6 ways to maintain your car — and save big on insurance

3 min read 31 August 2021

With ever-changing lockdown restrictions and many people still working from home, your trusty vehicle may not be in use all that much. While staying home and staying safe is still advised, grocery runs, family days out and eventually travel are all starting to become options once more.

During the different levels of lockdown, you still need to take care of your car and ensure your insurance is working for your needs, says Marius Steyn, Personal Lines Underwriting Manager at Santam. “With cars being parked for long periods of time and exposed to less risks, vehicle owners can save on their premiums in a time when it’s needed most.

“Additionally, to avoid hefty excess fees or loss or damage not covered by decreased premiums, it’s important that your car is still roadworthy, which includes general maintenance.”

Here, Steyn provides advice to keep your trusty steed in tip-top shape — as well as how to reduce your car insurance premiums for the foreseeable future.

1. Regular services should still take place

If a car is parked for long periods of time, it can impact its reliability and safety. You never know when you may need to drive out for an emergency and the warranty on your car may lapse if it is not serviced at regular intervals. Ensure you know both the number of kilometres driven and the time intervals (as whichever comes first is the one that applies) for when services must be done. Exclusions or conditions that relate to loss or damage due to a car’s roadworthiness can have an impact when making a claim.

2. Use the gear, not the handbrake

Parking 101 dictates that we should use the handbrake while parking. However, leaving your car parked with the handbrake up for extended periods can lead to mechanical damage. When left unused, the brake rotors can develop rust or cause the brake pads to bind to the rotors. Especially in instances where your car will be parked for longer than two weeks at a time, use the gear-lock instead of the handbrake. As a precautionary measure, make sure you are parked on a flat surface and not on an incline.

3. Avoid a flat battery – and flat tyres

It’s common knowledge that a connected battery on a stationary vehicle will drain over time. You can avoid this in two ways: Start your car twice a week, place it in neutral and accelerate gently, or disconnect the battery from its terminal to extend its life expectancy. Your tyres can also develop flat spots, in this case due to the weight of the vehicle parked on one spot flattens out a section of the tyre.  Low tyre pressure and very cold weather, such as that experienced during South Africa’s winters, can contribute to these flat spots. To avoid this, check the tyre pressure regularly and inflate them to the suggested factory specifications.

4. Protect the paint

Whether your car is parked in a garage, under a carport or in the street or a driveway, investing in a car cover is a good idea. Not only will it protect the vehicle from the harsh heat and keep it clean of dust, sand and bird poop, but it will also protect the paint from minor scratches.

5. Go for a drive

Cars are meant to be driven and, while lockdowns will still be around until the covid-19 pandemic is brought under control, you may need to venture out from time to time. It’s recommended that you drive your car for at least 20 minutes once every two weeks. This will charge the battery, get rid of surface rust on the brake discs and lubricate all the moving parts.

6. Switch to SmartPark

Driving less can be good for your pocket — and not just in terms of less fuel used. Santam’s SmartPark is a distance-based insurance benefit that recalculates the number of kilometres someone is likely to drive and applies a discounted percentage rate to their car insurance premium based on three-kilometre bands (0–5,000, 5,001–10,000 and 10,001-15,000 kilometres). This means that if you’re driving less than 15,000 kilometres a year, you could save up to 20% on your insurance premium with SmartPark.

For more information on Santam SmartPark, visit santam.co.za.