Saturday, August 14, 2004


At your carís service
Check your car after it has been serviced, suggests H. Kishie Singh

There are a couple of horror stories doing the rounds regarding the quality of service available for cars. One car owner left a garage after a service, drove off and found out the car was driving all wobbly. The wheel nuts had not been tightened. Another story is that after draining the engine oil, no oil had been refilled. The result was a seized engine. I canít imagine how or why this happened because there is a very set procedure for oil change. After lifting the car, opening the drain plug, letting it drain, the mechanic must go and get the new oil, refit the drain plug, remove the dipstick, and then pour the oil. The reason for removing the dipstick is simple. The engine is airtight and air is trapped in the sump. If the air is not allowed to escape, there could be an air lock and all the oil may not get to the sump. The oil pump may not be fully submerged. So there would be no circulation of lubricating oil. Result: seized engine.

To prevent any such happening, it is the car owner who must carry out the final check. When you take delivery of the car, you should check what has been done to your car. Check the dipstick. This will confirm that there is oil in the engine and the correct quantity. A visual check will confirm that the oil filter has been changed. You should have the bill in hand. Go over it with the service engineer and make sure that what you have paid for has been done. In the final analysis, it is you who is responsible for the car.

If a proper and thorough service has been carried out on your car, it is good for 10,000 km. Some people due to old habits, have a service carried out a day or so before setting out on a long journey. This made sense if you drove an Amby or a Fiat, which were prone to break down. Cars of today promise you trouble-free motoring from service to service. In any case after a complete service, a couple of hundred kilometers should be done in the city. As we have seen there can be some problems. Sort them out at home, not on the highway, when you could be short of time and may be have your family with you.

In any case servicing your car should be a very set procedure. Periodical maintenance is preventive maintenance. Followed faithfully, your car should never breakdown on the road.

Here are some helpful points to keep your car roadworthy at all times. A daily check is necessary for fuel. Before getting into the car, walk around it: visually check the tyres. If low, have them attended to first thing while the tyres are cold.

As you reverse out of the garage, flash your headlights, check indicators and brake lights. Confirm everything is in working order.

Depending how much you drive, a look under the bonnet every 10-15 days is a good idea. If your engine is clean, the smallest leak will show up. Look for leaks, frayed or loose wires. See if the radiator cap is tight. Hose pipes and fan belt, drive belts for A.C. coolant, windshield washer fluid, clutch and brake oil and battery are all in see-through containers. So a visual check will suffice. The engine oil can be checked by removing the dipstick. Even if your engine does not consume oil, there could be some loss due to evaporation. If you need to top up the oil level and you are using a synthetic oil, top up with the same brand. It is recommended.

Your tyres are one item that will promise you fuel efficiency. Stick to the recommended inflation. Over-inflated lyres give you poor road grip. Under-inflated lyres give bad fuel consumption plus are prone to wear and tear. Wheel balance is also very important. It enhances tyre life and general handling. It also necessitates removing the wheel off the car. Itís a good time to check the other side of the car tyre. Look for cuts, bruises and nicks. If need be, rotate the tyres. All this takes minutes and it helps to familiarise yourself with the car. Thatís important.

Happy motoring.

This feature was published on August 7, 2004