If one of your life quests is “pleasant” motoring, I can recommend three options: Drive in the country, or out of the country, and when either of those is not possible, take a taxi.
When out of the country, by all means indulge in the latest vehicular high-tech; wallow in the luxury of computerisation and electronics.
It’s mostly frivolous, but usually fun and always fascinating. And harmless. And hand any problems back with the keys at the rental desk.
Picking the right car
When motoring in the country (ie not in town or on any inter-town tentacle where motoring and pleasure are now inimical concepts) pick a vehicle that is robustly mechanical and frills-free, with a strength specification that the world calls “heavy duty”.
Any mods should focus first and only on sturdy legs, a rock-proof underbelly, and dust-proof innards.
Any other extras (according to taste) should have nothing to do with whether or how the car gets you to where you are going and back again. Leave the basics alone, especially if you do not know why.
Diagnostic plug-ins can be helpful, but they are not a catch-all substitute for eyes, ears, nose and fingertips... and common sense.
Routine checks and servicing
Be uncompromisingly rigorous on routine services and checks (never scrimp on the quality of oil, grease and filters) preferably using a workshop where the proprietor looks a bit grimy and invites you to shake his forearm, not his hand.
That usually means he does the work himself. Tell him what your budget is but more importantly that you are looking for reliability above economy.
Respect his skills and pay him properly (even generously). Be forgiving about mistakes, as long as they are accompanied by the truth.
But let him know that if there is any wilful negligence or attempt to cheat or lie, your final payment to him will be for a one-way ticket to a place called Splat.
Of course you don’t mean that, and you know forgiveness (though not 70 times seven times; that’s a metaphor, not a mantra) can be a good warranty of future diligence. Once.
If any part crucial to the safety of the vehicle (essentially steering and brakes, but not entirely forgetting suspension and tyres) is faulty, replace it, using only new and genuine and original components.
No ifs, no buts. And not necessarily any official agents either, if the genuinely genuine part can be obtained from a freelancer who does not also own a printing and packaging operation.
Faulty car parts
If any part crucial to the vehicle’s reliability is faulty, don’t try to repair it; replace, again with new and preferably original equipment (or something even better). If anything else is faulty, fix it if you can and, if replacement is necessary, ask your wallet which spares to buy.
Whether a repair/replacement is for safety, or for reliability, or just optional/cosmetic, always find out why the part failed, and don’t accept an explanation of “it happens”. Indeed it does, but it always has at least one accomplice.
So find him, confront him and reform him. In those respects do not forget to look in the mirror; that is, when punishing the culprit, be ready for some self-harm.
Any refutation of all this will be a vested interest trying to sell you something: “their marketing” not “your motoring”. It’s your money, your car, your life. Boss it.
This article was first published
in Daily Nation