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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.

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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.

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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)
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A little hump day note

On this hump day, I’m posting about some speed bumps that have appeared on our access road – and I don’t mean small ones; I mean steep, mini hillocks that almost stop your car in its tracks.

Those who know where I live will be well aware of the unique challenges we face out here in our little patch of desert. Challenges like getting home, and leaving the house.

There was the enormous roundabout that vanished overnight, probably while luckless drivers were on it – leaving us with a traffic vortex that funnels you towards Abu Dhabi, rather than home.

We’ve endured the bumpy, pot-holed track that led to our compound – which 4WD’s could just about handle without the exhaust pipe falling off, but meant cars had to pick their way along, dodging craters, at a snail’s pace.

We’ve made sharp, right-angled turns off a busy 6-lane highway, with cement trucks bearing down on our rear-end; and we’ve ploughed through a debris-ridden desert shortcut across sand (when the police weren’t looking). And let’s not forget the number of U-turns it’s possible to make on a daily basis to get home – enough to make you feel like a Weeble with an inner-ear infection.

A far better solution - although Dubai's dress codes could be a problem
A far better solution – although Dubai’s dress code could be a problem

But, then, after six months of dusty construction work and vibrations that I once mistook for a minor earthquake, we were presented with a shiny new, tarmaced access road. A road you could sail along, and a proper entrance and exit off the megahighway.

An exit that confused divers started driving up the wrong way – but, I guess, you can’t have it all.

Anyway, to cut a long story short – the other week, six speed bumps appeared on our new road, far bigger than the ridges inside the compound (where children play). The equivalent, I’d say, to traversing over a hippo’s back. Added to all the other speed bumps in our neighbourhood, they mean an average school-run day involves clunking up and down more than 50 humps.

And would it surprise you to hear that these new sleeping policemen weren’t painted straight away. On that first dark night, a pizza delivery man on a moped was sent flying after failing to see the bumps, and ended up being carted off in an ambulance – poor guy (he was ok, nothing broken, thankfully).

I’m not saying the humps weren’t needed (quite the contrary, many drivers in these parts totally disregard speed limits, making traffic calming measures important); just that we’ve come full circle and appear to be back to a bumpy road. Progress indeed.

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A shake my head moment

So I was flicking through our local newspaper, 7Days, and read that police in Abu Dhabi are clamping down on the size of containers on the back of pizza-delivery bikes.

From next month, pizza-delivery boxes must be no bigger than 40cm in length, width and height. Not only that, they must also have no sharp edges and not be made of metal.

The new rules are the result of a series of scrapes and bumps with the capital’s motorists, and will apparently be tightly regulated. New riders must even apply for approval (probably in triplicate, and with passport photos of their grandmother’s budgie) before they can fix a perfectly proportioned delivery box on their motorbike.

I was digesting this news, and imagining police in Lamborghini Aventadors with measuring tape, chasing down moped riders with oversized containers stuffed full of pizza, when another headline caught my eye.

Although just an idea at the moment, the head of Dubai Traffic Police has proposed a superhighway linking UAE cities on which drivers with flashy cars could travel at 200 KILOMETRES AN HOUR.

OMG! A study is even promised to see if such a road would be feasible. I mentally checked to see if it was April 1st, then decided they must have read the recent satirical story in the The Pan-Arabia Enquirer – on a gold-class lane between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, cordoned off with a red velvet rope – and thought, “What a splendid idea; that’ll make sure all those dusty Lancers, Corollas and pizza-delivery bikes don’t hold anyone up.”

Somehow, I don’t think the UAE is ready for an Autobahn just yet.

Do you?

"Awesome idea," said 24-year-old petrolhead Marcus McGrath, a salesman who owns an Audi R8 sports car. "I speed anyway. This would mean I could do it in a safer way." UGHHHHH!
“Awesome idea,” said 24-year-old petrolhead Marcus McGrath, a salesman who owns an Audi R8 sports car. “I speed anyway. This would mean I could do it in a safer way.” UGHHHHH, am speechless! PHOTO from 7DAYS
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8 people you meet on the roads

As well as the school-run, which I know I bang on about, I also drive to work. For the most part, I don’t mind this commute, as I at least get to sit down and listen to my favourite radio station rather than the sound of Boomerang or Disney Junior blaring like a car alarm from the TV.

It’s really more of a bumper-to-bumper crawl than a drive, as the roads in Dubai have become so much busier with the swelling population. Dubai is back, and so are the traffic jams, parking problems and construction road closures (and that’s just the school-run).

It’s during my time on the roads of Dubai that I’ve noticed certain character traits among my fellow commuters, and I feel these should be documented, as there are so many different levels of stupidity behind the steering wheels of fast, powerful cars in the UAE.

Here goes:

The queue jumper: 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).

A fine example of parking in Dubai

The flasher: He appears out of nowhere behind you, intent on making sure there’s no daylight between your back bumper and him. If you don’t get out of his way immediately, he starts flashing his lights, and might even try to sneak round on the hard shoulder. It’s a lane, after all, in his mind.

The stuntman: This one is the wannabe stuntman in a 4×4 driving on two wheels down the emirate’s busiest road, while his pal in a pick-up truck performs handbrake turns. (I’m not making this up, it happened on SZ Road.)

White van man: He’s even more terrifying than the Mr White Van Man you know from home. He last drove a rickshaw and now finds himself licensed and working in Dubai, with Schumacher pretensions. Except his vehicle is not exactly top notch. Packed full of workers, his van has strips of yellow and black caution tape on the back and his own mobile number on the ‘Am I driving safely?’ sticker – and he’s weaving in and out like it’s a slalom race.

Mr No-Rules: Oblivious to everyone around him, he believes indicators are only for Diwali, and thinks nothing of reversing up an exit if he’s missed his turn. He can often be spotted holding his mobile to his left ear with his right hand, texting, eating or clearing out the glove compartment while at the wheel. Rummaging round the back is not beyond him.

The slow poke: For a reason I’ll never fathom, he thinks tootling along in a fast lane at 60km/h is safe driving (or is he actually enjoying staring into his mirror and seeing the traffic behind him peel off in all directions to get round him?).

The road hog: On driving up a one-way street by mistake, it wouldn’t even cross the road hog’s mind to reverse and turn around. Hell, no. The correct course of action in Dubai for those who don’t want to be inconvenienced is to insist the cars driving in the right direction squeeze past you.

The mum-truck: I have to slip her in because we all know who she is. She sits high and proud at the wheel of a 7-seater that’s far too big for her, and can’t park to save her life. She bullies her way around roundabouts, waves people away like she’s on the Yellow Brick Road, and insists on driving 6,270 pounds of metal right up to the school gates, wielding cupcakes.

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Circles takes a turbo-charged taxi

The other day, I took a taxi home from work and sat back, pinned to my seat, as the six-lane Sheikh Zayed Road turned into a blur of speed.

And that was just the slip road onto it.

We set off at a pace from the Crown Plaza Hotel, narrowly missing some errant tourists trying to cross the street, then weaved out onto the SZ road, veering into the second-fastest lane in seconds. The Lewis Hamilton in him sees a chance to step on the gas and he isn’t going to let rush-hour traffic get in our way.

“Slow down!” I want to exclaim, but don’t, instead asking him to turn the AC up. He fiddles around with an air vent in the back and I thank him, willing him to turn his eyes back to the road.

“I get us to Arabian Ranches,” he says, “then you show me the way, ok. Umm Suqeim or Hessa?” he asks. I pick the slower way, thinking it might help him keep his side of the bargain. He nods and starts chatting about bridges, in taxi-driver English.

This brilliant drawing is by the urban sketcher Omar Jaramillo Traverso. You can visit his blog here and see more of his work here
This brilliant drawing is by the urban sketcher Omar Jaramillo Traverso. You can visit his blog here and see more of his work here

I immediately know this isn’t going to be one of those journeys where you sit in silence, listening to the prayer beads jangle and the bleeper go off as the taxi accelerates through the speed limit (120kph).

“Where you from?” he enquires. “You make this journey every day?”, “How long in Dubai?”, “You have husband?”, “Children?”, “Ah, I’m only 24, I have time!”, “How old are you?” he asks, lurching us forwards as he hits the brakes to avoid the car we’re tailing too closely.

“25,” I joke – and he pretends to believe me (oh, how I warm to him, despite knowing he’s peering at me in his rearview mirror far longer than is safe).

I find out he’s from Pakistan (you’ll never meet an Emirati cabbie; most are from India, Afghanistan or Pakistan), and has been careering round Dubai’s roads for two years.

Then, all of a sudden, we’re the ones being tailgated. A Landcruiser with tinted windows is on our bumper, flashing its lights furiously. We move aside, and the road hog roars right up to the next car (flash-flash), then the next (more aggressive flashing).

“So rude,” we both agree, back in the fast lane by now. “You know why? It’s because they drink the camel’s milk!” he tells me, with an air of authority (goodness knows what they’re taught at taxi school).

Though it’s a friendly chat, I’m glad we’re nearing the end of our journey and fully expect to go flying over the speed bumps on our final approach to the Arabian Ranches retail centre (most drivers do, as the humps are not steep and there are no children playing).

When, wouldn’t you know, he takes each bump (and there must be at least 10 of them), as though we’re picking our way up a mountain in a 20-tonne truck with a burst tyre, nearly causing a pile-up of commuters behind us – their final stretch of road home now a slow limp to the finish line.

I consider it, then think better of encouraging him, because telling a Dubai taxi driver to go faster is probably something you should never say. Ever. If you want to arrive without finding your eyebrows have disappeared into your hairline.

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Silent Sunday: The Dubai driving school

There’s something wrong with this picture. Can you spot what it is? The clue is it’s one of those ‘Only in Dubai’ moments. I’ll post the answer in a comment tomorrow.

Dubai driving school car