Dubai: The hot summer months arent completley over yet. The heat can put a lot more strain on your car than perhaps you realise, and the last thing you want is to suffer an untimely breakdown on Shaikh Zayed Road during the midday sun.
While it is not always obvious if something is wrong with your car, should you notice anything unusual then you're best off staying in the inside lane in case you need to pull off.
To reduce the risk of a breakdown read these tips. Try to perform whatever checks you need to as soon, and as frequently, as you can. You don’t have to be a mechanic!
You will know if your battery is starting to weaken if your car struggles to start. If you notice any unusual delays then you must replace the battery (or claim warranty if you have it) as soon as possible.
Generally a battery won’t fail mid-journey as it is constantly being charged by the alternator — it’s at the start of a journey where the risk is greatest.
You can prolong the life of your battery by not leaving the ignition on (key turned without the engine running) while waiting at a petrol station or outside shops, and by remembering to turn your lights off when you park up. You should also turn the air conditioning off completely when you stop the car, since starting the engine with air-con switched on will cause strain on the starter.
If you discover that your battery is flat then you should call 800-Dial-A-Battery: 800 247 365. This brilliant mobile service will come and help.
You should check your tyre pressures each week; this is free and easy at petrol stations all across the country. You must know what pressures to set the tyres as they vary from car to car - you will need to consult your car manual. A rule of thumb is about 33PSI in each.
Check your tyres frequently for cracks and uneven wear. The depth of the tread should ideally be no less than 5mm. 2mm is the legal minimum.
If you are towing a trailer, or indeed have a heavy load to carry, then you should increase the pressure by 5PSI in each tyre (consult your car’s manual for accurate figures).
Always check the pressure in your spare tyre before any long journey. There is nothing more frustrating than changing a tyre only to find that the spare is flat!
3. Oil & oil filter
With a rag to hand, remove the dip-stick and clean off the oil. Replace the dip-stick and remove it again after 5-7 seconds. The level should be between the two scored lines, as indicated on the dip-stick.
Ideally it should be brown and relatively clear. If the oil is black, thick, or has small metallic fragments in it then you must get it changed at your nearest service station as soon as possible.
Your oil filter should be changed annually.
4. Water level
Before your journey, when the engine is cool, simply remove the radiator cap and fill it with water to the “Max” line. You would be well-advised to add proper coolant, too, which can be bought from all major petrol stations. But if water is all you have then that will do in the short term.
Always pay attention to your water temperature display on your car’s dashboard. The water temperature should normally run at around 90C (although check your manual). If you notice the needle starting to rise, or the red warning light comes on, pull over and stop immediately. A trick to help cool the engine is to turn the heater on full blast, although we don't recommend this in the summer.
Never undo the radiator cap when the engine is hot! You risk being scalded by boiling water.
5. Washer fluid
While refilling your washer bottle won't reduce the risk of a breakdown, it is an often understated check which can compromise your safety.
What would you do if you found the dust and grime from a passing lorry caked all over your windscreen? If you can’t see where you’re going then that will certainly end badly.
6. Air filter
It too can cause havoc with your car. The purpose of the air filter is to prevent sand getting sucked into the fuel mix in the engine, so it’s important to keep it clean.
Most major petrol stations across the UAE will be able to do this for you as part of a clean.
The old adage of “Be Prepared” can be applied to most things in life, and with cars it is no different. You should always carry an emergency kit in your car-boot, which will be invaluable on that one day when things go wrong.
You should always carry the following in your boot
Red warning triangle (to be deployed 30 metres behind your car if you breakdown)
Fire extinguisher (this is now a legal requirement, so make sure it is charged)
Jumper cables (should your battery be flat)
Coolant & Water (a two-litre bottle of water and coolant will be enough to get you out of trouble)
Bottle of oil (a one-litre bottle of the correct oil can get you out of trouble)
Tow-rope (towing is illegal unless being done by a certified professional, but if you need to move your car a short distance out of harms way then it can be handy)
Rag (an old rag for checking oil)
Gloves & hat (your car will be hot, so always wear gloves. A hat to protect you from the sun should you breakdown)
First Aid kit (complete with anti-septic wipes and plasters)
Drinking water (you should always have a bottle of water with you while on long journeys - obviously this doesn't stay in the boot!)
Phone charger for your car (a dead phone will make things much harder)
It goes without saying that you should have a number for a road-side recovery service. Generally your insurance company will provide such a service, so make sure you always have their number close to hand.
Thankfully there are also several companies in the UAE that offer 24-hour road-side assistance and towing. Prices vary depending on where you need to be towed to, usually starting around Dh100. Here are some popular services.
Importan phone numbers
AAA (members only) 04 257 8484
800 Dial-A-Battery 800 247 365
Recovery Dubai 050 889 6498
Lucky Star 050 686 8372
Millennium Recovery 050 114 4301
Abu Dhabi Car Recovery 02 554 4440
Middle East Star 050 204 5208
Remember that for the sake of a few minutes checking the basics on your car, you could save yourself the risk of a breakdown