Most motorists never inspect their cars before driving, let alone take them for check-ups. Most will only drive to the garage for service if their car shows signs of a mechanical breakdown or when it has actually broken down. It takes a lot of care, love and attachment for a motorist to take their car for periodic inspection.
Anthony Katabazi is one of those motorists that inspect their cars regularly. He says that he opens his car bonnet twice a week to check for oil levels and if the car radiator has enough water to avoid engine heating. He also checks if the brake lights are functioning well to ensure visibility on the road in the night, and check tyres to determine if they have enough pressure.
“I inspect my car personally not because I want to save money but because I drive it to where I want and thus it needs to be looked after, just like a human body. I realised that sometimes mechanics cheat motorists who have no knowledge about car service because of many car technicalities. If I check my tyres and they have the right tyre pressure, they last longer and it also prevents damage that would be inflicted on the rim such as bends,” Katabazi explains.
Eric Amadi, a mechanic at Dalas Auto Clinic in Ggaaba, defines preventive car maintenance or service as the kind of service you have to do regularly before your car reaches the extent of taking it to a garage or mechanic for intensified service. Amadi explains that the sole purpose of preventive maintenance is to give your car a much longer period on the road and durability.
“The care you give to your car determines how long it will last. If you deliberately ram into potholes or scratch it against objects, it will obviously wear out quickly,” he advises. This, perhaps explains why one need not determine a car’s looks based on the number plate series. For example, you may find a UAK that looks well-maintained, and neat while a UBA looks worn out.
“The secret in having a car intact and looking great; inside and out is determined by many things such as how you drive it, maintenance as well as prompt and regular servicing,” Amadi adds.
Topping up gearbox oil
Just like engine oil, Amadi advises that gearbox oil is one of those oils that your mechanic needs to top up for you at no cost. Nonetheless, as long as you know where it goes and the type you use, one can top it up themselves.
“If you do not have the right amounts of oil in your gearbox at all times, it causes a lot of friction in the gearbox and leads to wear and tear seeing that it lubricates the rotation process (driving torque) in the gearbox which also determines the speed at which your car moves,” he advises. He adds that topping up this oil is cheaper than buying a new gearbox.
Change car tyres
Unlike hidden car parts such as oil filters, Amadi says tyres are easier to see and make a decision on whether they are old and need to be changed or drive on for some time. The important parts to watch on your tyres are the tyre treads.
“Without tyre treads, your tyres will easily slid. If you ignore them, you end up spoiling the entire alignment arms as they tend to bend. As a result, your car consumes more fuel,” he cautions.
Much as windscreen wipers are not car parts you use daily, you need not ignore inspecting them. With unpredictable rain patterns, wipers ensure visibility of the road when it rains suddenly by clearing the windscreen. So, checking wiper functionality especially the rubber layers that rub against the screen saves you on a rainy day.
Every replaceable car part was manufactured with a life expectancy, and a car battery is one of such parts. “A car battery lasts between three to six years, however durable or strong it may be,” Ssebadduka opines. Some of the things that reduce a battery’s life include driving habits such as turning on headlights or radio when your car is parked. It is also important that a motorist knows that the type of the vehicle in which the battery is used, and weather conditions determine its life expectancy.
“When you visit your mechanic at a recognisable garage, they should be able to carry out battery testing to determine how much longer your battery can be used. If it is left with less than a year, it should be indicator enough that you need to replace it before you get stranded on the road,” Ssebadduka advises, adding that you should also always check the battery terminals to ensure that they are free from dirt and well connected.
Jimmy Ssebadduka, a mechanic at Shell Jinja Road, says without spark plugs, you forget all about starting your car. While they will transmit the required fire power to start the engine instantly when they are new, they need replacement as they get older.
“You do not have to wait for your car to fail to start to remember replacing your spark plugs,” Ssebadduka explains, “It should be something you need to do after covering approximately 20,000 kilometres. Even if your fuel tank is full and every other car part is in proper shape, worn out spark plugs will hamper car use.”
Other things you need to look at include the air filters, tyres, wheel balancing and alignment, suspension system, and timing belts. When all these are in excellent working condition you will not only be at peace as you drive but also spend less for maintenance.
Common car faults
Like human health, the common mechanical problems that vehicles succumb to are irrespective of the car type or time of day. Therefore, you need to be prepared at all times.
Uneven tyre wear and tear
Musa Kimera, a mechanic at Wandegeya says some of the common car faults you should expect are uneven tyre wear and tear. This is due a suspension system has not been aligned in a long while.
Kimera says that these include engine oil leakage, water leakage from the car radiator, brake fluid leakages, and transmission fluid leakages. “If the water coolant in the radiator leaks, your engine is likely to overheat and if there is gearbox oil leakage, your gearbox will be subjected to wear and tear in a short time,” he explains.
Blocked air, oil and fuel filters
When your fuel filters are clogged with dirt, it means your engine will be running on insufficient fuel supply from the fuel tank. And if the air filters are equally blocked with dirt, which is in most cases dust, it also means your engine will be getting little or no air at all, thereby subjecting it to mechanical wear and tear.
Brake pads and brake discs
Kimera says the main purpose of car brakes is to control your car when you step on the brake pedal. They are made up of brake pads and brake discs against which the brake pads rub to stop the car.
“However, if your brake pads dissolve, are old or make noise when you step on the brake pad, it means the component that holds the brake pads would be exerting strain on the brake disc, making it hard to control your car. That will go on until you replace your brake pads,” Kimera says.
According to lifehacker.com, regular preventive maintenance is probably the single thing you can do as a car owner to keep your ride happy and save money on repairs in the future. Basics, like changing your oil, checking your tyre pressure, and getting scheduled inspections and work done are like getting regular checkups at the doctor’s.