It seems that the unwritten rule among vulcanizers is that any car driven into their workshop or makeshift tent must have its tyres inflated, no matter the level of pressure in the tyres! In this way, the owner of the vehicle is made to cough out some money.
The experiences of many motorists in show that most vulcanizers give different readings of tyre pressure.
For example, after the first vulcanizer has said that your tyre is over- inflated, another one reads it as under-inflated. Then a third vulcanizer will commend your decision to check the tyre pressure as any further delay could have been suicidal.
“What some of these guys do is that they don’t even read the pressure at all. They fix the gauge and, in a twinkle of an eye, they shout, ‘No air.’
“The truth is that the pressure may be okay. But, they feel that admitting it may deny them the opportunity to make extra money. So they will tell you that there is no air.
“They pretend to inflate the pressure and turn around to reduce it and collect money from you,” Mr. Okoli Udeh, who operates a commercial vehicle in the city, says.
Experts have warned motorists not to inflate their tyres beyond 40psi or 280kpa. As if to buttress this, the report posted on tyresafe.org says, “Don’t inflate your tyres above 40 psi or 280 kpa. By keeping them at their optimum pressure, your running costs are also reduced. Under-inflated tyres require a bigger force to make them turn, so your car uses more fuel. Additionally, tyres that are not set to their correct pressure wear out more quickly.”
Beyond safety, some motorists cut fuel costs by maintaining accurate tyre pressures.
The Federal Road Safety Commission recommends a complete tyre change after two years, but the life span becomes shorter with inappropriate tyre pressure.
Most vulcanisers in Abuja are accused of using faulty or low-grade gauges to read tyre pressures. Some of them deliberately empty the air in the tyre, even when they know that the reading is accurate, only to inflate it again. The owner of the vehicle is promptly billed!
“The faulty gauges they use can only fetch one result: wrong reading. That is why vulcanisers keep telling you different stories.
“It looks like a deliberate ploy to get money out of motorists at any cost,” another resident, Musa Liman, argues.
Investigation shows that many of the vulcanisers lack the basic knowledge of some factors that may account for changes in tyre pressure.
For instance, experts say that the best time to read tyre pressure is in the morning or before the vehicle is used. This is because tyre pressure tends to increase on its own in hot weather or after gliding on hot surfaces for a long time.
But, many vulcanisers lack this basic knowledge. Thus, by lying that your tyre is under-inflated, though it already contains too much air, they endanger your life.
Stressing this point further, Tyresafe.org notes, “Recommended tyre inflation pressures are always for cold tyres, which means you should check the tyres in the morning before the vehicle has been driven.
“Driving heats up the tyres and causes the air inside to expand. If you check the tyres right after driving, therefore, the readings will be at least several pounds higher than normal.
“Hot weather raises air pressure inside the tyres, while cold weather lowers it. So air may have to be added or vented from the tyres to compensate for seasonal variations as well.”
A vulcaniser named Sulieman Salihu blames the gauge used by most of his colleagues to read pressure for the problem.
He notes that when a gauge reads incorrectly, a vulcaniser either adds air or reduces it.
Salihu says, “There are times when it is obvious to everyone that a tyre needs air; you don’t necessarily have to read it because it is obvious. The tyre is without air, you can even feel it with your hands. The driver himself drove the car to your shop after detecting that the air is low. What do you do? I believe that it is not everybody that wants to cheat.”
To inflate a single tyre costs N50 in the city; an average of N200 for four tyres, if you have to inflate all.
The driver spends about the same amount again if the next vulcaniser comes up with a different pressure reading – a hole in the pocket for some people, considering that pressure checks are recommended every week.
As originally written by John Ameh, Abuja.