How to : Keep your car on the road in a sound mechanical condition

A car is one the items that feature prominently on the shopping lists of middle income earners year round. Acquiring a car is one thing and keeping it on the road in a sound mechanical condition is another.

A car is one the items that feature prominently on the shopping lists of middle income earners year round. Acquiring a car is one thing and keeping it on the road in a sound mechanical condition is another.

This week Sunday Time’s Saul Butera talked to qualified mechanics on how to keep your car on the road in a good working condition.

Exterior maintenance

The exterior of the car basically involves changing the paint, tyres and lights and so on. According to Haruna Kadif, a mechanic working with Ever Ready Service Garage at Nyabugogo, “reconditioning the paint of the car is a somewhat difficult job to do for the inexperienced person though sometimes people have to risk.”

A car’s colour can be changed depending on the mode and shape. Car paint is obtained from specialised dealers in car accessories. Towels or newspapers are placed over the windscreen from bottom using masking tape to protect it from paint spots.

Rubber holdings are used around the windows and lights. A liquid compound is applied to allow cover a wide area and then slowly the spraying starts.

A soft cloth or towel is used to remove any residual compound from the vehicle after which a liquid polish is applied. The entire vehicle is washed with a very mild soap which preferably contains car wax. The car is dried with a clean damp soft leather to get the super shining look.

Tyres also take the same trend as painting, only that every car owner and driver MUST know how to replace a punctured tyre. Simple, u jack the car up enough to raise the wheel above the ground and replace your car tyre.

Once in a good condition, make sure the punctured tyre is taken to the garage for repair so that the spare tyre is again kept for emergency.

Interior maintenance

Unless the inside of the vehicle is pretty ruined, interior maintenance or servicing is not the most difficult thing to do with your car. Two types of services are involved.

The primary service is known as simple service, where you have to change the engine oil and do the greasing. Two methods termed as filter oil and diesel filter can be used.

The secondary service is called general, which is done after carrying out the simple service for four months. This is applied to vehicles that usually travel for over 5000 kilometres.

Attention is given to changing of engine oil, greasing, break fluid, hydraulic acid for power steered cars, oil filter, diesel or petrol filter, air filter and shock absorbers. Once this is done, it will assure smooth movement of the vehicle. Haruna quickly explains certain steps to be followed by any driver or car owner while cleaning their car.

Before cleaning, remove any garbage, floor mats and personal belongings. Seats can also be removed for easier cleaning. Wipe and vacuum the whole interior; this will make the job easier and smoother.

“Technology now equips people with air compressors that can blow out cracks and any objects which block air circulation in the interior,” explains Haruna adding that people should wear protective gears to protect their eyes, ears and the nose.

Engine cleaning

The engine is to the vehicle, what the heart is to the person. Extra care and cleaning should be carried out during the general service. Before any operation on the engine, it’s important to also disconnect the battery terminals (positive and negative).

Cleaning is done first by welding the new engine mount. Mounts are placed on the motor and the engine is placed in the bay after cleaning the other parts.

Revision of certain parts may require the presence of a mechanic experienced in changing some accessories like bearings, overhaul gasket, rings and installing pistons.


The battery is only changed after failure to charge or when the wiring is impossible. For the case of maintenance, battery servicing is done in the General Service. Replacing of the distilled water should be done in the absence of children due to the dangers of the acidic liquids.

Jump starting

Cars have always failed people to meet their deadlines due to failure of batteries. In this case, start the engine by pushing the car or using jump leads.

John Mudenge and Habiruza Vedaste, mechanics in Kigali explain that jump starter cables are helpful to keep near the auto parts box.

In jump-starting, another car is driven next to the failed one. Both cars’ hoods are opened after turning off the engines. One positive terminal of the failed car battery (Red) is attached to the working battery of another vehicle.

The negative cable (black) jumper is attached to the working vehicle’s battery and to the metal end of the failed car. Try starting the engine of the failed car after which you disconnect the cables in reverse order and let the car run for 15-20 minutes so that the battery can recharge.

With good maintenance, one can keep the vehicle on the road longer than the estimated time, especially if regular checks with a particular garage are done.