Pakistanis, the ‘ustad’ mechanic isn’t always right!

Published: April 16, 2014

Just because someone else’s car is 'running fine' with those changes, doesn’t mean yours will too. DESIGN: JAMAL KHURSHID

We, as a nation, have one trait that dominates our behaviour in almost every walk of life and that is to follow the crowd. We’d rather do what everyone else is doing instead of using our common sense, even if the majority is wrong. In local terms, we call this trait bhair chaal (follow the crowd).

Unfortunately, we do the same when it comes to dealing with cars.

Our decisions are almost always hijacked by the opinions of other people; people who have little or no information about cars and yet, they do not refrain from commenting on what they don’t know. And this is often done with utmost confidence.

The one thing that is accorded the least importance is the instructions manual provided by the company that built the machine being discussed. We would rather listen to our relatives or friends who have little or no knowledge about the workings of the vehicle than give heed to what the manufacturing company has to say about using and maintaining the car.

Here are some of the behaviours that usually lead to bad car maintenance in Pakistan.

1. The genuine-parts syndrome

When you ask someone why they haven’t changed particular parts of their car as per the maintenance schedule, a very common reply is that it would be a mistake to do so since the car is currently running on ‘genuine parts’.

The idea that these ‘original parts’ might wear off eventually doesn’t seem to cross their minds. Furthermore, the manufacturer’s opinion, given in the car’s manual, is conveniently deemed wrong. After all, what would the manufacturer know about the car they built? Let’s just rely on our friends and cousins because they know so much more about the machine.

2. But it’s absolutely fine!

Try convincing someone that things like the fuel filter, transmission oil and the like need to be replaced after a certain time period and this is the reply you are likely to get.

Their theory is that unless you hear rattling sounds from some component in the car or the vehicle faces a complete breakdown, any change of parts is fazool kharchi (extravagance).

3. Would this increase the re-sale value of the car?

A car is a commodity which in most parts of the world depreciates in value. But in Pakistan, a car is considered an investment and any expenses incurred on it have to reap some rewards.

So if you advise someone to make some necessary expenditure on their car’s maintenance, be ready to justify how this would be beneficial for them when they decide to sell it off and what returns they will get on this ‘investment’.

4. Everyone else does it

If you try to advise someone that the changes they are making to their vehicle are detrimental to its performance, their reply will probably be,

“You know nothing about cars and the changes being made are done by everyone, so it’s perfectly fine.”

What they don’t understand is that just because someone else’s car is ‘running fine’ with those changes, doesn’t mean yours will too. The idea that different cars have different specifications seems to be beyond many Pakistani car owners.

5. My mechanic ustad (coach) suggested it

Even if some agree that what is being done with the vehicle might not be correct, only a few will raise questions about it. Why? Because the ustad ji, who has been working at the mechanic’s workshop for the last three decades, knows best.

The fact that the vehicles on which he learned his primitive practices have ceased to exist is almost always ignored. Hence, many do or say nothing while their cars undergo the most tyrannous zulm (cruelty) at the hands of these old-school mechanics whose methods are far too ancient for machines that have a completely different technology and performance capacity.

6. It looks sporty

Many of these detrimental changes are usually done to make the car look more like a sports car. Changes such as using cheap and heavy rims, extra wide tires, multi-coloured lights and alterations to the engine’s acceleration are done for cosmetic reasons under the argument,

Gari sporty lagay gi.

(The car will look sporty)

However, as attractive as these changes might make the car ‘look’, an underpowered vehicle running on alternate fuel will hardly be able to pull its own weight with these add-ons, let alone speed like a sports car.

7. Kuch nahin hota (It doesn’t matter)

This reply is usually common with people who are fond of Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs). As long as the car is running, they think there is nothing to worry about even if there are serious maintenance issues with it like a completely worn-off tire with clearly visible, swollen sidewalls.

Even if you urge the owner to take heed, he will remain least bothered because he has some kind of blind faith which assures him that no matter how serious a fault is, as long as he is successfully driving the car from point A to point B, everything is fine… kuch nain hota

8. Buying spare parts from a jannay walay (someone they know)

Our vehicle markets are flooded with fake and stolen car parts and whenever someone is advised to buy parts from an authorised dealer instead of the shop around the corner, the argument given is that the shopkeeper is their jannay wala.

If they really were so honest and trustworthy, would they be selling fake parts in the first place?

Trusting dishonest people is not a very smart thing to do, is it?

9. Maybe if I ignore it long enough, it’ll go away

Due to insane amounts of money charged by authorised dealers for even the simplest of jobs, many people avoid taking their cars to get serviced there. Just hearing the estimated cost of a minor, routine check-up scares many people and they turn a blind eye to the maintenance or repairs needed, even if they run the risk of facing a breakdown.

The trust deficit on regular mechanics also adds to this dilemma and the result is badly-maintained cars. What people need to understand is that even though the cost seems high, it is usually a one-time expense after which the car not only runs smoothly, the servicing actually prolongs its life.

10. Susti (laziness)

Lastly, just like everything else, we have a nagging habit of delaying things till the last second and being lazy in taking care of our vehicles. Just to avoid the hassle of getting better spare parts, doing a bit more research for the best parts available or just delaying maintenance for no apparent reason, we put our cars at risks.

All these aspects are integral to the Pakistani car owner and ‘Mast mahol te mitthay chawal’ (just take it easy) is perhaps the motto our people live by.

Contrary to what most people think, a well-maintained car keeps costs down in the long-run and gives a better driving experience.

So, don’t be lazy and get your car serviced regularly!

Bilal Ahmad.

Bilal Ahmad.

An automobile enthusiast with a keen observation, a seasoned telecom professional and a patriot. He loves to travel, read, write and work on his car.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Omair Shahid

    i agree with all the things you have said above about the car maintenance however this behaviour is done by not only by pakistani but other do it too i have seen in alot of other country also like india,china,usa ETC.Recommend

  • Addu

    There are useless articles and then there is this piece of journalism. It would be difficult to come up with a worst piece. Seriously ET, stop printing every bit of garbage you get your hands on.Recommend

  • Uzair

    I haven’t witnessed all of those points but quite a few are common. But thats mostly because of lack knowledge(I myself know a lot of people who wanted to keep their cars properly maintained but had know good source of knowledge). But yes this occurs with people with generally irresponsible personalities(which sadly, probably forms as much as half of the population)Recommend

  • Muhammad Ishfaq

    Yup I agree…. and it’s really nice to see a practical, useful blog here in E.T. Whatever you said is true but there is another problem; no matter how best we maintain them, the locally manufactured/assembled cars are much below international standards and the authorized dealers are blood suckers. We need more competition in the market and better educated mechanics in the workshops.Recommend

  • Daniyal

    I respect your views but you know, ustad and chhota are aware of the environment in which we are operating our cars. they have dealt with thousands of cars and since the thing always about risk and return, we prefer going to ustaads and jaanne Salas because they are far more cheap than any authorised dealer. Recommend

  • Pappu

    You forgot that Pakistanis consider their cars equal to their wives.Recommend

  • Abdul Hayee

    but one thing, you must kept in mind the buying power of our nationals is not well enough to do all this ,,,,,,,, its just be difficult to compare with developed/ high GDP/ high per capita income countries….Recommend

  • Ghostrider

    This is all so true, I was one of those who took Ustad mechanic’s advice seriously until he messed up my car and i had to change my auto transmissionRecommend

  • Ghostrider

    This is all so true, I was one of those who took Ustad mechanic’s advice seriously until he messed up my car and i had to change my auto transmissionRecommend

  • Bilal Ahmad

    The actual heading was “Pakistani behavior towards car maintenance”, the current one given by the editor does not describe the write up properly.Recommend

  • Razi Ul Haq

    I read the same article on a few months back. Are you the same guy or should i report this material as plagiarisedRecommend

  • Parvez

    There are certain things one learns from one’s father…….and looking after the car was one of the things I learnt from mine. All your advice is spot on……my mechanic ( Shahjee ) understands me and is a brilliant mechanic, plus he serves the best dood pati chai ( in the smallest of cups ) that I’ve had.Recommend

  • Amer

    I don’t know a single Pakistani who thinks that way and haven’t even heard of anyone who does! Recommend

  • Dante

    You are a Pakistani too.Recommend

  • Necromancer

    Genuine Parts are better than what is sold in Pakistani markets, and plus every country has there own set of rules and followingsRecommend

  • Inam

    Pakistani behavior towards the cars is just nothing until you see how the Nigerians treat their cars. The worst thing I observed with Nigerian ppl is the use of their expensive and lavish cars as “khotas”.Recommend

  • sane

    I know at least one ‘Car-Sick-Love’ person. When he returns from his work, before he enters home; first he cleans his car. And he loves his car more than his family as when any of his minor children gets near the car, he scolds like anything. He maintains a protocol for his family to be on broad, mostly of those are humiliating.Recommend

  • Bilal Ahmad

    You can verify the name of the author there also dear :-)Recommend

  • Anonymous

    Yeah so lets just revert to riding horses like our ancestors until we, as a nation, are at par with the safety standards of the developed/high GDP/high per capita income countries. Mandatory air bags anyone? You see, safety was never an issue with horse riding, save for the occasional careless stand behind the ‘silencer’ of the aforementioned means of transport. I believe they did get a kick out of it though! Seriously, if getting from point A to B in whatever way is the whole point, then horses are a good environmental friendly option.Recommend

  • nishantsirohi123

    not every article can be abt india bashing, some will portray problems in pakistanRecommend