Car Maintenance in Uganda

Car Repair in Kampala

Let’s start with the good news: almost all of the trained mechanics in Uganda are living and working in Kampala. And then the bad news: The vast majority of mechanics in Kampala aren’t properly trained. They’ve learned by trial and a lot of error. And it’s likely in your quest for a knowledgeable mechanic, you will too. It’s hard enough in the western world to find a good mechanic that you can trust and in Uganda it’s no different.

Owning a car here it’s useful to read up on basic car maintenance yourself. The more you can narrow the problem down, the easier, and cheaper it will be. Being able to inform the mechanic on the basics of the issue, “The car is misfiring” or “When I hit the break peddle, I feel a pulsing”, is essential. Simply dropping off a car and asking them to “fix whatever the problem is” can lead to more damage than good or a bill that stretches into the millions of shillings.

When it comes to finding a good mechanic, it’s best to go on the word of mouth from people who own vehicles similar to yours. However, remember that your mechanic wants your repeat business, so some tend to fix one problem while creating another. If you keep having different problems in short intervals, it might be time for you to switch workshops.

If money isn’t an issue for you, it will be easiest to take your car to the big importers. When you drop your car at the official Toyota workshop, you can be pretty sure that you’ll get official Toyota parts fitted into your car by trained Toyota mechanics. Just note that this doesn’t come cheap. So if, for instance, you only have a leaking exhaust that needs a small weld, you can take care of that pretty much anywhere around town. If you need a pair of new mirrors, or a radio, and don’t have moral issues by buying second hand – read: stolen – goods, Kiseka market is the place to go. Note that most mechanics will get their parts there anyways, unless you explicitly pay them to go elsewhere.

Car Repair in Kampala

To ensure your mechanic gets you original parts, make sure you ask to see them before and after he puts them in. Similar to buying clothes, a second hand Toyota part will likely last much longer than a new Taiwanese one. Some mechanics have zero qualms charging you for original part whether they use an authentic one or not. Because of this, it’s better to bluff and pretend you know a lot about cars, rather than sailing blindly on your mechanics opinion.

If your car has a serious problem, e.g. something with the camshaft or transmission, it’s a good idea to ask around for a specialist on the matter. There are plenty of workshops in town who’ve invested in just one machine, so they’ll focus in fixing specific parts of your engine.

With all the dust, potholes, traffic, and rain here, your car uses a lot more vital fluids than a car in a Western country. Because of this it needs a lot more servicing. Luckily, most major petrol stations have a proper service bay with a bridge and they can take care of your car while you wait. If you need your wheels aligned (and you will need that at least yearly here), City Tires has a bunch of branches around town and they have modern, computerized equipment to get your vehicle on track.

If you break down outside of Kampala, where the mechanic density is much lower, it is advisable to call your mechanic back in Kampala. They will either come to you (if you pay their transport fees) or recommend a good mechanic in the area where you are. The longer people live in Kampala the bigger their mechanic network becomes.

If you are stuck in a smaller town with very few cars, you can’t blame the local mechanic for not being able to fix a big complicated three liter Turbo Diesel engine. Regardless of this ability, they will likely try to garner your service. Do this at your own risk, I’ve seen it end well, and I’ve also seen it end in disaster. If nothing else, ask around with safari companies to find out where their cars are serviced outside Kampala. This could lend you some decent leads.

Even if you have very little knowledge of car maintenance, if you travel to a rural areas it’s a good idea to assemble a basic toolkit and take a few spare parts with you. The toolkit should at least contain the most regular spanners, hammer, screwdrivers and pliers. In some cases, the only spare parts you need are the ones that can take you to the next town. So bring a jack, spare tire, a few belts, a couple of spare break pads, and a variety of bolts and screws. And as anyone who has watched MacGyver knows, some string, duct tape, a knife, and some bottles will fix nearly everything.

About Lizabeth Paulat

Hi, I’m Lizabeth, a freelance writer whose been stomping around Kampala for the better part of two years. I came here while pursuing a story and decided never to leave. I’m originally from Seattle and have found refuge in both the sun and the culture of Kampalans (plus I still get the rain when I’m feeling homesick).I’m always trying to unearth new and interesting stories about Kampala’s culture and development and am so exited to have an amazing platform to explore the city with. I hope to bring a bit of know-how and a bit of fun to Living in Kampala. Feel free to contact me any time at