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Shifty gears

Two days ago I was driving my Alto at 80 kph, when suddenly the gear knob, which was in fifth gear, shifted to neutral on its own.

india Updated: Aug 28, 2009 11:32 IST
Grease Monkey

Q Two days ago I was driving my Alto at 80 kph, when suddenly the gear knob, which was in fifth gear, shifted to neutral on its own. Does this indicate a problem with the clutch plate? This hasn’t happened again. Please help me.
Nadeem Rehman

Don’t worry — the Alto’s gearshift isn’t the smoothest in the business, and you might not have engaged fifth properly, which made it slip back to neutral.
We experience this sometimes on bikes as well, either in first or second gear (because neutral is usually in between the two). If this becomes a frequent occurrence, however, do take your Alto to the nearest Maruti service station.

Q I have an Opel Astra (1996 model) in perfect condition. My son wants to spruce up the engine to deliver more power despite its age. A dekko was done a year ago. Can you suggest a garage which deals with car enthusiasts and with whom I could discuss this. I am about to install K&N filter also.
V Srikrishnan

Methods Automotive is the official distributor of K&N Air Filters in India. Their corporate office, which is in Bangalore, can be reached at 080-22217879. Their Mumbai dealer is Four Seasons Automobiles (022-24940444). Visit for more information.

There are a number of shops that are capable of modifying the Astra, but I wouldn’t recommend it due to the scarcity and high cost of spares for this particular car — more performance means more stress and wear on the components, leading to shorter life and possibly, breakdowns.

If you insist on going ahead with the engine modifications, you can start with KS Motorsport (; Email id:; mobile no: 9833666333), who have a dynamometer to help fine-tune their modifications.

Q What are turbos in diesel engines? How do they work? How can one find out if they are working, and at what rpm do they begin to work?
Manisha Rachh

Turbochargers in diesel engines work the same way as they do in petrol ones — they push more air into the engine to make more power from the same displacement. A turbocharger generally starts providing usable boost pressure at a particular engine speed — for example, the old Tata Indica’s turbo provides that thrust at 1,800 rpm, as does the VW Passat.

If you want an approximate idea of when the turbo is making usable torque, you can stick the car in second or third gear on an open, flat stretch of road at near-idle rpm and floor the throttle. There will be a sudden increase in pulling power at a particular speed. That will be the turbo getting into action.