Ladies Only

Top 5 summer car maintenance tips from Careem

Careem, the Dubai-based private ride-hailing app, has always taken road safety very seriously, not just for their own Captains and customers but also for the other motorists throughout the UAE.

As part of its ongoing campaign to make the UAE’s roads a safer place, Careem’s care centre manager Hamid Moaref, who overlooks the maintenance of 300 of Careem’s fleet per month, reveals his top five tips to keep your car running safely in the intense summer heat.

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 22.05.12

Don’t tire out your tyres
Tyre failure can occur when it is least expected. Tyres are the only part of the car in contact with the road, hence it is important to get them checked and replace them if necessary. All Careem vehicles are required to undergo a check-up every quarter and Careem recommends the same for your own vehicle. A good tip is to fill your tyres with nitrogen and not regular air. Nitrogen does not expand as the temperature rises inside your tyres, thus making them last longer.

Keep the battery alive and kicking
As cars will be working harder during the hot summer months, so will the car battery. Within the GCC region, car batteries typically work for up to two years only, mainly due to extensive use of the vehicle’s air conditioning and the greater degree of evaporation of the many fluids used throughout the mechanics of the vehicle. Careem advises all motorists to check their car battery at periodic intervals.

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 22.07.58Stay cool
As your vehicle’s air conditioning system will be heavily used throughout the summer months, it is essential to make sure it is working at the optimum level. All the A/C filters need to be checked and replaced if dirty. Cleaning the filters makes a huge difference to the air circulating inside the vehicle, and reduces the chances of getting an air-borne infection. As an added extra, the Careem Care Centre recommends getting an A/C disinfectant job done as well.

Your car’s fluid levels, from engine oil to coolant, should be checked regularly to prevent the engine from overheating and reduce the chances of a vehicle breakdown. Careem drivers are required to check coolant and oil levels at least once a month.

Shade is everything
The intense summer heat can play havoc with the internal compartments of a vehicle. Try to always park in a covered garage or in the shade, or purchase a sun shade. Reducing the impact of the sun’s rays not only lowers the chance of the engine overheating, but also prevents the interiors from fading and stops cracks developing on the dashboard.

Ladies Only

Power games in the left lane

My rearview mirror flashed in blinding strobes as the Land Cruiser behind me almost rammed me at 80 kmph. I was being tailgated and the impatient driver’s trigger-happy finger on his headlights wasn’t about to relax.

But where to move to? There was traffic to my right, and anyway, his huge, ugly car meant I could hardly see if the right lane was clear. Changing lanes didn’t feel safe. I stayed put and gripped the steering wheel so tightly that my knuckles showed white. My heart rate sped up.

Another problem with Dubai roads

I was already doing 20-over the speed limit and there was a bend coming up. For a moment, it looked like he might overtake on the hard-shoulder; he zigzagged to the left, then to the right, and finally zipped round me on the inside.

Then he came in front of me, and nearly stopped.

My foot slammed onto the brake, and my heart leapt into my mouth. I’m pretty sure it skipped a few beats. My throat tightened.

Behind me, the next car, thankfully, slowed right down and put his hazard lights on, two beacons of orange flashing urgently.

But what was the urgency? This, dear reader, exemplifies everything that’s wrong with Dubai roads: the road hogs with their blacked-out windows who have zero respect for other people’s lives, who tailgate aggressively, and who, like my one on my way home from work yesterday, was so filled with adrenalin he thought he’d teach me a lesson for not moving over and swerve in front of me and drive like a slug.

If he wasn’t in his car, behind glass and steel, and was instead walking behind me in the mall, would he walk right up to me until he was so close I could feel his hot breath on my neck, and then push me out the way? No he wouldn’t. So why does he think it’s okay to do this in his car?

I didn’t appreciate being bullied like that on my way home from work, MORON.

Ladies Only

Black Pajeros come in threes

When you’ve been in Dubai for a while, there comes a time when you realise your ageing car doesn’t cut it anymore. This moment came for us (well, DH at least) when our 4by4 started leaking brake fluid on Sheikh Zayed Road.

This came after our housemaid slammed her foot onto the accelerator rather than the brake, and crashed it into a tree – but more about that later.

I should add, as an aside, that if you do break down here, someone nearly always helps. It’s the Arabic culture to do so, perhaps because it’s a country where, as soon as you leave the major urban centres, you enter a middle-of-nowhere landscape where in summer it seems incredible that anything could survive. Staring through the car window at endless sand, littered with dunes, scrubby shrubs and giant electricity pylons whose wires stretch for as far as the eye can see in each direction, you might wonder how humans have thrived in the desert for the last 2,000 years or so.

Another day, another school runNow, our ailing car probably wouldn’t be considered especially old in most other countries, but in the UAE we drive hundreds of kilometres a week (and that’s just carting the kids to school and their various activities). Add to that the sand, heat and – in some cases – aggressive driving, and it’s easy to see why wear and tear is so rapid here.

Motorists in the Emirates keep a car for, on average, about 5.2 years, less than half the 11.5-year average for vehicles in the US, but much longer than drivers in Saudi Arabia who keep their cars for 3.8 years before selling them, according to The National.

Anyway, seduced by the easy financing options on offer in the UAE, we’re now the proud owners of a brand-new Pajero – as black as a moonless night (the only colour left) with dark tinted windows to screen out the sunlight. It was an exciting moment when it rolled up outside, all shiny and clean with plastic covers on the seats and that new-car smell.

DH had to leave on a trip straight away, so I was the first to take it for a spin – well, to transport the kids to baseball anyway. And I realised there’s nothing quite like gingerly driving a new car to make you feel like you’re negotiating Dubai traffic for the first time. White Van Man, Mr No Rules, The Flasher, Mr Road Hog and The Slow Poke were all out to get me (press here for more detailed descriptions of the characters on Dubai’s roads), and it was with some relief that I arrived at our destination without incident.

Only to find that the car we were so thrilled with is, quite literally, everywhere.

Black Pajeros are like buses

Ladies Only

When is a stop sign not a stop sign?

Driving through our compound the other afternoon, I found myself behind a school bus. The big, yellow bus pulled to the side of the road; and the driver extended the stop arms, ready to eject the kiddos onto the pavement. Now, as a car driver, what does that mean to you?

A) Stop.  B) Slow down, but get past.  C) Speed up.

I chose A. I drove in the US for five years, where motorists stop 20-25 feet behind or facing a school bus with flashing lights or stop arms, EVEN when it has halted on the opposite side of the road. I was so careful about this in the States, I would have stopped dead in my tracks in instances where the school bus driver had just parked for 10 minutes to eat his sarnies.

A stop sign mean stop, right? Until it doesn’t.
A stop sign means stop, right? Until it doesn’t.

The driver behind me opted for C, zipping round both my vehicle and the school bus. (Those who navigate Middle East cities on a regular basis, and already know all the different levels of stupidity, won’t be surprised by this at all.)

There’s another permanent stop sign – just outside our compound – where the correct answer isn’t so clear, though. Imagine this scene if you will: you come off the highway and at the bottom of the exit, where you can turn left into a tunnel (from which cars are also emerging) to make a U-turn or go straight on, lies the largely ignored stop.

Here, your options are: A) Come to a complete stop and risk being rear-ended.  B) Stop, and develop dangerously high blood pressure as the car behind rudely darts round you.  C) Slow down and go through it carefully.  D) Blow right through it at speed, as though you’re still sailing along the highway you’ve just left.

And believe me, this particular junction has been a huge issue for our compound. Several friends have (rightly, in my opinion) followed cars home that have sped through it, to confront the drivers.

So imagine my surprise when I saw a police car behind me, and thought I’d better pick A. It’s clearly an octagonal red sign, with the words STOP in big white letters, and cars make turns from the other direction.

I came to a halt. So did the green-and-white squad car, which I could see in my rear mirror had pulled up just a few inches behind my bumper.


Yes, that came from the police car. I kid you not.

Ladies Only

Silent Sunday: How to wind me up when I’m late!

So I’m running late. I’m on the road that leads from our compound to the exit – a road on which there are speed bumps – steep ones, that practically stop your car in its tracks. And I find myself stuck behind a slow-moving construction vehicle, transporting … giant cotton reels?
So I’m running late. I’m on the longish road that leads from our compound to the exit – a road on which there are speed bumps – steep ones, that practically stop your car in its tracks. And I find myself stuck behind a lumbering, slow-moving construction vehicle, transporting … giant cotton reels?
Ladies Only

The Dubai tram – it’s on track!

I can tell you this because I’ve been watching the trams tootling up and down on test runs in recent months. I’ve also lost hours of my life sitting in traffic jams outside Media City, stuck in bottlenecks caused by the dusty construction work.

My commute that used to take 25 minutes took a frustrating hour-and-a-half yesterday, and wasn’t helped by Mr Queue Jumper. You all know him. You’ve paid attention to the construction signs and got in the correct lane. Mr Important has ignored them for miles, and now wants to be let in. (Not going to happen).

Anyway, I’m in quite a good position to be able to tell you that the black-and-white trams look modern and sleek (with a gold suite, as well as silver and women-and-children classes); and along the route there are 17 high-tech stations with platform screen doors – a world first for a tramway.

Do NOT stop on tracks – just don’t, ok

Trams might be commonplace in Europe, where they trundle across numerous cities, but here in the Middle East it’s the first of its kind. The ground-based electricity supply should mean the trams don’t actually trundle, but move smoothly along the track without wobble or noise, connecting Dubai Marina, Media City, Internet City, Knowledge Village and a number of luxury hotels.

Whilst sitting in my vehicle banging my head against the steering wheel as cars pile up trying to get round the roadworks, I’ve also noticed there’s a whole new set of traffic signs relating to the tram – because, in another (scary!) first for the region, the carriages will share road space with cars.

Yes, that’s right. With Mr White Van Man – who last drove a rickshaw and now finds himself licensed and working in Dubai, at the helm of a van with strips of yellow-and-black caution tape on the back and his own mobile number on the ‘Am I driving safe?’ bumper sticker – and with other equally menacing road users.

Last-minute extra safety measures are apparently being implemented to prevent collisions with cars and pedestrians – including guards to stop drivers and people from crossing the tramline at unauthorised places. Heavy fines (up to AED30,000) are also being introduced to discourage accidents.

But, let’s just say that, with so many levels of stupidity behind the wheel in Dubai – from Mr Flasher to Mr Let’s Play Chicken to Mr I’ll Just Ram Your Behind Because I’m on the Phone (who I had the pleasure of coming across this week) ¬– I think my route to work is about to get a whole lot more interesting.

There it goes xxx
There it goes: seven coaches of much-needed public transport for Dubai (opening in November)
Ladies Only

Quiet car anthems

There are some mornings when Son2 doesn’t say anything on the way to school. Then there are other mornings where it’s like having a pint-size dictator sitting in the backseat, and you realise that, compared to dealing with a small child, pregnancy was really a nine-month massage.

Today, I banned Son2 from bringing the iPad into the car, so he grabbed the Kindle instead. For some reason, there was heavier traffic than normal, and I was just attempting to merge onto a fast road when he started shouting.

“MUM! LOOK! Stop the car, quick, look!”

It was something on the Kindle he’d found incredibly funny.

“I’m just a bit busy right now darling!”

“I can’t look,” I replied, keeping a watchful eye on the slow-moving Datsun Sunny in front of me, and the much faster Land Cruiser I could see in my mirror about to sling-shot across three lanes. “I’m driving.”

“Just look quickly!” (What could be more pressing than Robo Shark turning mines into missiles, he’s thinking.)

“I really can’t!” A motorbike was now vying for pole position too.

He reluctantly agreed he’d have to wait for me to look until we’d parked. But then something on the radio disagreed with him. At age 5, he’s developed opinions about whether the DJs are talking too much and which songs he likes – his favourite, ironically, being I Crashed my Car into the Bridge by Maytrixx.

I switched channels. I wasn’t in the mood for an argument and knew I’d soon have the car to myself and could then rock out to some quiet car anthems (a mum has to take her chance to rock out when she can).

At school, I kissed him goodbye and his eyes suddenly looked downcast. “Don’t go to work Mum. What takes you so long there?” he asked, forlornly. “Just quit!”

I wasn’t sure what to say, so I asked him why he didn’t want me to work.

“Because I love you,” he said quietly, as a teardrop squeezed its way out of one eye and trickled down his cheek.

Miss you kiddos when I’m gone all day.