Petrol price shock for SA: Maintain your car for less

Johannesburg - With Gauteng vehicle owners now having to pay almost 60 cents more per litre for petrol, many are feeling the pressure of owning a vehicle.

Pieter Niemand, Director of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), says this month’s increase has come as a big shock for many motorists with some wondering how long they will be able to sustain the costs associated with their vehicles.

Niemand said: "Every petrol price increase means more is paid towards petrol costs and less is available for the maintenance of the vehicle,” he says.

While this could lead to more unroadworthy vehicles on the road, "this does not have to be the case," says Niemand.

Check your vehicle costs

He believes now is an opportune time for vehicle owners to review their vehicle costs and look at cost-saving alternatives that won’t compromise their vehicle or safety.

"Regular maintenance of a vehicle is the only way to ensure it remains roadworthy but is also a money-saving exercise in the long run because major breakages on a vehicle are very expensive. Regular servicing can prevent that. It’s also the best way to ensure you keep your vehicle longer. A car in good condition will run longer and possibly be more fuel efficient," he says.

Negotiate a deal

In terms of price savings when it comes to maintenance, Niemand says there are excellent, accredited workshops that realise the expenses customers are dealing with and will offer a top-class service at a reasonable price.

He said: "It’s important to speak to the mechanic and share your concerns about price. There may be a way to do staggered maintenance with staggered payments or another solution. Already by using an independent workshop you are saving as services through dealers are more costly.

"The key is finding a workshop that is accredited and affiliated to an association, such as MIWA. In this way you can be assured that the workmanship has a stamp of approval and should you be dissatisfied with the service, you have a channel to go through to lodge a complaint."

"Independent workshops are small businesses wanting to stay afloat in a highly-competitive market. Keeping customers satisfied is essential to their business so more often than not they will go the extra mile to assist you."

In terms of being more fuel efficient, Niemand says that most modern vehicles are equipped with engine management systems which operate at the most fuel-efficient settings under most conditions.

"But what must be kept in mind is that no computer-based system can control the actions of the driver."

He offers drivers the following tips:

• Accelerate at an even pace in traffic. Short bursts of the accelerator will increase fuel consumption.

• Drive in a lane which has the least traffic ahead to maintain a constant speed. The engine management system will adjust the most economical settings for the best fuel consumption.

• The first startup after a lengthy stand is the one which has the richest fuel mixture, therefore one must prevent harsh acceleration whilst the engine is still cold as this will spike

the consumption figure dramatically. Do not idle a cold engine to warm it up, as this will not improve the fuel consumption nor lengthen the life of the engine.

• If you are in a heavy traffic situation and the waiting times are lengthy, do not be afraid to turn off the engine and restart once the traffic starts moving again.

• Modern engines are now being equipped with this function to aid fuel saving. However prevent continuous switch-offs as this will drain the battery.

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