By Gardy Chacha
Cars are the ultimate symbol that one is a good distance away from poverty (at least in Kenya.) How else would you characterize a man/woman who can trade money for a full gas tank? It goes without saying that today Kenya has the highest number of cars in the country’s history thanks to laws that have allowed cheaper Japanese imports.
According to data by the National Transport Services Authority (NTSA) at least 1800 cars are imported into the country every month.
“The second-hand cars from Japan are affordable. Majority of Kenyan car owners would not afford to pay for a brand new car,” says one car owner who would not like to be named.
Nairobi, the capital city, is constantly clogged on the roadways. And there is every reason to believe that traffic problems will get a lot worse for the city if the rate of car imports does not subside considerably.
Kenya is a car nation today. We love cars. We own cars. Cars can be mysterious. We can utilise cars in different ways to our benefit. Some functions are however hidden; not many car owners know them.
The following are seven ways you can use your car (or car accessories) to make life, enjoyable, fun or just easier.
Picnic at the boot
Picture this: you have come to the end of a long week. You want to unwind. At the back of your mind, you are only thinking about driving to an exotic place and having some good lunch with a friend or someone you love.
Most modern hatchbacks and SUVs have wide boot spaces that can comfortably accommodate two people and provide enough ‘table’ space. Some SUVs have tailgates that open sideways. Majority, however, open vertically – providing an umbrella-like shade against the afternoon sun.
Like with every machine built for many cars fail – sometimes when we most need them. A seasoned driver would tell you that cars could stall in the most unexpected of places. If this ever happens to you, in a remote area, you will need every tool possible to attract help. Your voice may not be able to reach so far. You may not be able to walk to the nearest place where help is feasible.
This is why every car manufacturer today equips their units with at least one flare. Flares come in different colours. They could be orange or red (especially with the ex-Japan imports) or both. Most flares resemble short tubes that can comfortably be held in the hand. When in distress hold the base of the flare then open it at the top. Pull the tab firmly and hold it up with your hand as it ejects coloured smoke that can be seen some kilometres away.
Cooler in the glove box
A glove box is the storage compartment built into the dashboard located at the passenger side. Recent glove boxes are equipped with cooling properties. Cooling occurs as long as the car’s engine is running. One can store juices, soda or bottled drinks inside this type of a glove box to keep them chilled for consumption later in the journey. Cooling glove boxes are synonymous with high-end cars.
A place to sleep
We have already seen how emergency situations in remote areas can occur while driving. Some of these situations may force one to spend a night or more – out in the wilderness. You may also deliberately plan for a few nights out… to cool off perhaps. If you are in an SUV you certainly need not worry about a place to sleep. The back seats of nearly every conventional SUV can fold forward to form a flat surface large enough to stretch your tired bones on. Comfort though may differ from car to car.
Headrest’s other use
If you find yourself trapped inside a car with the windows closed don’t panic. Cars are manufactured with detachable headrests. Here's how to use your car seat's headrest to break your car door window.
Take your headrest off of the back of the seat, then push one of the pegs from the headrest attachment down into the space where your window retracts, just where the seal is. Jam it down in there a few inches, and then pull the headrest towards you. Doing this flexes the window glass laterally, and the result is a break, usually at the other end of the window.
Treadwear indicator bars are found inside tread grooves at regular intervals on car tyres. As the tyre wears out the indicators recede as well; eventually matching the surface of the tread. While this is the standard some car manufacturers recommend you replace your tyres before they wear to that extent.
Warming food in the engine
Did you know that you could warm food (technically small bites) of food with the heat produced by your car engine? Wrap the food in two sheets of heavy-duty aluminium foil. Find a good, hot spot on the engine.
As a general rule the best spot — if you can safely get to it — is on or near the exhaust manifold. Secure the food package on the engine with a copper wire to lock it into place lest you lose it as you drive. As you drive the engine emits heat hence warming/cooking your food. You can enjoy your meal at the end of the trip.