Crime is a reality in South Africa and daily we read about new ways criminals employ to get you to stop next to the road in urban areas. These includes rocks being thrown from bridges, spikes strewn across the road causing punctures, to mention a few strategies.
Being stuck next to the side of the road is a reality and a scary one at that…getting a flat on the road is not a fun experience and with the condition of our roads this real possibility. You’ll instantly realise you have a flat because the vehicle will start to sag and weave about on the road. When this happens stay calm and reduce your speed, switch on your hazard lights and pull over to the side of the road (only if your in a safe and controlled area, of course!). If that is not the case, simply reduce your speed and continue for as long as you can, but don’t stop your vehicle if its not safe to do so. Yes driving on a flat or with damage might be bad for your vehicle, but remember you can replace or repair a vehicle – your life is another matter.
I would also recommend that, if you can, divert your course away from a dangerous and unstable areas. Do your research before travelling and find out if there are better alternatives.
But what if it happens out in the bundus? Equally scary, indeed – in this case you are left to the mercy of Mother Nature which brings yet another set of challenges and notes to remember. If you’re an aspiring overlander you need to be prepared that you could be standing beside the road for longer than you want to. This might be due to a flat tyre or even a mechanical issue. Being stranded in deepest, darkest Africa in the middle of nowhere, may seem like a scary prospect, but there things you can do to ease this experience.
If you decide to go to more remote places I would recommend you upgrade your tyres. Get a good all- terrain with a nice and sturdy side wall since the standard factory-fitted tyres rarely perform well on rural roads. Another thing you can invest in to ensure a more convenient break down is a proper jack. On unequal terrain a normal bottle- or scissor jack simply wont cut it and a standard high lift jack it is just a bit more versatile.
Always ensure you have water and food in your vehicle since help or other cars are often few and far between in the remote parts of Southern Africa, for example the Makgadikgadi pans. Additionally, invest in the correct tools and recovery gear and, if possible, travel with a few extra spare parts suited for your vehicle’s weak points. The worst thing that can happen to a person when having a breakdown is knowing how to fix something, but not being able to, due to lack of tools and/or equipment.
A good starting point is a good set of common house tools and basic recovery gear. I would recommend the Secure Tec 8 tonne kit as it is a good and comprehensive recovery gear kit. Make sure that a person apart from the driver knows where to find this equipment as well as how to use it. Another thing to remember is lights, such as headlamps and torches, because working in absolute darkness is completely impossible.
Prevention is better than cure
The first and most important thing to is to make sure that you have healthy tyres. I suspect that most people will know the difference between a healthy tyre and an unhealthy one, but for those who do not know: measure your tyre tread depth. If its deeper than 1mm, your tyre is still healthy. Always travel with a spare tyre and if your going across border or to more rural areas I recommend you take two spare tyres. For extra prevention and protection take a tyre patch kit and learn how to use it.
Finally, make sure you have a phone that works. This seems like an obvious suggestion, but a lot of people forget that when you go into another country you phone sometimes won’t work because your beyond your service provider’s reach. So make sure at least one phone can roam or make sure you have a sim card for a local service provider.