A well maintained car is safer and retains its value better

Paolo Rossetti on how to maintain your vehicle for off-roading expeditions

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A motor vehicle, be it a car, motorbike or all-terrain vehicle (quad bike), is a marvel of modern engineering.

Consider that the rpm gauge measures the number of complete cycles the pistons move in the engine. At idle, let's say 800rpm, the pistons inside the engine move up and down 800 times in one minute, which means every second the pistons and all the attached parts turn 13 complete cycles - and that's just at idle. Imagine the forces at play and the conditions required to keep those metal parts blasting up and down at that rate.

Then engage the gears and off you go to the redline, with all the other mechanical and electronic systems in support: it's almost a miracle that our vehicles work at all. Yet, we take all this engineering magic for granted, and the average driver is hardly aware of the stresses on these moving parts.

One aspect of motoring that requires constant care is the preventative maintenance of our vehicles. Not only can cleaning, lubricating and replacing parts be important to assure continuous operation, but also to maintain value, increase safety and even reduce costs.

A car is most people's second-largest investment, after a house, and sometimes purchase loans are taken out for considerable amounts. Therefore, keeping your vehicle in tip-top condition is simply minimising the depreciation of the monetary value of the vehicle. It makes business sense. And besides value in a financial arena, since our vehicles are also an important reflection of our perceived status in society, a worn-out car can also be interpreted as representing the driver's personality.

A well-maintained vehicle is also safer to drive. Very often I see cars running tyres that are well past their expiration date; the owners tell me that they're fine, still running OK. That may be true, but waiting until they explode before replacing them is hardly a good plan if the life and safety of yourself, your passengers and other motorists are depending on tyres to run until they self-disintegrate on the motorway.

And the same applies to brake pads, shock absorbers and each of the estimated 30,000 individual parts that make up our cars. You might say that if the average shock absorber's lifespan is 24 months, there is no perceivable difference in handling to run it another year or two, but it might be that its drop in performance is measurable only under stress. And that stress would occur at the very split-second in which the driver simultaneously swerves hard and slams on the brakes, perhaps to avoid a parked lorry that suddenly appears before us on the motorway. It might make the difference between avoiding impact and a nasty crash.

Lastly, preventative maintenance actually can save money, which runs counter to the credo of letting parts run longer than their stated lifespan in order to postpone the expense. The reasoning is that each part depends on another part. It is, in fact, the precision of the relationship between parts that make the vehicle function smoothly as a whole. And so, for example, if the radiator rubber hoses are not changed preventatively to save Dh100, then if a hose fails and a coolant leak occurs and overheats the engine, the age-old saying of penny-savvy-pound-foolish proves its point when the bill for a new engine gasket hits.

All in all, it makes good sense to maintain a motor vehicle according to the preventative schedule of maintenance issued by the engineers who built the vehicle.