AA Car Care: Is your vehicle ready for autumn?

AA Motoring
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Photos / Supplied

Photos / Supplied

Winter isn’t too far away now – the weather has cooled down, the clocks have gone back an hour and the leaves have started to change colour.

The change in weather can produce many issues, but one of the most noticeable and experienced NZ wide is leaves playing havoc with vehicles. Each year the AA reminds motorists that this early change in seasons can cause unwanted damage to vehicles - and what to do to avoid it.

Paintwork damage

A wet leaf left to rot on vehicle bodywork can cause an unsightly stain or paint blemish due to sap, pollen and acids. This also goes with mould or lichen that can taint the bodywork over the winter months.

This will likely stay for life on the paint, unless caught early and treated - much like the stains left from bird droppings and sunblock.

Leaves get everywhere

Leaves get into hard-to-reach places (down the sides of the bonnet and boot seams, for example) and can be a common cause of rust. Once the paint is damaged, it’s no longer protected from moisture and rust can set in.

Leaves can also block up a vehicle’s drains and channels, which causes water to back up and leak into places it shouldn’t. If you’ve had a vehicle with a sunroof, you may even have experienced an impromptu shower.

A concern for some vehicles is where the drains have blocked and caused water to leak inside the cabin, damaging electrical components. This can often go unnoticed until a problem occurs, which can be very expensive to fix.

Check/replace those filters

In autumn, it’s very important to check, clean or replace your vehicle pollen and air filters. These filter the outside air and are prone to filling with leaves and sticks. This will ensure the engine will breathe and your heater fan and vent system will actually work when you need it to over winter. You can ask for this to be done at service time, or simply book it in as a separate job.

No one likes to hear the chewing of leaves when you turn the fan on, even less when mashed leaves are propelled out the heater vents.

An unwanted hazard

Leaves on the ground can also present headaches. They can mask things in the road like potholes and curbs, and can also make soft ground seem hard.

Make sure you take extra care when driving around roads that are littered with wet leaves. In some extreme cases, a pile of dry leaves could even be a fire hazard if a car with a hot exhaust system parks over it.

So what can you do?

Don’t park under trees - or if you must, park under trees that have already lost the majority of their leaves.

Remove leaves often – if you are concerned that significant leaves have fallen on your car, try removing them every day. Use your hands or a soft brush to prevent scratches. Leaves and sticks can get stuck under wiper blades making them ineffective, so just give them a lift and wipe before you drive. 

Consider a car cover/shelter – this is especially helpful if you leave your car in the same place for long periods of time. A cover not only protects your car against leaf damage, but the effects of droppings, UV and rain too. If you have a garage, try and make use of it rather than parking on your driveway.

One last wash – once most of the leaves have fallen and winter is on its way, give your car one last deep clean. Make sure you wax it and remove all the leaves that may be hiding in small spots, such under the windscreen wipers.

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