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Crank up your car quotient

It might be a high upkeep, but car ranks only second to a home as far as life’s most important investments are concerned, writes Sanjeev Sinha.

business Updated: Mar 22, 2008 00:11 IST
Sanjeev Sinha
Sanjeev Sinha
Hindustan Times

It may be high maintenance, but a car ranks only second to a home as far as life’s most important investments are concerned. So what do you do to get the ideal 200,000 miles plus out of your beloved car while keeping the running and repair costs to the minimum? Just follow the owner's manual as far as possible and also pay heed to some useful tips:

Start right and drive cautiously

Apart from choosing a model with a reputation for quality, the best thing you can do for a car's longevity is to start it up properly and drive it conservatively—easy on the accelerator and brakes. Jackrabbit starts and hard braking do more than wear the obvious parts more quickly. “This is why buying a used sporty car can be riskier than usual. Cars like this are likely to have been flogged more than the average family sedan,” says Joe Wiesenfelder, global automotive expert and senior editor,

Avoid riding the clutch

The clutch of a vehicle is always regarded as its backbone because almost every action performed—upshifting, downshifting, stopping or starting—requires its use. Therefore, holding in the clutch for extended periods or touching the clutch pedal unnecessarily may weaken clutch springs and also wear it prematurely. Getting a new one may normally cost Rs 1,500 to Rs 40,000, depending on the car you drive.

Don’t ride on the tyres

There’s more riding on the tyres of your vehicle than you thought. “Be very careful about your tyre pressures and have them balanced every 5,000 kms or so,” says automotive expert Murad Ali Baig. The best way to get the most out of your tyres is by having them rotated and balanced on a regular basis. This will ensure that they wear evenly and last as long as possible. Under-inflated tyres also increase fuel consumption by 5 to 10 per cent, besides affecting stability during drive, while excessive air pressure results in faster wear of treads. This results in you having to shell out Rs 1,000-Rs 5,000 for a new tyre, with the amount going into lakhs for high-end cars.

Drive your car regularly

If you are one of those who prefer to keep their vehicles in the garage, be prepared to shell out more on repair jobs, because not driving your car regularly can be as damaging as driving it too hard and recklessly. It may weaken the battery of your car and also lead the brake rotor to rust, which will need to be replaced immediately. A new battery will cost at least Rs 2,500 to Rs 5,500, depending on the type of car you have.

Take heed of warning lights

It might seem that your car is running fine, but you could be heading towards serious damage if you don't pay heed to brake fluid level warning light, oil pressure light and charging light on your dashboard. These lights come on when you turn on the ignition and fade away after a few seconds of engine operation. You should sense a problem if either a light doesn't come on during ignition or doesn't fade away even when the engine is started. “Of all warning lights, the oil pressure light indicates the greatest potential for serious mechanical damage. It also allows you the shortest time in which to take appropriate action,” warns France-based automotive expert Tom Ripley. Ignoring this problem can affect the vehicle’s fuel economy and driveability.

Personal signals

Sometimes your car gives personal signals, which can be deciphered by the user. Unexplained shudders in braking, for instance, indicate problems in suspension or linkages. Likewise, if something sounds wrong, something probably is wrong.

Regular maintenance

Regular maintenance, particularly changing the engine oil tops the list. Oil and air filters prevent dirt and harmful particles from damaging the engine and should be changed at least twice a year or every 3,000-5,000 kms. The engine should maintain the amount of oil it is programmed to receive. Negligence will lead to a deteriorating engine performance, resulting in falling mileage.