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In this age of empowerment and enlightenment many women still battle to understand the basic principles of car maintenance. Yes, most of us have roadside assistance, AA, and many other assistance plans, but what happens when your car breaks down, or you get a flat tyre...

 

1) When you have no cellphone reception or your battery has gone flat; 2) When you're out in the bundu miles from nowhere; 3) Have broken down on one of the most dangerous highways or byways. Are you seriously going to stand there and wait for something to happen?

 

Although we receive preferential insurance rates because we are more careful when it comes to driving our cars, research shows that one in five drivers don't bother with basic checks such as oil and anti-freeze levels (and women are worse than men).

There are some basic checks that need to be performed on a regular basis, and you can't always count on the garage attendant to do it for you - or even do it!

Step 1

Dare to go where no woman has gone before - under the bonnet! If you don't know where the oil, anti-freeze and screenwash go, find out. The car instruction manual will provide all the information you need. Get acquainted with what's under the bonnet. Keep a bottle of tap water and anti-freeze in the boot so you don't run out. And locate the dipstick.... It will tell you how much oil you have in your car and how much it should have. If you run low on oil, it could damage your engine.

Step 2

Do you know your tyre pressure - have you ever checked your tyre pressure. Even if your tyres are in good condition, they will lose pressure over time and that means you will use more petrol and there is a greater chance of getting a flat tyre or blow out whilst travelling on the road. Most cars have a tyre pressure guide inside the petrol cap, or in the instruction manual, but if you ever have new tyres fitted ask they guys what the correct tyre pressure should be.

Make sure your tyres have enough tread. The legal minimum is 1.6 mm, but many experts say you shouldn't drive on tyres with less than 3 mm of tread. If you start to see that the ridges on the tyre are worn away then it's definitely time to change the types, and if the tyres are wearing away unevenly (say on one side more than the other) make sure they do a full balancing and alignment at the same time.

And whilst on the subject of tyres, it may not be a glamorous task but acquaint yourself with the knowledge to at least change a tyre. With the right equipment changing a tyre is not that difficult, but it can be a dirty task so always have a bottle of water some clean cloths and an overall jacket in your boot just in case.

And don't forget about the spare tyre - this also needs to be checked just as regularly as the other tyres. Along with the spare tyre you should also have a good lug wrench, a jack (invest in a good one) and a can of Q20 to loosen tight or rusted bolts. And you'll need a wedge of wood to keep your car from rolling if you're forced to change a tyre on an incline.

Step 3

There are certain things that you should keep in your car at all times. You won't use these items every time you drive, but you'll be glad that they're on hand when you have a problem. These are MUST HAVE items that should be in your boot:

Spare tyre - maintained in good condition

Tools

Lug wrench or tyre iron
Can of Q20
Overall jacket and pair of gloves
Clean cloths
Flashlight
Jumper cables
Gas can (empty)

First Aid Kit

A good first aid kit should include, at the very least, bandages, gauze, antiseptic, scissors, tweezers, pain medication, compress, burn relief pads or ointments, eye pads and eye wash and latex gloves. If you have an allergy or other medical problem, it would be wise to include extra medication, antihistamine or other essential items.

Food and Water

Have a litre or two of bottled, clean water in your boot in case you're stuck and have to wait a while. This is great for drinking or if your car should overheat. Some food is also a smart thing to have. Pack some energy bars in an airtight container.

Blanket

A blanket is a handy thing to have for an accident victim to lay on and be more comfortable or if you get stuck in cold weather.

And last but not least, get your car serviced regularly. When money is tight it's an obvious expense to cut back on, but not always the safest.