Driving inland for Christmas?  Read this first

Driving inland for Christmas? Read this first

Driving inland for Christmas?  Read this first

Subaru Forester luggage test 2019. [Courtesy of Autoblog]

As the holiday season arrives and trips to the countryside become more common, remember that a healthy car can not only save you several thousand shillings, it can also save your life.

Kenyans from several major cities like Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru and Eldoret will depart for the outback to spend their holidays with their loved ones after a difficult year for many.

Some, however, will go the other way. For example, Nairobi residents flock to the coastal cities of Mombasa, Malindi and Diani for holidays.

As utility vehicle rates skyrocket, it would make financial sense for a car owner to use their vehicle for vacation travel.

Take the example of a family man with four adult children, perhaps teenagers, who are heading to Migori county from Nairobi, a distance of 370 kilometers.

Bus tickets currently retail between Sh1,700 and Sh,2000.

If this man wants to travel with his entire family to Migori, then he will need at least Sh24,000 to travel to and from Migori, with both trips costing Sh12,000 for his six family members – himself, his wife and their four children.

If this man had a car, say a Toyota Noah or Voxy that seats seven, he would spend less on transportation.

The Toyota Voxy, if driven well on the highway, returns up to 12 kilometers per liter.

From Nairobi to Migori Town is 370 kilometers. This means that this driver would need approximately 31 liters of fuel for this journey.

At the current price of petrol in Nairobi (177.30 shillings per litre), this man would need between 5,500 and 6,000 shillings to transport his entire family home, cutting his transport costs in half.

For the car to return such good fuel consumption, however, the owner must ensure that all components of the vehicle including the engine, gearbox, brake system, tyres, suspension, spark plugs, among others, are in optimum working order.

Documented studies indicate that without regular and proper maintenance, a vehicle can consume up to 30% more fuel. This means that for every 100 shillings spent on fuel, 30 shillings of fuel is wasted.

So what should you do to make sure your car serves you the way you want it to?

Service

It is a capital offense in the motoring world to drive a vehicle whose service date has expired. You shouldn’t wait until the last mile of your MOT to have your car checked.

This means that if you need to repair your car at, say, 85,000km mileage, have it done at 84,000km.

The 1,000 kilometer gap ensures that the oil, air filter and other enabling elements already in use do not wear out to the point of requiring an overhaul of some extremely worn out parts. When you look at this pattern of regular service, there’s a good chance your car is in trouble.

It is recommended that if you routinely do your 10,000km inspection, that you have your car checked at the 9,000km milestone, and if you routinely do your 5,000km inspection, that you have your vehicle checked between 4,000 and 4,300km.

Before you get into the car for the long drive to inland or coastal part of Kenya, make sure you do the following: flush the coolant, check the spark plugs, change the cabin filter, change the engine air filter , lubricate the doors and hinges , check the brakes and wheel bearings, inspect the steering and suspension.

Others include checking the oil level, oil filter, battery cables, power steering fluid, and automatic transmission fluid (ATF).

Before starting your journey, also make sure that the fan belt is working well, that the hoses (radiator, fuel and those feeding the main components) are not cracked.

As I said before, a healthy car can avoid death on the road.

To ensure proper visibility in rain or darkness, check and clean the wiper blades, washer fluid, headlights (both on and full beam), pressure, tread, and tire condition.

Uneven tire pressure makes the car unstable on the road and increases fuel consumption as the car drags.

What people tend to forget sometimes, are the turn signal and brake light bulbs. These bulbs help you communicate with other road users about the next move or direction you are about to take. It’s important to make sure they all work.

The most important thing to arm yourself with is good driving habits. Be patient on the road, use your warning lights, avoid driving when fatigued or under the influence of alcohol, keep your phone out of the car, observe speed limits and make sure you have a good view of the road.

Light drivers tend to have better fuel economy. On this, try as much as possible to accelerate and decelerate gradually and systematically. Instantaneous acceleration and deceleration tends to waste fuel.

Also, using climate control on long journeys increases fuel consumption, especially if you drive a car with a relatively small engine, anything under 1,800cc. Use air conditioning only when necessary. Studies show that traveling with the air conditioning on increases fuel consumption by up to 20%.

At the same time, driving with the windows all the way down increases aerodynamic drag and results in higher fuel consumption as the car has to fight against wind resistance.

If possible, make sure you have the minimum baggage you can carry. The heavier the car, the more fuel it needs to pull the weight.

Most cars, vans, pickup trucks and SUVs are most fuel efficient when they are moving between 60 and 80 kilometers per hour. Above this speed range, vehicles consume more and more fuel. For example, at 120 kilometers per hour, a vehicle consumes around 20% more fuel than at 100 kilometers per hour.

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