Be careful and do not fall for their pitches when you go for routine servicing
With urban real estate costs high, and showing no signs of declining, car sales flattening out and utilisation going down, one of the only remaining income streams for service dealers is a variety of scams foisted on you—if you are not careful about reading the fine print when your vehicle goes for routine servicing or maintenance. Here are some of these:
• Nitrogen in tyres has to be the biggest scam going. With normal driving, or even fast driving, there is no real benefit on existing standard tyres fitted on standard rims. Only if you are headed out to a race track will it make sense to pay thousands of rupees for what they claim is nitrogen gas.
• Alignment and wheel balancing, ideally done once every 15,000-20,000km, unless there is sign of heavy wear & tear on tyres, for which again there can be multiple other causes. Every which way, if you end up paying more than Rs500 to align and balance all four tyres, then you are paying too much.
• Clutch overhauling scam. Clutch does not need overhauling if it goes slightly ‘hard’. Clutch needs overhauling if your engine starts ‘slipping’, i.e., when you press down hard, the engine roars ahead, while the car follows not so quickly.
• Steam cleaning of air-conditioner ducts. This one takes the cake. All they do is take your car, turn your temperature controls at hottest, run fan at highest for five minutes, and then let the car cool down for half-an-hour.
Don’t fall for these scams. I have written multiple pieces on how to take care of your car before, and after, the rains. If you follow them, hopefully, you will be fine.
Car Pooling Urgently Needed
About 30-40 years ago, when the total production of motor-cars in India was around 70,000-100,000 per annum, the Motor Vehicles Act and amendments, as they stood then, had a very interesting provision for optimal utilisation of existing roads and vehicles. You could, on the payment of a moderate and reasonable fee, convert your private car into a commercial taxi for a few months, and then, after paying the required insurance top-up fees, be street legal as a taxi too.
This way, in peak seasons, private cars otherwise lying around unused could, and often were, used as legitimate private taxies. As long as they satisfied the basic criteria on fitness and permits required, regardless of age, you could wrap an additional registration plate over the existing one and earn some money as well as keep an asset from blocking expensive public real estate. What ails most Indian cities nowadays is the large number of private cars lying underused—often not used at all, for whatever reason. On the other hand, with parking rates and drivers’ salaries going up, in some cities, there appears to be a shortage of good quality cabs. There is an obvious fit here. Which will also be an income-earning opportunity to those who have bought cars but don’t use them all the time.
Second-hand Car: More Insights
A friend of mine bought a used car recently from another friend of his. The car was in good shape and condition, about five years old, but had been lying abandoned and unused for the past three years or so. During this period, the car's insurance had lapsed; apart from that, it needed some minor repairs, and cleaning. Two issues that he came to me for advice were:
• Weird smell emerging from the air-conditioner. He had tried to use some fragrances but they didn’t appear to work. A quick servicing of the AC by a specialist fixed that, but what came out of the ducts was like a mini decayed forest, certainly unhealthy. And that is a point to remember if cars have not been used for a while.
• Synchronising the expired insurance for the purchased car while taking benefit of existing ‘no claim bonus’ for the old car he sold as scrap and re-registering it. To do that, he had to first take insurance in the previous owner’s name, then place the documents for re-registration and, simultaneously, transfer the previous ‘no claim bonus’ to the newer car. Bit of a hop-step-jump that, but that’s how it is.
Parking cars on roads comes naturally to many of us, in India. One can understand if the urge to double-park, as it is called in other countries when you pull over and stop on a road for whatever reason, overtakes us when we are on the move. But, to assume that it is a birthright to double-park even for overnight parking on roads which have multiple forms of traffic—from pedestrian to cycles to motor vehicles—on a regular basis, needs to be figured out.
Overnight parking has become a major issue in Delhi, the more ‘posh’ the locality, the more acute the parking ‘problems’. With what were single-unit houses becoming four- to eight-family habitats, over the past few decades, along with basements doubling up as offices and additional ‘servant's quarters’ coming up on the terraces, it is not unusual to see 12-16 cars, and an equal number of two-wheelers, adorn the road space outside a 300-400-square metre plot.
It gets even worse where there are smaller plots and in smaller cities. Likewise, in markets and bazaars all over India and not just Delhi. As a result, roads and pavements outside homes and offices are like war-zones, protected by man and machine and video cameras at a level not seen on the LoC (line of control) or international border between India and Pakistan.
In some parts of Delhi, the problems are so severe now that, after about 10pm or so, people just park anyhow anywhere, blocking the option of not just emergency vehicles accessing the streets, but pretty much all movement. Traffic jams inside inner ‘colony’ roads become gridlocks and parking rage is replacing road rage. It gets difficult to write about new cars and bikes when there is a parking war going on outside at 6:30 on a cold winter morning!
While looking out of the window from where I live and work, the most common sight is that of motor-cars trying their level best to squeeze into tight parking slots by any means possible. Often, this means huge usage of power-steering, and change of locomotion from forward to reverse gears, multiple times. All this provides continuous recreation to the vast variety of idlers who collect when such drama is going on. Power-steering has made multiple movements easier; but, at one time, many of us born to non-assisted steering, would take great pride in being able to slot a car into a parking bay in one smart move, regardless. (But not many people now even remember pre-power-steering cars!) There are many online websites that teach you how to reverse into tight parking spots. Take a look at them. It will save you a lot of tyre and steering system wear & tear, to start with. Plus all those idle loafers will not laugh at you.
(Veeresh Malik started and sold a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing. He is also involved in helping small and midsize family-run businesses re-invent themselves.