

Moscow convention

In November 2009, the AA was represented at both the FIA Foundation Make Roads Safe
Make Roads Safe
Make Roads Safe is a global road safety campaign established with the aim of securing political commitment for road traffic injury prevention around the world....

– Decade for Action launch as well as the UN Global Ministerial Summit on Road Safety in Moscow.

While both events focused on the need to reduce road crashes by 50% globally over the next 10 years, the summit’s outcome (the Moscow Declaration) – which was signed by our Minister of Transport, Sibusiso Ndebele – commits signatories to effect change in their respective countries. The conference was a precursor to the UN General Assembly meeting in March 2010 where the UN formally adopted the Moscow Declaration.

The implications of this means that all UN member states have to commit themselves to reducing road crashes and injuries by half over the next 10 years.

AA Holidays

So much has changed at the AA over the past 80 years, not least of all how it operates. Back in the day, the AA kept Members abreast of road conditions via a regularly updated blackboard at the side of the road! Today of course, everything is computerised to ensure the AA stays on top of things as they happen (or even before, as potential problems are being monitored).

One of the AA’s changes over the years has been to expand and offer more to Members, and with the pay-off line changing two years ago to ‘Get out there’, the AA was given the green light to find even more ways to help you do just that, safely and with the assurance that when dealing with the AA or its partners, you won’t ever be taken for a ride.

It was with great pride (and lots of fanfare), that the AA launched its brand new online travel booking engine in 2010. Members can visit and immediately book flights, find great accommodation deals for southern Africa and even hire a car, either according to your budget or for specific dates. As you’d expect, the system is as easy as 1, 2, 3 to use and is continually updated with great deals, making that local, African or overseas trip more possible than you may have thought. You can also plan and book your trip as and when it suits you, 24/7, 365 days a year.
AA Holidays has truly become your first port of call when planning to get away.

And so you may ask why the AA has ventured into this space? Well, because of simplicity! Booking your holidays through the AA means you can make your bookings with confidence and peace of mind. The price you see is the price you pay; there are no hidden taxes or surprises!

AA Mayday

The AA provides 24-hour AA Mayday emergency medical rescue whether you are in your vehicle, at home, on holiday or at work. The AA will arrange and pay for emergency medical transportation to the most appropriate medical facility, and your spouse and children under 25 are covered free of charge.

This service is available in South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho (please see the AA Mayday Terms and Conditions for a full list of services available in these specific areas).

AA Mayday benefits include:
  • Medical evacuation.
  • Admission to a medical facility.
  • Relocation after treatment.
  • Rape crisis advice line.
  • Trauma counselling.
  • Repatriation of mortal remains.
  • Free medical advice and assistance.
  • Dispatch of emergency medication and blood.
  • Travelling companions for stranded minors.
  • Drug and generic medicine information.

AA Mayday means that you can rest easy knowing that you’ll be taken care of in a medical emergency.

AA Stand by You

Request this service when your car breaks down and an armed security guard will stay with you until one of the AA’s patrolman arrives. In addition to personal protection, this service reduces the risk of hijacking and vandalism whilst you're on the side of the road. It is linked to roadside assistance in major urban areas and is available to all AA Advantage Plus Members and Members subscribed to this service.

  • AA Stand By You provides roadside security to AA Advantage Plus Members and Members subscribed specifically to this service.
  • In the event that you feel unsafe while waiting for AA aid, the AA, at its discretion, will send an armed guard to Stand By You, until the AA assistance arrives.
  • Service is available 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  • Service is provided in selected areas of Johannesburg, Tshwane, Midrand, Cape Town, Paarl, George, Hermanus, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Bloemfontein, East London, Kimberley, Pietermaritzburg, Witbank, Rustenburg, Brits, Hartebeespoort, Nelspruit, Polokwane, Welkom and the Vaal Triangle.
  • This service is subject to Terms and Conditions and to the available capacity of the AA’s external service provider to render service at the time it is requested.
  • AA Stand by You is available as an optional service to Non-AA Advantage Plus Members - to subscribe to this service call us on 083 843 22.

Insurance Driven by the AA

Take advantage of the AA’s fully transparent and competitively priced insurance products, which include motor, home, building and NOW, business insurance. Insurance driven by the AA also offer a range of value added insurance products, including:
  • Touch-Up Cover that fixes chips, dents and light scratches on your vehicle.
  • Protection Plan Cover which pays for funeral expenses in the event of your death or that of your spouse or children.
  • Personal Accident Cover helps you and/or your family manage in the event of hospitalisation, disablement or death resulting from an accident.
  • Cash-Back Plus gives you cash back in recognition of your good claims history and can be linked to your insurance policy.

Phone Insurance driven by the AA on 0860 10 60 02 for a quotation or to find out more, visit the AA Insurance website.

AA Autobay

AA Autobay has seen an opportunity within the marketplace for a credible and safe service to facilitate private to private vehicle sales between individuals. Auto Pedigree, the largest independent second-hand motor vehicle dealer in the country, and part of the Imperial Group, acquired the licence from AA South Africa to operate this facility from its national network of branches.

This gives private-to-private buyers and sellers the opportunity to trade without the risks normally associated with private-to-private sales.

Visit the AA Autobay website for more information.

DEKRA in Association with the AA

Keeping your vehicle in peak operating condition is the best way to ensure your safety on the road as well as reducing your overall motoring costs. Regular inspections can help you identify potential hazards and save you money by preventing additional damage before it happens. It is for these reasons that the AA has partnered with DEKRA, a globally recognised German vehicle-monitoring organisation to make South African roads safer.

DEKRA is a world leader in the supply of vehicle roadworthy inspections. DEKRA has taken over the ownership and management of the formerly branded AA Test and Drive Centres and have now branded the centres "DEKRA in association with the AA". The collaboration between the AA and DEKRA will ensure that the standards of vehicle safety in South Africa are world class.

The DEKRA in association with the AA centres offer a range of professional vehicle examinations designed to help you identify vehicle flaws, and make an informed decision when purchasing a new or used car.

Professional technical and roadworthy tests are available to all AA Members at a discount of 15%

Visit the DEKRA website for more information.

AA Telephonic Motor-related Legal Services

Been in an accident and not sure how to proceed? Are you involved in a dispute with a service provider? Do you need advice on how to interpret or deal with new vehicle legislation issues? Or perhaps you have a problem relating to law enforcement?

AA Members get expert legal telephonic advice on all matters related to owning and operating a private vehicle, and includes advice on:
  • Accidents.
  • Road traffic laws.
  • Insurance.
  • Warranties.
  • Guarantees.
  • Purchase and sale of vehicles.
  • Third party claims.
  • Accident damage recovery claims.

Click here for frequently asked legal questions.

Technical Services

Do you have a motor-related technical query? It could be that you want advice on a vehicle servicing matter or perhaps a referral to one of over 400 AA Quality Assured service providers around the country. If you are an AA Member, you may want advice or assistance with vehicle sales and purchases i.e. specifications, care and maintenance, documentation and processes, etc.

As one of the most trusted brands in the world, the AA offers you the professional advice of service technicians free of charge. It includes:
  • Buying a car.
  • Selling a car.
  • Technical advice.
  • Vehicle operating costs.
  • Where to service/repair your vehicle.
  • Judging quality of repair work.

AA Technical College

The AA Technical College addresses the industry's skill shortage by offering the following Merseta accredited (Accreditation as a service provider was awarded to the AA Technical College on 21 June 2006) apprenticeships:
  • Automotive Electrician.
  • Automotive Engine Fitter.
  • Diesel Mechanic.
  • Motor Mechanic.

Accreditation as a decentralised trade testing centre was awarded to the AA Technical College on 9 March 2007, for the trades of:
  • Automotive Electrician.
  • Automotive Engine Fitter.
  • Diesel Mechanic.
  • Motor Mechanic.

This enables the College to offer a total training solution to its clients.

Though the apprenticeship programme forms the core of the College, it also offers:
  • General vehicle related courses to the public.
  • Specialised soft skill courses.
  • Technical short courses for artisans who want to keep abreast of new technologies and up-skill themselves.

For more information, visit the Technical College's website.
On the Road=

Vehicle tips
  • Turn on your vehicle’s headlights.
  • Avoid abrupt acceleration, braking and steering movement. Sudden stops and turns may cause skidding.
  • Allow extra distance for braking. Your car needs more distance to stop on wet roads.
  • Cloudy and rainy weather reduces visibility so take extra care when passing other vehicles.
  • Increase your following distance. Allow at least 4 to 8 seconds between your car and the car in front of you.
  • Do not drive through flooded areas unless you are sure that the water is below the bottom of the wheel rims. If you have any doubt, don’t drive through the pool of water rather find an alternate route.
  • If you must drive through high water, drive slowly in a low gear, holding the steering wheel steady.
  • After driving in heavy rain for some time without applying the brakes or if you drive through standing water, lightly apply the brakes to dry them.
  • If you have car trouble, turn on your hazard lights and pull completely off the road.
  • Carry a cellular telephone to summon help.

Essentials to have in your car
  • Basic first aid kit.
  • Fire extinguisher.
  • Torch with spare batteries - new LED torches have much longer battery life.
  • Water (for car and humans!)
  • Emergency blankets (silver space blankets are brilliant!)
  • 12V cellphone charger.
  • An old hand towel comes in handy.

Anti-freeze tips

Minimum temperatures are expected to be in the minus degrees region for the rest of the week and this may have you wrapping yourself up against the cold, but have you considered that your engine may need some extra attention too? “Inspecting and maintaining your vehicle’s cooling system does not take much time, and could save you a hefty bill and the possibility of your car refusing to budge out in the cold” says Derek Hall-Jones, Divisional Manager: Technical Services at the AA.

Your car’s cooling system protects the engine against damage by ensuring that it operates within normal temperature range, and in order to do this you need to be sure that your cooling system has anti-freeze the and levels are not low, does not have rust, dirt and mineral deposits in it.

Other advantages by using anti-freeze is that it is easy to notice if there are leaks in the cooling system, it prevents rust and corrosion and also lubricates the water pump. Not only does anti-freeze lower the freezing point of the coolant, it also raises the boiling point.

A general mixture of one part anti-freeze to two parts of water is recommended. Use a hydrometer to check the ‘ph’ value of the coolant in the vehicle’s cooling system. Be aware that some anti-freeze comes already premixed and adding water to this may throw the ratio out of balance. Also, do not to mix different brands of anti-freeze in your cooling system.

If you are doing it yourself, it is important that you start with a cold engine when checking your coolant levels as opening a hot radiator can be extremely dangerous. It may also be a good time to check for and replace leaking, brittle, spongy or cracked hoses. Also ensure that the radiator hose clamps are tight to prevent leaks at the connections.

Any one of our AA Quality Assured (AAQA) general repairer businesses can assist you if you need help in sorting out the anti-freeze levels in your car. “AA Quality Assured businesses adhere to the strict standards set by the AA, and we are committed to ensuring that consumers have the benefit of dealing with reputable and respected businesses in their area,” says Hall-Jones.

Boost your battery life

Nearly three-quarters of the AA’s call-outs are battery-related. If your battery is showing symptoms of being on its last legs – for example, your car is sluggish when starting in the mornings – it may be time to have it replaced.

An average battery lasts up to three years, but this lifespan is often reduced by poor maintenance. “A common error is to over- or under-fill the battery with distilled water,” says William de Lillie, manager of the AA’s battery and patrol fleet. “This reduces the battery’s lifespan.”

AA battery technicians are fully equipped to deal with all battery-related problems. Each vehicle carries a high-tech, portable device to diagnose a vehicle’s battery and charging system (free for AA Members). Should your battery need to be replaced, it’s best to buy a silver-calcium battery from the AA. These modern units provide better cold starting and have up to 20% longer service life than conventional lead-acid products. Battery failure is a common problem, but with correct maintenance you can ensure longer battery life, saving you money in the long run.

The AA offers the following tips:
  • Check the water (electrolyte) level – make sure the level is not too low (it must cover the fluid plates) and, if necessary, top it up. Use distilled water only (boiled and allowed to cool). Avoid overfilling and mop up any spillage. It’s wise to check the levels monthly in summer because a high temperature under the bonnet can cause the water to vaporise or boil off.
  • Keep the battery clean – clean the terminals regularly and remove with warm (not hot) soapy water any acid or dirt which may have accumulated on the battery case. This can cause the battery to self-discharge more rapidly. Also ensure that the terminals are well connected.
  • Secure the battery – make sure the battery is carefully secured and the hold-down clamps are tightened.
  • Charge the battery regularly – take a one-hour, daylight drive each week to help ensure the battery stays charged. This is especially important if you usually only drive short distances or take infrequent trips. Running the engine at idle or taking short (less than 30 minutes) stop-and-go trips are not sufficient to recharge the battery and can shorten its life.
  • Turn off before you turn on – make sure the lights and other accessories (heater, rear-window demister, radio, seat-warmers, windscreen wipers) are turned off before you start the car. In cold weather a fully charged battery provides less than half of the power it does in warm weather, and switching on the lights and other accessories before you start the engine will drain the battery even quicker.
  • Inspect the drive belts – check the belts for any signs of fraying or cracking. Also, they should flex no more than one-half inch. A loose alternator belt is a common cause of battery failure and ensuring it’s correctly tightened could save you the inconvenience of a flat battery later.
  • Park in the shade – an increase in temperature under the bonnet can shorten the battery’s life and reduce its capacity, which in turn will make the car harder to start in cold weather.
  • Service your car – poor engine condition can overload the battery, so ensuring your car is serviced regularly (as recommended by the manufacturer) will prolong the life of your battery.
  • Check the battery’s charge rate – undercharging and overcharging reduce battery life, so it’s a good idea to ask your car dealership or repair workshop to check the charge rate when you have your car serviced. Service checks should include the charge rate at the alternator and the general condition of the battery.

Feeling flat?

Extreme caution should be taken when driving in snow or icy conditions and the tyre treads should be in very good condition. Special designed tyres should be considered when driving permanently on snow and ice.

Tyres must always be in an overall good condition. It is not just the tread that must be in a good condition but the sidewalls as well. The correct tyre pressures are of the utmost importance to achieve optimum road holding and tyre life. A slight change in tyre pressure during the winter time could be applicable depending on the manufacturer of the vehicle.

Remember in terms of Regulation 212 of the National Road Traffic Act it states that no person shall operate on a public road a motor vehicle which is equipped with a regrooved tyre having a bead diameter of 430 millimetres / less. The law says your tyres must have at least a 1 millimetre tread and if it falls below that figure, you risk hefty fines and points on your licence. Some tyres have tread wear indicators in the tread pattern to show when the tread depth is less than 1.6 millimetres. In these cases, if the tread on the tyre is level with these indicators, the tyre must be replaced as it is considered unroadworthy.

Furthermore when you enter into your policy conditions with your insurer you enter into an agreement stating that your vehicle will be in a roadworthy condition. If you fail to keep your vehicle in a roadworthy condition and an accident occurs your insurance company can repudiate your claim. If your tyres are not in good condition your vehicle can be viewed as being unroadworthy, so check your tyres regularly!

Good tyre tread is necessary to maintain road grip, especially in wet weather.

Well maintained tyres will hold your vehicle securely on the road, allowing it to stop, start and manoeuvre safely. For your own safety and that of others, your tyres must be in good condition, properly maintained and appropriate for your vehicle.

Windscreens and wipers

As usual, the change of season brings with it maintenance issues for vehicle owners. If your car has to sleep outside and there’s a layer of frost or snow blanketing the windscreen do not be tempted to use warm water to get rid of the ice. This is a sure recipe for replacing the windscreen – it will crack! Rather use a scraper, an old credit card works well, to remove the ice. Using the air conditioner to demist the interior of the windscreen works effectively as well.

When driving in cold conditions do not be tempted to use your windscreen sprayers, the water from the reservoir will freeze onto the windscreen and the wipers will not be able to clear the ice.

Small cracks or chips in a windscreen are very sensitive to heat fluctuations and can rapidly increase in size if they are subjected to a sudden change of temperature. A cracked or chipped windscreen needs to be repaired however if the chip can be covered by a ten cent piece it will probably be able to be fixed, any larger and the windscreen will have to be replaced. Remember that the area directly in the drivers’ view (about the size of a rugby ball) needs to be clear of cracks or chips otherwise the car could be deemed unroadworthy by the traffic police.

From a safety point of view, winter means three things – smoke, dust, and if you’re in the Cape, rain. Check the condition of windscreen wiper blades and replace them even if they’re cleaning the glass just a little streakily. Wiper blades must be in good condition and need to be inspected regularly, only the edge of the wiper blade should make contact with the windscreen and not the entire rubber body of the wiper blade. Wipers should not be used to clear mud and soil from the windscreen – these could scratch the glass. Remember, as the driver, you need to be able to see perfectly at all times.

Lastly try to park your vehicle undercover during winter. Various vehicle components can be influenced or damaged if exposed to extreme cold conditions. Safe driving!

Lights on!

It is surprising to see how many vehicles have defective lights. Headlights not only light up the way but also enable other road users and pedestrians to see you – even in daytime!

It is very important that all the lights on the vehicle should be in good working condition and that the focus of the headlights are correctly adjusted. Winter also means we drive for longer in the dark so please do a weekly check on all the vehicles’ lights and lenses – and put a spare set of globes in the cubby-hole, they really don’t take up that much space.

Fuel saving tips:
  • Check your tyre pressure regularly.
  • Service your car regularly.
  • Reduce your drag.
  • Use high quality fuels.
  • Turn off your air-con.
  • Lighten your load.
  • Avoid stop/start driving.
  • Avoid excessive idling.
  • Ease off the accelerator.
  • Avoid short journeys.
  • Change down a gear.

The AA recommends BP Ultimate… Here’s why:
  • BP was the first petroleum company to publicly acknowledge the risks of climate change in the early ’90s and took action by significantly reducing its own emissions.
  • In South Africa, it took the lead and became the first petroleum company to produce lead- and heavy-metal-free fuel years ahead of the local government’s legislative ban on lead in fuels, which came into effect in January 2006.
  • BP has also joined forces with the AA to aid motorists in saving fuel and minimising their cars’ impact on the environment.
  • Today, BP is among the world’s leaders in exploring the possibilities of renewable energy such as hydrogen and solar power.
  • BP Ultimate was the first fuel product to receive the Greenhouse Office’s Greenhouse Friendly certification in recognition of BP’s efforts in reducing emissions.

Safety tips for motorists:
  • Always be on the lookout for pedestrians.
  • Reduce speed in places where buses or taxis stop to collect and offload passengers.
  • Do not expect pedestrians to behave predictably. Look out for intoxicated pedestrians, especially over weekends.
  • Be aware that many informal settlements are located adjacent to highways. Do not speed past these areas.
  • Be especially attentive in residential neighbourhoods and near schools - children do not always adhere to the rules of the road and can behave unpredictably.
  • A car stopped in the middle of a road could be allowing a pedestrian to cross. Do not overtake.

Safety tips for pedestrians:
  • Ensure you are clearly visible when walking at night. Wear light-coloured or reflective clothing.
  • Always walk on the pavement, or as close as possible to the edge of the road.
  • Always walk facing oncoming traffic.
  • Many pedestrian deaths are caused by crossing roads carelessly. Look both ways to check for oncoming traffic before crossing.
  • Wherever possible, cross using a pedestrian crossing or bridge, even if it means walking further.
  • Limit distractions when crossing. Do not answer calls or send text messages, listen to music or look for something in a bag or backpack when crossing busy intersections.
  • Do not assume you have been seen. Motorists can be easily distracted and don’t always pay attention. Be wary, make eye contact or wait until the road is clear.
  • Do not assume you have right of way and that drivers will stop for you.
  • Never leave children unaccompanied at the side of the road.
  • Alcohol can impair your ability to walk safely. Avoid roads if intoxicated.

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The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.