(Vulcanizer is the Nigerian name for the man that is ‘equipped’ to replace the wheel on a vehicle)
My driving lessons, from a very young age, began with watching my father look after his vehicle. This was followed with being partaker in washing the inside and outside of the vehicle, topping up the radiator, checking the engine oil level and tyre pressures, and helping to find big stones that served as anti-rolling wedges during a wheel change.
Transition into sitting directly behind the wheel of a vehicle started with a studious examination of a book my father had bought in the 1960s when he was about to purchase his first car. The book covered virtually all aspects of a vehicle, the difference between a manual and automatic transmission, the technical layout of the gears and the process of shifting through them, the safety regime to follow when driving including manual signalling when your indicators fail for any reason, and above all, how to ensure your vehicle is kept safe for operation through regular maintenance as well as check-ups.
I have since had the privilege of driving for the last 37 years. The first 12 years were spent driving extensively on Nigerian soil, while the remainder has been spent driving mainly in Europe and North America apart from the occasional foray into other countries for conferences or vacations. Whilst I do not consider myself an A+ driver, I am sure many of those close to me will not fault a modest acclamation of being an A driver. It is on this basis that I write today on why you and your vulcanizer – that man that changes the wheel on your vehicle for you, can be your killer because of ignorance/lack of knowledge. Before I come to you, let me start with the third party.
(1) You have just bought a brand new tyre and asked him to fix it on a wheel. Since he lacks the right equipment to do the job, he brings out a long flat steel and a huge sledge hammer, he begins to hit the side of the tyre all the way round to force the edges of the tyre inside the rim. When he finishes on one side, he turns the tyre over to start on the other side. Are you aware that the walls of the tyre contributes to its structural integrity and consequently its safety? By hitting the walls forcefully to get the edges of the tyre into the rim, not only has he weakened the structural integrity of the tyre, he has also accelerated the potential for the tyre to fail during normal (to talk less of abnormal) usage.
(2) After some huffing and panting, he got the new tyre on the rim. Thereafter, he inflated the tyre and having no pressure gauge, employed his fingers to constantly poke the hardness of the tyre wall as a good measure of deciding when the air inside the tyre is enough for the valve to be capped.
(3) Most concerning, he has no clue as to what the pressure for your make and model of car should be. So, you find a vehicle that should have a pressure of 32psi on the front wheels and 30 psi on the rear wheels having a mismatch of pressures ranging from 28 to 50 psi on the four wheels. Disaster already created.
You is inter-changeable for the owner, the driver or the owner-driver.
(1) When you were buying the new tyre, did you ask for a tyre with an expiry date at least four or five years from the date of purchase since all things being equal, a typical regularly used vehicle in Nigeria would need to have a tyre change every 3 years on an average? I am sure you did not, since you have no idea that tyres have expiration dates.
(2) Do you even know what the numbers inscribed on the walls of the tyre you have bought signify? Okay, you know that 165/55R15 91T indicates the tyre that will fit the rim of your car because that is what was fitted and you are replacing. For a second-hand car, you do not have a clue if that is the recommended manufacturer size. As such, if the previous owner has changed the tyre size to a non-recommended one in ignorance and stupidity, you also in bliss inherit the ignorance and stupidity. God have mercy.
(3) You are a speed maniac, who likes to do 170km per hour regardless of the condition of the vehicle, the condition of the roads as well as the speed regulations governing the roads/areas being travelled in. Sadly, since you have no knowledge of what the inscriptions on the tyre indicate, you have no clue that a tyre that has the inscription 205/65R15 95T is different from the one with 205/65R15 95H or 205/65R15 95V (I will be surprised if the tyre seller himself knows the difference apart from the selling price). Since the latter ratings are more expensive, you went for the cheaper one, the one that restricts your maximum speed to 120km/h than the one that provides for a top speed of 210km/h if the tyre is in good condition and with the right pressure inside it.
(4) The small gadget called a tyre pressure gauge costs less than what you spend on a bottle of Orijin in a week. Have you ever invested a small amount of your money on one? If you did, when last did you carry out a check to ensure the pressure inside your tyres are in compliance with what the vehicle and tyre manufacturers recommended, particularly after visiting your lovely, ignorant in bliss and lacking-equipment vulcanizer?
(5) I have been told I had no hair on my head when I was born. That baldness is the state you will find a significant amount of tyres on vehicles on Nigerian roads today. The threading on the tyres are not just worn to the recommended point where new ones ought to be fitted, they are worn far beyond the point where the tyres can have any meaningful grip on any road surface.
My dear friends, do you see how lack of knowledge, ignorance and sometimes outright stupidity are killing Nigerians in droves on our roads? You trust in God to keep you safe, but you constantly play a love-game with the deadly combination of an extremely hot climatic condition, over-inflated as well as bald tyres, over-speeding, poorly maintained roads, lack of driving training and/or road etiquettes, and you blame God when disaster occurs?
If this post has made you angry enough to wonder who the writer think he is to offer you advice on driving as well as maintaining your vehicle, I hope it prompts you to change your ways as we still need you (and others your action/inaction may untimely kill) on this side of humanity.