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Car trouble? Do it yourself

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Fix minor problems in your car and get moving

Is there anything more annoying than a car stalling ahead of you during rush hour when you are already running late?

Believe me there is something much worse………… It could be your car stalling!

I have lost count of the number of days that my day has been ruined by somebody’s car staling ahead of mine. I have cursed at the driver of the car (silently of course I usually avoid verbal confrontation, I learnt a long time ago I seldom win……..). It has vexed me how a little planning such people must have done before they embarked on the roads, in order to cause me and the rest of the ‘all knowing’ road users’ great inconvenience. Isn’t it funny how easy it is to see other people’s faults and explain away ours……?

Within a few minutes there was a long line of cars backed up, honking impatiently at me

Just the other day, I was on my way to school. (masomo ya wazee ) those courses that we take up to improve our lives and our businesses. It was a regular morning, and as a normal Nairobi resident, my impatience had turned up and I was driving with one hand ready to hoot. Just outside Methodist Guest house my car stalled and I thought WHAT?! I tried to crank it back to life but with no success. It was then that I remembered I had not fueled the car. The fuel low warning light was at full brightness. It was rush hour and within a few minutes there was a long line of cars backed up, honking impatiently at me and cursing me silently….. Karma!

 The petrol station was about a kilometer away

I got out of the car and I got help from two security guards to help me push the car to the side of the road. Finally the honking stopped and one person yelled at me. Always fuel your car bro!

I had to jog to the petrol station about a kilometer away and that was the easy part. The more difficult part was convincing the attendants to sell petrol to me in a plastic can (there’s a regulation against that) and the most difficult part was arriving late for my class, sweaty and smelling of petrol.

Many times when cars stall on the road, it is due to very simple reasons that could have been avoided. With the exception of accidents, the three most common reasons for car stalling are:

1. Flat tyre
2. No fuel
3. Dead battery/dead starter/ bad charging system.

How do we avoid these mishaps and should they occur, how should we quickly get out of them independently?

Flat Tyres/ Punctures

Flat tyres are caused by punctures, bent rims or faulty valves that let the pressure out. The rule of thumb when it comes to avoiding flat tyres is making sure that your tyres are in good condition and the tread is not worn out. If you have new tyres, please check the tyre pressure at the petrol station at least every 2 weeks. If you notice a particular tyre losing pressure, have it checked. For older (balder) check them even more frequently. Please ensure you replace your worn out tyres as this will reduce the odds of getting a flat tyre. Please note that you may take all these precautions and still get a puncture

When punctures happen, I’ve observed many ladies invariably get on the phone. Believe me, the easiest remedy is not to call “him”. Rather, it is to DO IT YOURSELF (DIY). Changing a tyre is not rocket science. It is simple. Please learn how to do it? It’s easy and believe me ladies; men adore ladies who can take charge… ladies who can handle the situation… ladies who can change tyres… 

All you need is a functional spare tyre, a jack (preferably hydraulic, it is easier to lift than the scissor jack or even the electric ones you can attach to the cigarette lighter of your car), a spanner (again there is a rechargeable electric spanner you can keep in the boot) and your protective gear. (gloves and an apron/overall.) Now get to work. It is a simple task. Please take the time to learn. You can DIY!

Low fuel

There is only one way to ensure that you do not run out of fuel. Fuel your car. Get to know your driving habits and routines. Fuel your car at a convenient interval say weekly or daily or on specific days of the week. When you have a schedule you are less likely to forget. Set a minimum fuel level for yourself below which you shouldn’t go and refuel when you get to that level. Yes, you can DIY!

Dead battery

This is the era of automatics cars. For those familiar with manual cars, it was easy to push start a manual car to life even when the battery was dead. Modern automatic cars do not afford this luxury – once a battery is dead it is dead… To avoid this, please note the expected life period when you buy the battery. Most good batteries have a life span of about 3-5 years. This is important, so that when the time is up you are aware and plan to buy a new battery. Nowadays most batteries have warning light that tell you when it’s starting to die or when it is dead.

Bad charging system

Sometimes your battery may be okay but the charging system is not working, and as you move the car battery gets drained. On the dashboard if you notice a red light in the shape of a battery, note that the battery is not charging and will soon go off. Get in touch with your mechanic who should diagnose whether the problem is the battery or the alternator (the charger).

You may try to start your car and it makes a brief static sound then stops. This is caused by a low battery or by a loose connection. It helps to occasionally check the terminal heads of your car battery to get rid of the white substance that accumulates there, preventing effective charging. This usually occurs when there is a loose connection between the terminal and the cables. Clean it with water or soda (Coke) and tighten it. This also that means you need to know where your car battery is located. This is not a joke. (I once went to assist someone who told me their car did not have a battery).

Dead starter

Lastly the battery may be good, and the car is charging, but still not starting. This could be caused by the starter. A good mechanic should quickly diagnose that.

Reduce the likelihood of stalling

In conclusion, most of the time a stalled car can and will be remedied in a matter if a few minutes. Don’t get into a situation where you feel cheated(like I did), by the mechanic, where after stalling for an hour, you are charged for the expertise and for the mechanics taxi fare, and they get the job done in 2 minutes! Spare yourself this kind of misery.

Reduce the likelihood of stalling form punctures, dead batteries and low fuel and if it happens, DO IT YOURSELF!

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