Car Clinic

| August 20, 2013 - 15.24UTC

We asked Godfrey Onyango, technical manager at Amazon Tyres and Services Centre in Westlands, a few quickfire questions about vehicle maintenance…

Looking to buy: new or used?
New is ideal, but the reality is most Kenyans can’t afford to buy new cars. The beauty with buying new is that although it’s expensive you won’t have to spend much on it for the first 100,000 kilometres. Plus you should enjoy free services from the dealer within that period of time.

5 top tips for Car Maintainence
1 Find a good garage
A trustworthy one that, ideally, a friend has recommended. You will spend more, but you will get sound professional advice, genuine parts and great diagnosis facilities.

2 Invest in genuine, original parts
Buy cheap and in the long run it will be expensive. It’s that’s simple.

3 Check tyre wear
Your tyres stop the vehicle as well as keep you on the road. Your life depends on them. Literally.

4 Do regular maintenance servicing
When a service is due, don’t delay. You will spend more eventually, besides endangering your life.

5 Insist on quality-grade motor oil
Synthetic oil is the best: it will last for 10,000km as opposed to the normal oil that lasts only 5000km.

Advice for buying tyres
Tyre choice is critical. There are premium tyres and budget tyres. Premium tyres are brands like Pirelli, Bridgestone, Michelin, Goodyear. The budget brands mostly come from China. A good premium tyre will set you back an average of Ksh15,000 but will offer you at least four years of service. If you drive a 4WD, you will need to know whether your car needs a ‘mud terrain’, ‘run flat’ (can run with a flat for many kilometres because of a chemical that seals it) or an ‘all-terrain’ tread. You will know which is best suited for your vehicle when you go to a reputable garage. Never drive with bald tyres. They will kill you.

What’s a good comprehensive motor insurance policy?
“It is not how low or high the premium rate is (percentage of your vehicle value). Actually it should never be about the rate, but more about the benefits provided at the given rate. What do you get on your windscreen, repair authority, personal accident, entertainment unit or towing limits? Are there any extra benefits incorporated in the cover? “We need a culture change. We need to purchase insurance like we would a packet of crisps or a soda. We choose these items conscious of what their sugar levels and calorie counts are. The same should apply for insurance: get qualified advice on the calorie count, not the sheer size of the packaging… what most people call that the ‘competitive rate’.” Jonathan Ochako,  Chase Assurance (

Fuelling performance?
How does fuel quality affect consumption and maintenance?  
Vivo Energy explains: Deposits on the engine’s inlet valves create porous surfaces which prevent air and fuel combining in the right proportions and in the right conditions. These deposits can act like a sponge, trapping the fuel as it is sprayed onto the valve. More fuel is then required, and it can affect performance: in acceleration, for example, this can lead to a loss of power and responsiveness. A metal-free fuel such as Shell Unleaded Extra protects the vehicle’s fuel supply system against corrosion. Shell V-Power contains a powerful additive that removes existing deposits gathered from other fuels. Its higher octane fuel formulation supports optimised ignition timing in many modern cars, improving performance.

View from the saddle
As you set off on your journey, spare a thought for those who share the road with you. What’s  it like on two wheels? We sought the views of Nairobi cyclist Velma Kiome
Your intuition will save you. On a bike, every pedestrian is a potential crash. They ruin your hard-earned momentum at every opportunity – crossing between cars, hesitating in the middle of a pedestrian crossing, crossing at a leisurely pace, or stepping onto the road at a moment’s notice without looking. But for all their flaws, they respond surprisingly well to the bicycle bell and so my finger is always half on it.

Drivers think you are either a maniac or brave, cycling in this city. They are probably right. Yet most Nairobi drivers like to multi-task – using the mobile phone while negotiating a junction or roundabout with one hand, newspaper on the steering wheel… Who is crazier now?

Our friend, the matatu driver? I thought matatu drivers would be a major challenge for a cyclist but, believe it or not, they are surprisingly pleasant if you make eye contact and indicate in good time. You can’t rely on their brakes working though!

Sign language. For a Nairobi cyclist the road signs, pedestrian crossings and traffic lights are merely advisory. Pedestrians beware.

I am ‘half a pedestrian’. So I will use the sidewalk when the two-lane road turns into a three-lane jam at rush hour as motorists overlap and a special matatu lane is created. I am, however, grateful when ‘the walking nation’ politely parts and gives me space while the County Council of Nairobi demonises me with that by-law prohibiting pedalling on footpaths, instead of putting up a cycling infrastructure. Thankfully the Chinese road contractors at least have included protected cycle lanes along the new Kileleshwa Ring Road (though the design is questionable).

Read more from Nairobi’s cyclists at

Traffic Survivor’s Kit
Five essentials everyone needs to ease the pain of time lost in a traffic jam:
1 Reading matter
When the wait is long enough so you can turn off the engine, you need something to read. To dip in to and be stimulated. Forget the vendors hustling at your window, the only reading matter you need is a copy of Kenya Yetu magazine. While you’re at it, why don’t you tell us what you think of the magazine on or tweet us at @kenyayetumag.

2 Smart and snappy
Everybody has a smartphone, right? And an Instagram account (of course). Don’t just stare mindlessly at your surroundings, stick your phone out the window and take a picture of the city skyline, the traffic or anything else that catches your eye. Then share it. Your surroundings won’t feel so tedious ever again.

3 Game on
Download the Word Feud app on your phone and invite a big-mouthed friend who hates to lose to a game of words. It’s like Scrabble. Only cooler.

4 Tidy your act
Essential kit for a traffic jam? Electric razor for the men, and compact make-up kit for the women. You don’t want to be preening yourself on the way to work when the traffic’s moving, but there’s no point wasting time when there’s a jam, is there?

5 Music to your ears
Let’s be honest, commercial radio has become a bumbling farce. Too much jabber, zero gravitas. So what you need is a station that has less talk and more music. Urban music. Try 103.5 Homeboyz Radio. “Kick-ass” (as they say) music, for the most part. Also try 105.5 X-fm if you are in the mood for a rockier ride. Alternatively, load Bill Cosby’s standby comedy CD. It will greatly help your mood. And lessen your road rage. Yes, that’s you I’m talking to.

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