Dear Start My Car,

Spring is in the air. The COVID 19 daily infection rate is stabilising and there is a sense that better times are ahead. It does not mean that we can afford to throw caution to the wind, but it is great that there is a sense that we might be past the peak of the pandemic.

I want to thank you for all your fantastic motoring questions. Our expert had a tough time choosing which question to answer and I am confident that everyone will gain from this new addition to our newsletter. Please keep the questions coming and don’t forget that you can win great prizes if yours is chosen.

The article below, from ITWeb, might also be interesting to you. As a player in the ecommerce space, we are deeply aware that no matter how slick and sophisticated a site might be, it is the delivery and execution of orders that count. Have a look and let me know what you think.

Please also have a look at the new additions to the site and take advantage of our specials.

In our quest to do better each week, I would love to hear from you. Your thoughts and suggestions are always valued.

Be safe and regards,


E-commerce boom leads to delivery services headache

As e-commerce continues to boom in SA, spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, many online retailers are struggling to cope with the demand and disruptions to their supply chains.

The COVID-19-induced lockdown has led to reduced footfall in retail stores, with the shift in consumer shopping behaviour expected to lead to a permanent uptick in online shopping.

SA’s e-commerce sites have been reporting a dramatic uptick in sales since government lifted the lockdown restrictions on online shopping in May.
However, industry insiders believe the surge in online shopping has resulted in challenges for online merchants, with some of the biggest e-tailers admitting their supply chains are suffering under the onslaught.

While some e-commerce sites use third-party delivery services, the majority utilise existing in-house delivery services, which they have been forced to scale up amid the increase in online orders.

Arthur Goldstuck, head of World Wide Worx and chairman of the Sasfin Bank digital advisory council, says with online-only operations seeing between 20% and 50% growth, and physical stores with a strong online presence seeing up to 100% growth of online sales, the sectors that have benefited the most from this massive increase are the payments and logistics industries.

“For delivery fulfilment, some entities have their own fleets, such as Takealot, which owns Mr D Delivery and therefore has the fleet of delivery bikes and cars at its disposal. Others have had to invest very quickly in this environment, such as Checkers, which initially relied on Zulzi, and now has its own Sixty60 operation with fulfilment teams in major stores.

“Nevertheless, courier services are probably seeing the strongest growth they've ever experienced in SA, where they are aligned to the needs of the online retail and fast food delivery industry. In any middle class or affluent suburb nowadays, you don't have to walk down the street for long before a delivery van passes you. On weekends, there is a constant movement of courier vehicles and bikes in and out of suburbs. This is clear physical evidence of just how busy the courier industry is being kept during this period,” notes Goldstuck.

Checkers, which was originally a laggard in the digital space, has very quickly moved from relying on third-parties, with potentially inconsistent services, to having probably the most efficient grocery delivery service in the country, he adds.

“This is unprecedented in SA, and brings courier services almost in line with the expectations of customers in highly developed markets such as major urban centres in SA. Pick n Pay and Woolworths, by contrast, still operate on a largely centralised basis, which means they still require one to book a delivery slot. This was the experience with most delivery orders from the major chains at the beginning of lockdown, and big chains still seem to be operating in that mode.”

Goldstuck believes that while this represents a massive opportunity for Checkers to take a leadership position in online grocery deliveries in SA, it also exposes the flaw in the fulfilment strategy of two of the largest grocery retailers in the country.

Similar challenges have been faced globally, with grocery delivery platforms such as Shipt, Walmart Grocery, Instacart and Amazon initially scrambling to scale up their supply and delivery logistics during the first phases of the lockdown period.

Matthew Leighton, spokesperson for e-tailer OneDayOnly, says the e-commerce boom happened at a time when it was very hard for e-commerce businesses and the logistics companies to scale up quickly and seamlessly – during lockdown.
OneDayOnly, which reported 40% growth in sales during lockdown, utilises both in-house and outsourced delivery services.

“Because the increase in e-commerce happened very quickly and without much prep time, courier companies as a whole were understandably hard-pressed to cope with the demand. Trying to accommodate a vast increase in deliveries takes time, which unfortunately, the logistics sector did not have.

“The courier business is extremely admin-intensive and as a sector, they face an enormous challenge trying to incorporate work from home in an industry where it's not really possible to do that.

“However, there are things that go a long way in a time like this, such as clear and direct communication to the end-user to keep expectations managed; live tracking is also helpful. Most logistics companies make use of their own track and trace URLs and provided that information is current, we've noticed it works well with our customers,” Leighton points out.

Meeting delivery timelines
Warrick Kernes, founder of Insaka eCommerce Academy and director of the e-commerce Forum Africa, says some courier companies have been delivering more parcels per day then they did during Black Friday last year.

“It's no secret that the step-growth in online retail has put significant strain on the courier companies that were not prepared to deliver so many parcels.

“We've seen some proactively sending out communications and letting their clients know exactly what's going on and I applaud them for that, and we've seen others making the mistake of hiding behind silence and this has led to many online sellers becoming frustrated and looking for alternative partners to move to. Open and honest communication is what we need from the service providers right now so that we can work with them to ensure our customers are updated and looked after,” advises Kernes.

Jonathan Smit, MD and founder of PayFast, believes that as Internet and mobile penetration increases, businesses will need to embrace new tools and enhance existing processes to keep pace.

“Despite e-commerce making up a small sector of the economy, the pandemic has doubled adoption across the board. This is on trend with established e-commerce markets in the US and other countries.

“The boom has resulted in some challenges for merchants relating to delivery timelines, product availability, increasing online shopper traffic, and the ability to fulfil customer demand. No one could prepare for the impact that the pandemic would have on supply chains both locally and abroad.”

PayFast provides payment processing services to hundreds of online merchants in SA, including Shopify, Superbalist and Takealot.

Smit believes leveraging technology for logistics and warehouse distribution can play an important role in helping to streamline supply chains.

“Invest in the right digital tools to help your business in peak periods and improve internal processes to make scaling easier. Initially, setting up automated processes will take time and may require additional resources, but the long-term value that automation adds to growing your business sustainably, outweighs this short-term investment.”

Takealot declined to comment on this issue.

-Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb (


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This week in ecomm

In this ever changing, fast-paced world of new and exciting technology, we have seen some amazing innovations in the automotive industry, to the point where vehicles are driving themselves and even communicating with smart AI, such as Alexa and Siri. And, as we have seen in this week’s news, some drivers may need a bit more assistance than others….

According to research conducted by “The auto sector is taking the move to smart technologies seriously, even if it’s lagging behind on execution. In the last 18 to 24 months, 30 percent of factories have been converted to “smart” operations, an improvement over the 24 percent that automotive executives committed to in 2017-18.”

So how has ecommerce aided in this movement?

The ‘smart’ shopper has got even smarter. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to invest in a new Tesla or a state-of-the-art vehicle, but ecommerce has carved a clear path for all segments of the diverse earning population to comfortably shop for many affordable gadgets, gizmos, accessories and automotive diagnostic tools - with a huge amount of data at their fingertips - to aid the ‘upgrading’ of their vehicles and workshops.

So why not start small and add this week’s awesome products to your car or garage:

Stay safe, Stay Connected

This week's top pics

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Liquid error: product form must be given a product

Guess The Part

Workshop Wisdom

Why does my car squeak when I turn it on?

Corne Van Den Heever lives the good life on a 21-hectare small holding in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. Just beyond his house is large lake which attracts several species of water birds, followed by wide open spaces, a paddock with horses, and distant rolling hills.

His only worry in life is a squeaking noise every time he starts his Toyota Hilux. He emailed us to ask what it could be, and if it is dangerous to drive.

Possible Causes:
My first thought reading the email is that the squeaking sound is belt related. This could be any number of reasons which include weather conditions, leaking fluids, wear and tear or maintenance issues. In such cases, the magnitude of sound can range from a soft squeak to a loud and noisy squeal and typically occurs when starting a cold engine.

Step 1: Listen to your engine.
Cars have several devices that require mechanical energy and are driven by rubber belts. Most common among those are the alternator, which maintains a charge on your battery and electrical system, the air conditioning (AC) compressor, which circulates the refrigerant for the AC system, and the power steering pump, which provides hydraulic pressure for the power steering and sometimes the brakes. Some cars drive all these components with a single, serpentine belt. Others have multiple belts for the different devices. When these belts start to slip, they will make a sharp screeching noise. 

In the picture above, the engine on the left uses a single serpentine belt while the engine on the right uses several shorter belts.

Step 2: Consult the workshop manual.

Opening the bonnet and taking a hard look at your engine won’t necessarily help you determine the number of belts used in the engine. Rather consult your workshop manual or find a diagram online for the drive belt layout. Take note of whether you have multiple drive belts or individual belts for the different accessories.  

Step 3: Try Isolate the noise to a component

In most cases, the belt screeching occurs at cold start; when the car is started after being parked for at least four to five hours. Start the car while it is cold and turn the AC off and on.  

If the sound of the screech changes, then the fault is likely in the belt that drives the air conditioner.

Operate the headlight switch. If that causes a change in the squealing sound, then the culprit is the belt that drives the alternator.

Turn the steering wheel to full lock position either right or left. If that changes the sound, then the belt that drives the power steering is at fault.

Most modern cars have a single serpentine belt that drives all the devices. If that is the case, any one of the accessories may be contributing to the sound of the belt.

Step 4: Lubricate the belts.

With the engine running, and your safety glasses in place, spray some belt lubricant on the belts. If there is a problem in the belts the sound may stop instantly. 

This is by no means a permanent fix. In fact, the belt might start squealing again in just a few minutes. But if the squeal stops, even temporarily, it’s a good indication that the noise is simply a belt and not a tensioner.

Step 5: Examine the belts

To determine which belt is making the noise, the best practice is to ask someone else to start the engine while looking under the hood. This may help you locate the squeaking the sound. If you cannot locate the noise, switch the engine off and allow time for the belts to cool.  

The Visual Check for Wear and Tear

Mileage is a big factor in belt wear, but so is general age, regardless of use. Modern belts, made of the durable synthetic rubber known as ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM), last much longer than older neoprene belts, but they do still get old, wear down and lose performance. It’s been shown that just 10% belt slippage can affect the overall driveability of your vehicle

• Look for a glazed or slick appearance — this is a sign that the belt has aged, is slipping or chirping, or will start to slip or chirp. A slick belt is the first step to cracking and overheating.

• Going beyond a visual inspection, try pinching, squeezing, and twisting the belts, and then look for any cracks, fraying, splits or brittle areas.

• On a serpentine belt, look for missing grooves or places where the belt’s layers have separated.

• Look for a build-up of rubber deposits, as well as worn spots that could catch the belt and cause it to break.

Also check the belt’s alignment on the pulleys. They should line up straight on the pulleys.

The Tension Check

After turning off the engine, and giving the engine time to cool down, you can check the tension of the serpentine or individual belts by pushing down on them. The workshop manual will tell you how much you should be able to move it. Old style V belts allow the belt to be pushed down a maximum 2cm. Modern serpentine belts should not have more than 1cm flex.

The belt tension may be adjustable, or it may be managed by an automatic tensioner. Either way, many modern cars have very little working space at the front of the engine so replacing or adjusting the belts is often more challenging than it seems.

If your belts look good, and the tension is correct, or if lubricating the belts didn’t produce any results, you could be looking at belt tensioner issues or you may have one of the accessories failing and trying to lock up. Diagnosing any of these problems will involve a lot more work. In this case, you should take your car to your competent mechanic to diagnose.

Step 6: Corroborating Symptoms

If you believe your serpentine belt, or individual belts, have become worn and are beginning to slip, pay attention to any of the symptoms below, which are good indicators of a failing belt. Unfortunately, a failing belt usually does not always turn the check engine light on, and therefore, you’ll want to watch out for the signs and symptoms.

In terms of vehicle performance, a persistent check engine light, reduced engine cooling, inconsistent power steering performance or poor A/C system performance are all signs of belt slip caused by wear.

• Difficult Steering – In many of today’s cars, the serpentine belt drives the power steering pump. If the squealing is more pronounced when turning – for example, when making a U-turn – this may be due to a bad belt. If the belt fails, you will lose power steering, which makes it very difficult to turn the wheel and can be a safety hazard if you are driving at higher speeds.

• Battery Light – The serpentine belt is also used to drive the alternator, which uses the power generated to charge your battery. Therefore, a failing belt may trigger the low battery light in your car, and when the belt fails, your battery will die more quickly.

• Overheating – In some cases, the serpentine belt powers the water pump, which plays an essential role in engine cooling. A car that is running hot may be a sign of a failing belt, and if the belt fails, your vehicle will likely overheat.

• AC Problems – Your car’s AC system uses the serpentine belt to run smoothly. Therefore, you might notice the chirping starts when you turn the AC on. The squeal will be especially pronounced if you are accelerating with the AC on.

Is it safe to drive with a squealing belt?

When the serpentine belt breaks, the vehicle may become inoperable, which would require an expensive tow and add to the overall repair costs. Plus, since the belt powers the power steering pump, a loss of pressure could result in heavy steering, which presents a safety risk when driving.

That is why it is recommended that the serpentine belt is replaced early when the squealing symptoms are first noticed.

Although it may be safe to drive with the squealing for a few days or weeks, the belt will eventually need to be replaced, and for safety, the earlier it is repaired, the better.

Visit Start My Car for all your replacement belts, tensioners, and pulleys. Individual belts start from as little as R45.