Sometimes, you would rather drive through than break …

Wednesday December 19 2018

Kindly give us tips on how not to roll. A friend died last week on Mombasa Road after a bodaboda rider cut him. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Kindly give us tips on how not to roll. A friend died last week on Mombasa Road after a bodaboda rider cut him. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Hi JM,

Thank you so much for the clarity on the tyres. We settled the issue.

Though accidents have been synonymous with our roads, I have to say that lately the deaths have hit a spot as some friends have been snatched by the menace.

As drivers on the roads, I think there are some basics (should I call them defensive driving?) that we should know other than the obvious; do not speed, buckle up nada; to keep us from rolling.

You are a seasoned driver from the numerous articles you have put on rallies. Kindly give us tips on how not to roll. A friend died last week on Mombasa Road after a bodaboda rider cut him.

To avoid hitting him, he applied emergency brakes and he rolled; dying on the spot.

The bodaboda rider of course took off, never to be seen. Not to play God but is there something he could have done differently?

My husband for example, has always told me if I chance on a bump (you know there are some places where there are bumps without having a sign), I should fly over it instead of trying to put emergency brakes. Other than this, what else should we know?

I have been on the wheels for 16 years; accident free but lately I am getting concerned.

My first child will be on the wheels in six years. What do I need to know other than what I was taught at Driving School?

Your invaluable insight will be highly appreciated.

Alice Wambua



Hi Alice,

My deepest sympathies on the loss of your friend. It is one of the most painful things a person has to endure, and I should know — I suffered a devastating loss myself less than four years ago.

Defensive driving was once optional, but the point we are at indicates that it may be compulsory to save us from ourselves.

I cannot shower accolades upon myself, but yes, I have driven all manner of vehicles on all manner of roads in all manner of traffic conditions over a period exceeding 15 years, so naturally, I do have tips and hints I can share.

This is something we will follow up on in the coming months. I have a plan.

Now, about playing God, some things, unpleasant as they are, have to be said. If you have flown in a commercial aircraft and listened to the safety briefing, what do they say about the oxygen masks? Secure yours first before helping others, it does not matter who "others" are. They could be your children, they could be your husband, they could be your blood.

You are more useful lucid, awake and oxygenated than woozy from suffocation trying to be a hero.

The same thing applies to road safety. Drive for yourself first, all other things come secondary.

That is why I strongly agree with your husband: if you chance upon a speed bump (or any other road hazard for that matter), you are better of going through it than trying to evade it with potentially disastrous results.

Shock absorbers are much cheaper to replace than an entire vehicle, or God forbid, a life or two.

I will have to clarify this: sometimes emergency braking may lead to loss of control of the vehicle especially where the road surface is treacherous and/or ABS is unreliable. You'd rather smack the bump and break your shocks instead of wiping out and sliding broadside into the grille of a juggernaut trying to stop on a wet surface. However, this is not a universal rule and each situation calls for its own custom solution, meaning, sometimes it is better to brake anyway.

So how does one make this judgment call? This is where defensive driving comes in: it enables you to make snap decisions at critical driving moments for the best outcome, what I like to call a "soft landing"; but better yet, defensive driving is aimed at creating an awareness in the driver such that they never have to find themselves in a position where they have to make such difficult decisions in the first place.

It is not black and white. Sometimes you have to brake hard, sometimes you have to sacrifice car parts for the least painful outcome.

As we speak I am designing a defensive driving curriculum based on my training and experience at the hands of several car manufacturers (Jaguar Land Rover allowed me to drift an F Type on a skid pan and wind an XJ up to 200km/h on a small piece of land while maintaining full control; among countless other experiences), coupled with various syllabi from all over the world (Sweden and Finland come to mind), my own observations on the road (I worked briefly for a large transport company back in my youth besides doing my various Great Runs and countless trips up and down the country's roads, highways and thoroughfares), my road safety certification course from Baltimore under the tutelage of Johns Hopkins and the WHO, and of course the NTSA's own driver's handbook which I went through and decided needs a serious edit.

It is a great undertaking but it will be done.


The single rule for tyre pressure: The narrower the tyre, the higher the pressure

Hi Baraza,

I am an avid reader of car clinic articles, and I think you should also do some vlogs. Anyway to my question.

My car (ex japan) and tires are 205/55 R16 and the recommended tire pressure from the manufacturer is about 2.3 bars (33 psi) front and 2.2 bars (32 psi) back. I see people in the gas stations always putting 35 psi on their cars and in one of your articles you mentioned you also put 35 psi for some reasons you didn't mention.

What are some of the reasons for this and why would people not use the recommended tire pressure from the manufacturers? Or do our Kenyans roads require a specific tire pressure.

Please enlighten me on this topic and what do you recommend I put on my tires?



Hello Dennis,

I also think I should do some vlogs but the few videos I put out have not been enthusiastically received, and that is a bit dispiriting.

Let us see how things proceed from here; the BMW X5 test drive I was doing in South Africa involved a high profile individual — actor, radio presenter and well known MC — who did some videos as well.

Perhaps he will boost my ratings in future if I convince him to tag along on some of my shenanigans. That sounds like a potential business opportunity but enough about that.

I have discussed tyre pressures before, and the general rule of thumb is the narrower the tyre, the higher the pressure. The same applies to the tyre profile.

I graduated from 35 psi to 40, by the way, because I need a "hard" tyre with less flex due to reasons that are not important to people who are not myself or do not drive my cars.

Everyone else is strongly advised to stick to the manufacturer's recommendation because I cannot be held responsible for unknowledgeable people experimenting with the wrong tyre pressures and paying a painful price for it.

Again, I use my own custom tyre pressures for reasons best known to myself — mostly centred around motor vehicle dynamics. For you, stick to what the manufacturer says: 33 front, 32 rear.



What is your advice on a Mercedes E250 from Singapore?

Hello Baraza,

Trust you are well. Have you come across any challenges of Mercedes Benz units sourced from Singapore?

In the mid 2000s there did exist a fear of Ex-Singapore units based on the mileage tampering and the like. Would you be in the know if the same has changed for the better?



Dear Gachanja,

No, nothing has changed. A few weeks ago we had correspondence on these pages that revealed ex-Singapore imports are a bet you are best advised to avoid placing.

The problem is this: there is no vetting process for vehicles being shipped out of Singapore.

That means that the probability of landing yourself a tumbledown one dent short of an insurance write-off is very high. Do you want that? No. Nobody else does, hence the anti-Singapore narrative flowing within vehicular circles. Protect your money and buy smart.

You do not want to bring back a contemporary Mercedes from the brink; the cost implications border on the absurd.


Be more specific on your car expectations

Hello JM,

I'm intending to acquire my very first car in the year 2019. However I'm torn between a VW Polo 4, Verrosa, Spacio new model and Ipsum new model. Please advise.



Dear Amos,

You are torn between a hatchback, a mid-sized saloon, a mini-MPV and a slightly larger MPV. I don't know what you expect from the car you want buy, so I cannot really help you here. All these cars satisfy different demands. Make yours known and we can work forward from there.



For speed and comfort, Land Rover Freelander 2 wins

Hello Baraza,

Kindly advise me. I want to buy a speed machine and also comfort. Between RV4, Vanguard and Land rover Freelander 2. Holding all factors constant maintenance cost and fuel.

Danson Mfumwa



Comfort: Land Rover Freelander 2.

Speed: Land Rover Freelander 2.

However, I'm not sure you really want a Land Rover Freelander 2. Why? Those factors you list will never be constant, particularly where the Land Rover Freelander is involved.


Fuel pump may cause an engine to stall

Hey Baraza,

Have been reading your articles on car solutions and have found them quiet articulate. Now here I come with mine.


I own an X-trail and in the last two months, it has been behaving mysteriously. It all of a sudden goes off in the middle of the road. The engine goes off, steering and braking system ceases. It only stops when it's momentum is exhausted. My mechanic appears to have exhausted all areas he thought were the cause of the problem: spark plugs, air filter, fuel filter, earth wires, relays etc.

The mystery is that when I re start the vehicle it starts well and function well until after one week or two when the problem recurs.

Please advise. I have been in near accidents as a result of this problem because I can't brake to stop the vehicle and I can't steer the vehicle to the right direction.

George Dan Kiliru.



I guess the real question here is why you insist in driving on what is quite clearly — and by your admission, no less — a deathtrap. How many innocent lives are you willing to stake while you gamble with your own?

Now, does part of the "etc" in your description include the fuel pump? This is one of many things that would cause an engine to stall.






Yes, we stock Nissan NP200 spare parts

Editor, this is in response to your article last week (DN2, December 12, 2018) regarding spare parts availability for the Nissan NP200. We confirm that the Nissan NP200 is sold locally and fully supported after sales with spare parts and servicing.

We also confirm that Nissan NP200 parts are available from all our dealerships countrywide, and that we also stock spare parts for imported Nissan models.

Kind regards,

Mr Jabulani Ndabambi,

Nissan Kenya MD