Should I drive differently in winter? 6 tips to get ready for winter driving

Winter is here, unfortunately bringing with it darker days, slippery roads and icy windscreens. Kiwi roads are often challenging at the best of times, but these factors just make it even tougher. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving a new Audi or an old Honda, anyone can be caught out. Here are 6 tips to consider when tackling the winter in your car:

1. Check your car’s safe to be on the road

First and foremost, you need to check your equipment. A few basic checks on your car will go along way to keeping you safe:

  • Tyres – If they are looking bald, either all over, or on either edge, it could be time for some new ones.
  • Wiper Blades – Vision is crucial. If they don’t seem to wipe away all the water, grab a pair of new ones. They’re cheap and can be picked up from your local Repco or Super Cheap Auto, then replaced yourself.
  • Fog Lights – If your car has them, learn where to turn them on (I can never seem to find mine when I need them!)
  • Heater – Wouldn’t want anyone to catch a cold!

2. Check the road conditions/open status 

For a longer trip, you can jump onto NZTA’s website to see if there are any issues with the roads you are planning to travel on. This could be landslides, or snow and ice, that result in a closure.

3. Keep your lights on

With over 70% of cars produced being greyscale (white, black, grey, silver) it can be pretty hard to see oncoming or passing traffic against the road and rain. Keeping your lights on, during the day and night, can ensure that you’re seen. Just remember  to turn them off at the end of your trip!

4. Give a longer following distance

It’s not rocket science that it’s harder to stop in the wet. Make sure you allow for that incase you suddenly need to hit the brakes. Common rule of thumb is about 4 seconds between vehicles in the wet. Count it out next time you’re behind the wheel.

5. Be gentle with your movements

Rapid movements can quickly make a car lose traction. When taking off from a stand still, heading round corners and braking, be sure to use smooth pressure on both the pedals and the steering wheel.

6. Look out for snow and ice

If you don’t have a 4wd, it’s probably not worth venturing out in the snow. However, if you do need to, keep your eyes peeled for black ice. It has a shiny reflection that looks like the road is wet. Apply the same smooth movements. 

If you do all this, you should be able to get to the mountain, into the city or wherever else you’re heading safe and sound!

Meet Our Founder: Andy Bowie

Andy is a bundle of energy, often seen bouncing from task to task and struggling to sit still. He is the guy building the business, brand and relationships whilst trying not to get distracted by the surf, snow or wind report!

Tell us a little about yourself.

Hi, I’m Andy. I was raised in Auckland, before heading off to chase winters all over the world, throwing myself off jumps and down half-pipes. Whilst I’m now back in the city (and able to get a tan again), the enthusiasm for trying something new, and a little crazy, hasn’t disappeared. I’m an ‘off the chart’ extrovert who loves meeting and working with new people. Please say hi!

Why did you start My Auto Shop?

After spending close to 5 years building some pretty cool global companies, I felt it was time to try it myself. I was looking at a bunch of different industries and quickly realised that vehicle maintenance was stuck in the past. It felt like the right time to bring it into the future. You can read more about that journey here.

What were you doing before this?

After chasing winters around the world competing and running my own coaching businesses, I moved back to Auckland. There I spent time in couple of sales roles with Frontside Media and Facebook, before becoming one of the team to start Uber in NZ. I held roles in marketing and operations in both NZ and Singapore at Uber, then finally as Country Manager for Uber Eats New Zealand until October 2019.

What does your weekend normally look like?

Other than trying to grow My Auto Shop further, I’ll be found out on my little yacht sailing, under a rally car that I built with my Dad, or trying to hunt some waves or powder, depending on the season.

Tell us something fascinating about yourself?

I once crossed the US/Mexico border 3 times in 1 hour whilst on a surf trip in what turned out to be a stolen car (that we found out after we bought it!)

The scary reason we’re never driving through the Waikato again

Not long ago, I was sitting on a small regional plane beside a person who was scared of flying. I found myself spouting the classic, pretty painful cliche line that any semi-analytical dad might be caught saying before taking off: “What’s there to worry about? Statistically, you’re more likely to be in a car crash than a plane crash, and you never worry about jumping in the car right?” Well, I had a bit of a reality check on that the other week.

Now, I’m certainly not the over-cautious type; frequently found sitting on a small, marginally ocean-worthy vessel in the middle of the Hauraki or in a home-built racecar rocketing past fence posts, however, we need to take a step back and ask if we are truly safe on our roads.

The MTA recently released its annual report on the vehicle servicing industry (something relatively top of mind for me) and the warrant of fitness failure rates stand out like a sore thumb. Across the country, these are now at 41%! That’s getting close to half of our cars (1,886,104 in fact) that when checked whether they should be on the road, shouldn’t be!! Now, while I might understand the condition of my own car and be happy getting into it, I’m certainly not happy knowing that the driver of every second car coming at me at 100kph might not be able to stop, steer or see properly!

So I decided to dig a little deeper and it only gets worse. Our WoF failure rates have been skyrocketing over the last few years, growing 17% since 2013. The most recent step change has come due to 2 main reasons that I can see:

  1. A shift to a longer required cadence of WoFs, meaning vehicles are checked less regularly, and
  2. A crackdown on sketchy WoF providers, meaning that less blind eyes are being turned to ‘mates’ who might drop off a few beers to pass your car.
NZ WoF Failure rates 2013 – 2019

Now whilst the latter is a good thing, the former carries huge repercussions. In a society that is getting less practical and vehicles are becoming more complex, people really have no idea what is going on in their car. But in this age of convenience, people expect their car to work and don’t take any further steps to take care of it. With the WoF cadence pushed out, it means cars are left to wear and tear longer, without any extra care or checks.

If you take a look at why vehicles are failing, it’s the big things, that don’t just affect you but are likely to cause a crash with others involved. In typical 80/20 fashion, the top 4 categories make up 70% of fails:

Causes of WoF failure rates in 2019

These drivers can’t see, stop or turn properly! And it turns out it’s not helping our road fatality rates either. A beautiful trend of reductions in road-related fatalities seemed to stop in 2013 and started to head in the other direction.

And there is a couple of scary pieces to this as you go even deeper:

  1. It’s not because our population is growing or we have more cars on our roads. Our fatality rate per vehicle and per person in NZ is in fact now increasing faster than our population growth.

2. Is it pure coincidence, or is it very nerve-racking that the region with the consistently highest WoF failure rates is also the one with the highest road toll?

Now I love my friends down in the Waikato, but this isn’t one to be proud of. 47% of vehicles fail their WoF in the Waikato each year, AND they also have had the highest road toll for 6 of the last 7 years.

And whilst currently minor, one of the fastest-growing causes of road fatalities is, yip, you guessed it, ‘Fatality due to vehicle factors’ which has almost doubled from 5.5% of all fatalities in 2015 to closer to 9% in 2019.

Now I can understand why people are turning a blind eye to this stuff. It’s a pain to navigate the logistics of not having your car for a day, and it’s expensive. If we take a look at the AA’s latest report on running costs of a standard petrol engined medium-sized car, you’re looking down the barrel of $1300+ per year in servicing, tyres and repairs. Bet you didn’t account for that when your freshly imported second hand Mazda Alexa (the highest imported second-hand model to NZ) rolled off the boat.

AA Running Cost Report for petrol-driven cars.

The fact is, people are irrational and buy cars at their upfront value without factoring in the ongoing running costs, then skimp on looking after them because it’s easy to ignore and hope for the best. They wait till they fail a warrant, then do the minimum to keep it on the road.

Now it might sound like a shameless business plug, but we need to take a hard look at how we are looking after our cars. NZ has one of the most diverse vehicle fleets in the world, with a crazy amount of imports coming in, often with minimal history attached. They are then let loose on our roads, only to be checked in once a year for a quick WoF, which may inspect vehicle safety, but doesn’t go on to check vehicle health (maybe another rant to come on the vehicle graveyard that may soon become NZ).

Come on NZ. Let’s take better care of our cars, so we don’t need to have the same anxiety my friend on the plane had each time we jump in the driver’s seat of our cars.


References:

  • MTA Vehicle Inspection Report 2019
  • AA Running Cost Report 2019
  • Ministry of Transport Road Death Report Jan 2020

Meet one of our awesome drivers: Cameron

We love the team that work alongside us to move your car from home, work or wherever you choose, to our garages to get some love. Our driver-partners come from all walks of life and have their own stories, so we thought you might like to get to know a few of them:

What’s your name:
Cameron Brown

Whereabouts do you live?
Glendowie, Auckland.

Why do you drive with My Auto Shop?
My Auto Shop allows me to make quick and easy cash at times that suit me.
The app has been well thought out and the drivers are also well looked after.

What were you doing before this?
During the university holidays, I have been managing a Christmas tree business. Aside from managing the business, my job doubled as a driver delivering and removing trees all around Auckland.

What does your weekend normally look like?
When I’m not working, you will find me at the golf course, watching the NBA and/or enjoying a cold beverage.

Tell us something fascinating about yourself?
I am a student at the University of Otago where I study majors in Economics and Finance. While based in Otago, I enjoy exploring all the South Island has to offer from picturesque walks to skiing.

We will keep introducing more drivers, so when they arrive to pick up your car, it will be a familiar face.