Regular car maintenance should be your priority

Thursday May 14 2020

Check your engine oil level to ensure your oil

Check your engine oil level to ensure your oil level does not drop without your knowledge. PHOTO BY MARK KAWALYA 

By Mark Kawalya

Morris once narrated a car experience to a group of friends. As a new owner of an old Toyota Corona he had bought cheaply, he was fast learning what a mistake he had made. Whilst driving up a high ascent on one of the access roads in Buziga, a Kampala suburb, he struggled to engage the first gear as beads of sweat formed along his brow. Dark smoke started billowing from the exhaust tips that had been partially eaten away by rust. He prayed the car would surmount the hill because he had to pick his children from school.
With a round of sputtering, the engine shut off as Morris hit the steering wheel with the palm of his hand in frustration. This was the third breakdown he was experiencing that week and it showed him just how the car’s maintenance had been ignored.
A number of cars on Ugandan roads are not given the necessary care they need. Others are neglected. There are benefits to maintaining your car. A well-maintained car is not hard to identify. It brings esteem to the owner but also, it is dependable and a joy to drive.

Driving should not be taken lightly. A mistake can lead to your death, that of other road users, or lead to severe injuries. Your car must be able to optimally function while you are on the road. As a car gets older, parts start to fail and replacement is required to ensure continued use.
Some parts are crucial for driving such as the brakes, lights, tyres and not regularly maintaining them can lead to disastrous consequences. Also, a car has many moving parts, which are subjected to wear by acting forces of friction. Keeping an eye on these parts and servicing them regularly ensures that your car is safe to drive.
Saves you money
Taking good care of your car means that parts and maintenance schedules are kept enabling the car to be in overall good health. According to Robert Kawooya, a mechanic in Ntinda, a car is made of a series of interconnected systems. A breakdown in one system eventually leads to breakdown in another connected system that was previously working.
For example, he says, not replacing a dead water pump, could lead to the car overheating which can damage more parts such as burning the gasket and possibly cracking the cylinder head. A water pump may cost about Shs100,000 but by not replacing it, you can incur costs that could be seven times that cost or more.

Maintains resale value
I know a gentleman who recently purchased a used car that was registered under the UAH series. Many could not understand his reasoning since the car had been on the road for more than 10 years. When I had a chat with him, he told me the car was in pristine condition and has spent most of its time in a garage since the owner frequently travelled.
Provided a car has been perfectly maintained and looks impeccable, a number of buyers are more interested in cars that will not give them headache as opposed to simply following the low and high resale value mantra.

Low running costs
Poor maintenance is the leading cause of increased vehicle running costs. This is because when a car is not maintained, its efficiency greatly reduces. For example, Kawooya says, one of the reasons a car’s fuel consumption will spike is due to not changing its oil on schedule. The engine struggles because of reduced lubrication, which translates into increased fuel intake.
Ignoring to replace parts such as spark plugs too can lead to increased fuel costs since the fuel combustion is hampered. Kawooya says anytime the running costs of your car increase, investigate whether delayed or poor maintenance is an issue at play.

Peace of mind
A badly maintained car can be a source of stress for daily living. Imagine spending a week preparing for a job interview and on the day of the interview, you jump into the car only for it to fail to start. Or imagine the car breaking down while you are on a trip upcountry. All these things can be a source of great frustration.
The price to pay for this is to regularly service your car and replace whatever needs replacing.

Important maintenance tips
Fluid changes
According to Kawoya a car has several fluids that need to be given attention. He says that changing the engine oil is the starting point of all vehicle maintenance. Well-maintained cars often have strict oil change schedules. This should be done every 5000km and along with replacing the oil filter. Use the recommended oil and a filter. Choosing a cheap oil to save a bit of money is one sure way of running into engine problems in the future. Good oil ensures your engine is well lubricated and runs efficiently curbing excessive fuel consumption and engine wear. The gearbox too needs to be serviced every once in a while. The transmission fluid along with the filter and gasket needs to be replaced every 40,000km. Other fluids that need to be given attention include coolant, brake fluid, windscreen washer fluid, and power steering fluid.
Filters are used to clean fluids and air that run through the car. Some of the filters to replace routinely include the air filter, fuel filter, oil filter and the cabin filter. Although filters normally don’t cost a lot and are sometimes neglected, they play a crucial role in remove debris from your car’s internal components. The air filter for example, cleans the air that enters into your engine and is instrumental in maintaining engine health.
Replace worn out parts
These include parts like brake pads, tyres, serpentine belts, hoses, spark plugs etcetera. A rule of thumb is to replace parts as soon as they give way. If you don’t do this then you could have many worn out parts accumulate which need a large sum of money to settle. Driving a car with worn-out parts also puts you at risk of accidents as the car’s functionality will be hampered.