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    Beware! That Vulcaniser’s Tyre Gauge May Kill You

    Few weeks ago, Ladun Odejobi, a manager at an electronics store at Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos was on an official appointment to Ibafo when she had a punctured tyre along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

    But that day, a stopover in her Pathfinder SUV at a vulcaniser’s spot at Warewa, could have caused her a terrible accident or worse, killed her.

    “All the work on the tyre took less than 50 minutes and I was on my way. I remember that while he was inflating it, I told him to gauge the pressure of the other three tyres to make it the same. He told me all of them were 40 and he made the tyre he worked on 40 too,” she said.

    According to her, she noticed that while she was on her way back from her appointment, any little increase in speed affected the stability of the vehicle.

    She said, “I immediately knew that something was wrong. First of all, my vehicle which used to be a well-balanced SUV, was bobbing here and there.

    “I was not speeding but it was literally bouncing with every increase in speed. I had to reduce my speed to the barest minimum till I was able to reach the service station that I use at Ojodu.”

    Odejobi said she found it hard to believe when she was told that the problem with her vehicle was simply a tyre.

    “When the pressure of my tyres were gauged, I thought the man was joking. While three tyres gauged below 40, you won’t believe that the tyre the man on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway worked on gauged 51!

    “The man then showed me a number on a label on my door jam of the vehicle. It reads 33. He said, ‘Madam, if you travelled a long distance, there is no way you wouldn’t have had accident because the tyre will blow out’. I felt like an illiterate because I never knew about any recommended tyre pressure. The vulcanisers always told me 40 was good and I always trusted that all of them knew what they were doing.”

    A roadside tyre technician popularly called vulcaniser in Nigeria on a long stretch of expressway where there is no hope of popping into a standard mechanic workshop is like an angel, a life-saver for a motorist who has just got tyre trouble. Unfortunately, that same life saver may turn out to be an angel of death.

    The exact extent to which vulcaniser error contributes to Nigeria’s road fatalities may never be known but if the opinion of motorists like Odejobi, along with that of auto and road safety experts holds any water, it may be far much larger than one realises.

    On April 24 this year, six doctors from Ekiti State died when their bus somersaulted 60 kilometres from Kaduna along the Kaduna-Abuja Expressway. The culprit: burst tyre.

    It will be recalled that few weeks earlier, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, James Ocholi, along with his wife and son had died along the same expressway due to the same reason – burst tyre.

    In May, seven students of the Unity College, Karaye, Kano State, died when their vehicle had a burst tyre along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

    Also in February, six students of The Polytechnic, Ibadan, died while 13 others were injured after the bus they were travelling in had a burst tyre and somersaulted many times before hitting the road median along the Ibadan-Oyo Road.

    All these are recent painful tragic accidents caused by the same reasons. One can only wonder how many other accidents in the past were caused by burst tyres.

    Even in October 2015, former President Olusegun Obasanjo escaped death when his vehicle had a burst tyre after the Sagamu interchange along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. A statement from him at the time had said that his vehicle suffered a left rear tyre burst which caused his vehicle to swerve a number of times till it did a 180 degree turn towards where it was coming from.

    According to the Federal Road Safety Corps, one in 12 road accidents in 2015 was caused by burst tyre.

    The corps had indicated that out of 9,000 road crashes recorded that year, 772 were caused by burst tyres.

    But how many of these may be connected to roadside mechanics?

    This question finds answers in the experiences of motorists who gave accounts of their experiences in the hands of roadside vulcanisers.

    Forty-seven-year old Victor Afariogun, told Saturday PUNCH that since the last 20 years he had been driving consistently, he had only had a tyre blow out once, which was long ago until Friday, June 3, when his tyre burst on his way back from a journey to Badagry.

    Narrating the incident, Afariogun, who was driving his Toyota Camry during the accident, said, “I was approaching Agbara when I heard the sound. I knew immediately that I had lost a tyre. I was lucky that I was not speeding at the time, but my vehicle still sustained some damage to the fender because I brushed a disused truck on the side of the road while trying to control my car.”

    Afariogun, said his tyres were not worn enough to cause the blow out but concluded that a sharp object might have torn the tyre on the road because he had no other explanation.

    He said, “I changed the tyre to my extra on the side of the road that day and when I got home, I bought a new one which I took to my usual vulcaniser to fix.

    “But few days ago, I just decided to do a routine check on the tyres when I visited a friend who owns a workshop at Ikeja. He checked all four tyres and told me all of them were almost 50. I just did not understand why. He reduced all of them to the prescribed 40 PSI.

    “What I did was to take the car to my former vulcaniser. I wanted to see whether he was the one mistakenly overinflating my tyres and might have caused the tyre blow out I had.

    “When he checked the tyres, he told me they were all below 35. I just laughed. I told him that the device he used to gauge was very bad because he was getting the wrong reading. No wonder he always over- inflated my tyres. He could have killed me.”

    Many Nigerians may not know how much a little device called the pencil tyre gauge used by most roadside vulcanisers is putting their lives at risk, experts have said.

    In fact, the danger it constitutes is viewed so seriously that the Chief Operating Officer of Automedics Limited, Lagos, Mr. Gbola Oba, told Saturday PUNCH that there is an urgent need for the government to ban the use of the device.

    One motorist told our correspondent about his experience in the hand of his vulcaniser, one who “boasted that he had been using that little device to gauge tyres before I was born.” He said even though he had never experienced a tyre blow out, he realised that his tyres wear out unusually often.

    “I noticed last year that my tyres always developed contours more often than usual and I had to change my tyres each time. The day I changed my vulcaniser was the day the problem stopped.

    “The vulcaniser I patronise now, who uses a modern pressure gauge, told me that it is very likely that the previous man was overinflating my tyres.”

    Dangers of unreliable equipment

    According to Oba, the pencil gauge is susceptible to the element.

    He said its reliability as opposed to that of a modern gauge (digital or dial) is like comparing analogue watches of the old days to the digital clocks of today.

    Oba said, “In a cold weather, the device contracts, when the weather is hot, it expands. Unfortunately, we are in the society where anything goes. It should no longer be in use at all.

    “Vulcanisers use it because it is not reliable and they have perfected the art of cheating in the trade. Instead of a vulcaniser to gauge your tyre and say you don’t need to inflate it, he would falsely pump it to get your money. There is falsehood across the trade.”

    But it seems some motorists are finding a way to compensate for the unskilled vulcanisers work for the purpose of safety.

    A motorist, who gave his name simply as Lamexx shared an account of his experience with over-inflation of his vehicle tyres. He explained that even though the recommended pressure for his SUV is 32 psi, vulcanisers pump his tyres to between 50 –60 psi even when he tells them 32 psi.

    He said, “They say the tyres need to have more pressure because of the potholes on our roads. I simply reduce the pressure with the aid of my digital tyre pressure gauge to 32 psi, moreover the car has a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System that monitors the pressure in each tyre.

    “Since I monitor my tyre pressure through the onboard screen of the car, I have noticed a trend. On short distances, each of my tyres usually gains 1 – 2 psi and so it increases from 32 psi to 34psi but on long journey and at full speed, the tyres usually gain between 4 – 5 psi so it increases from 32psi to 37 or 39psi. This happens irrespective of whether the weather is hot or cold.

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