Safety on the Road: Vehicle Fitness

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Ever seen those scenes from a movie where right when you need to escape a terrible situation, the vehicle just won’t start? Or how about a flat tyre in a bad neighborhood? Or right when you need to get to an important meeting on time, your engine overheats and stalls? It’s not fate, it’s poor maintenance and the lack of attention to details that causes these incidents to take place.

When we first put out our survey and asked our readers what they would like us to write about, they chose “On the road Safety and Security”. We believe there is a good reason for that, especially here in Pakistan, where being on the road is almost the same as being in combat; no rule of law, no common courtesy, at times getting stuck in a violent protest or behind the traffic build-up due to it, or if you are very unlucky you could be driving up to an explosion about to happen. For others the fear is of a different nature; some are more concerned with how to prevent getting mugged at a traffic light or getting into an accident due to bad brakes.

Whatever YOUR reason for choosing this topic; one thing is certain, you are reading this post because you realize there are hazards on the road that you need to learn about and PREVENT!

Most Common Reasons for Vehicle Breakdowns:

1. Lack of Fuel:

Believe it or not, the most common reason for a breakdown is not having enough fuel in your vehicle! While in most other countries the reason for not filling up your tanks could be laziness, the most common reason why this happens in Pakistan is sudden gas station shutdowns due to violence or strikes. This is an easy fix; ALWAYS make sure you have at least a half tank of fuel, if not topped off every other day.

2. Damaged/Worn Out Tyre – Otherwise known as Punctures

There are two main reasons why your vehicle tires/wheels will wear out; driving carelessly fast on bad roads and not keeping your tires properly inflated.

Careless Driving: Driving fast over potholes may get you over them faster but it will also take a toll on your tires and could cause your tire(s) to blow out. Same goes for driving too close to and impacting against curbs (AKA foot paths) as over time it will damage the sidewalls and possibly the rims, causing slow leaks which can eventually lead up to flats (and in worse case an accident).

Improper Tire Inflation: If you are like most of the drivers we know, in other words, making visual inspection of your tire and assuming it’s good to go, stop it now! Every vehicle comes with a manual that includes the proper amount of tire pressure to be maintained at all times and if you no longer have that manual, check the tire placard that is mostly placed at the front-facing edge of a vehicle ‘B’ pillar. If you cannot locate this, simply go to the manufacturer website and search for your vehicle there.           

The common rule of thumb is to check your tire pressure at least once every month but a better practice would be to check them once every week; the more often you check your tires the faster you will detect slow leaks which could save you from a potentially ugly breakdown.

This also applies to your spare tires; just because they are ‘spares’ does not mean you ignore them. Make sure your spares are in good condition and all necessary flat-change equipment is present and functional.

3. Engine Problems: There are two primary reasons why your engine will die on you; Spark Plugs and Fuel. Your engine needs an uninterrupted flow of fuel and a spark to ignite it, in order to create the energy needed to run the vehicle. In order to ensure that keeps happening as it should, make sure you get your vehicle in for regular maintenance and have them both checked. Since this is unsafe for anyone that does not know what they are doing, it’s better to let the professionals do it for you.

4. Fluid Maintenance: Oil is to your vehicle as blood is to your body – just can’t survive without the two. There are a few things you have to understand about what this oil does for your vehicles in order for you to really get why this is so important!

Oil as a lubricant – all those engine parts rolling and grinding against each other, over time, without this lubricant they will cease to function, resulting in a complete engine seizure – you’re not going ANYWHERE! 

Oil as a cooling agent - All that friction between moving parts that we told you about? It causes your engine to heat up; because motor oil lubricates these parts and reduces friction, it therefore reduces the heat bringing down the overall temperature.

Engine Coolant: Another important fluid your vehicle needs is ‘coolant’ which is normally replaced by water in Pakistan. Why should you avoid using water and switch to the recommended coolant for your vehicle? Because coolant has a very high boiling point and a very low freezing point, water on the other hand is the opposite and should ONLY be used for very short intervals; say you ran out of coolant and used water just to get to the station and get the coolant refilled.Due to this, in very cold environments the water will freeze and expand causing serious damage to the engine. On the other hand, in very hot environments (such as Karachi), the water will heat up rapidly and overheat your engine, causing serious damage!

If you are worried about the cost factor, a mix of coolant and water can be used as well.

Aside from the above, regular Battery Maintenance is also very important to avoid an unexpected stall or breakdown. Get a pair of Jumper Cables and keep them in your vehicle’s trunk just in case of an emergency. Get your vehicle battery tested and if needed, recharged or replaced before it gives up at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Stay tuned for our next post on important Road Safety & Security Do’s and Don’ts and remember to share your thoughts with us at survivepakistan@aftershock-cem.com, survivepakistan@bolobhi.org or send us a message on @AfterShockCEM or @BoloBhiSafety.

From all of us here at Survive Pakistan – Stay Safe!

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