Is your car ready for festive season travels?

Your trusted mechanic should inspect the car and tell you what needs to be changed, fixed. PHOTO/Roland D. Nasasira

What you need to know:

The festive season is around the corner, which means a number of motorists will take to the highways to get to their favourite holiday destinations. Whether your car is old or new, it is important to make sure all critical components have been inspected and fixed before setting out on your journey.

The festive season is upon us and with so many people on the roads, it is important to stay safe when driving: obey the rules, get enough rest before you set off, stretch your legs every 200km, avoid distractions, and do not rush. However, before you set off anywhere, you need to prepare your vehicle.

Peter Amadi, a mechanic, says servicing your car goes beyond just needing engine oil and stretches to things such as the suspension, steering wheel and brake systems as well as the entire car. 

“Driving upcountry means you must have good tyres with treads. Carry out wheel alignment and wheel balancing since chances are, you will at some point carry heavy luggage. This means the suspension system has to be in the best mechanical condition to carry the load,” Amadi advises.

He adds that wheel alignment and balancing costs between Shs50,000 to Shs100,000, depending on where you do it . 

Early service

Avoid going to the garage a day or two before you travel. Amadi recommends a week prior to your travel date to allow your mechanic enough time to inspect the car.

The downside of last minute service is that everyone, including the mechanic, is in a rush. Since the mechanic will in most cases look at making more money, they will not concentrate much on your car since there are many others in the queue. Therefore, in a bid to get to the next job, they may leave some parts loose, which exposes you and your family to accidents.

Suspension system

Village roads are rough and this means you need to have good shock absorbers and suspension bushes.

According to Alex Kadoli, a mechanic, the most important aspect of any car is stability and this involves having uniform tyres. He cautions against mixing tyres of different types and sizes saying this could pose a danger, especially on the highway.

“Vehicles are prescribed different tyre sizes and types to use depending on how fast they can go. For example, if you drive a fast car, you need tyres that can withstand high temperatures. When you drive 120km/hr on a tyre that was made to drive at 80km/hour, it will just peel off because of unbearable temperatures,” Kadoli explains.

The good news here is that there are tyres that can accommodate all speeds even if you might have to pay more for them. Kadoli says a good size 16 high performance tyre costs Shs800,000 for SUVs or pick-ups while those for saloon cars cost approximately Shs550,000.

Engine components 

Amadi cautions against ignoring engine components such as air cleaners and oil filters.

“An oil filter works best with new oil. So, you should not replace one and ignore the other. When a dirty or old oil filter is used, new oil cannot go through it to the engine. When you use a new filter and you do not replace engine oil, there will be insufficient oil going to the engine. The outcome will be an engine knock, which will delay your journey,” Amadi adds.

The lighting system and wiper blades

Edwin Jjuuko, a car light technician, says it is important to step on your brake pedals and have someone confirm whether your brake lights and indicators are all functioning. One or two could be faulty without you knowing yet they ensure you are visible on the road when driving at night and in the rain.

Since the weather is in most times unpredictable, it is important to ensure that your wipers are working properly. Those with good blades come in handy to clear the windscreen in order for you to have proper sight of the road. 

Car lubes and fuel

Car lubes and lubricants such as automatic transmission fluid, gearbox oil, engine oil and coolant, among others should also be checked before starting your journey. If you have been using fuel from a particular station or dealer, stick to it instead of changing to another dealer because they are cheap.

Tyre pressure and tread

According to news24.com, making sure your tyre pressure is correct is critical for safety as well as avoiding a dreaded blowout. The site states that it is important to always use a tyre gauge to check your tyres rather than relying on having a “look-see”. Pay special heed to the dashboard tyre-pressure warning light if present. It is also important to note that low tyre pressures waste fuel.

“Your rubber is likely to have some km’s on it, so, do not ignore the tread. Take your car to the garage to have the tyre tread checked on all four tyres to make sure they are not too worn or unevenly worn. If your tyres are “worn” or have damages to the sidewall from a recent bounce against a curb or pothole, it is better to replace them now rather than take a chance on them blowing out while you are on the road,” the site warns.

Battery

A dead battery means your car will not start, possibly leaving you stranded in an unsafe place or situation, even worse late at night.  Car batteries usually need replacing every few years, sometimes sooner. If your starter sounds sluggish, it is either corrosion or a dying battery. Either way, get it checked.

Spare wheel

A simple yet critical check is making sure you have a spare tyre, jack, and wheel spanner, and that they are all working properly. You probably have not used your spare for a while, so check the tyre pressure before setting off.

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