Saturday, January 20, 2007

good motoring
Stick to safety
H. Kishie Singh

The arrow indicates the unequal markings on the dipsticks
The arrow indicates the unequal markings on the dipsticks

The instrument panel on your car gives you a lot of information about your carís functioning. There is a speedometer, odo-meter, a tachometer and lots of red, green and amber lights that give you important information. However, in spite of the various sensors, the most important part of the carís engine has been ignored: the engine oil.

There is only one way to check the engine oil level, open the bonnet, remove the dipstick and see the level of oil in the sump. This is best done in the morning when most of the oil has drained into the sump. The dipstick has two marks, which show full and low. Low means danger, add oil to the engine. Dipstick is one of the most important instruments to monitor your carís health.

The other day I was in an auto-spare shop and someone was buying a dipstick. A very strange request, for how can one lose the original? Without the dipstick in place, engine oil could be pumped out and in a long drive most of the engine oil could be lost. This could lead to a seized engine.

Anyway, the man asked for another dipstick as his had been bent. The shopkeeper brought out another dipstick and, to my horror, the mark showing the full level was placed at a different point from the original. This wrong measurement could damage the engine.

Obviously, the dipstick had been made locally ó Desi-make, as such items are caleed ó and it could kill the engine. The moral of this story is, the dipstick should be original. Manufacturers must look into installing a sensor to monitor engine oil level at all times. Yes, a red light comes on the dashboard to show low oil level but that may be too late. The new cars show outside temperature, cabin temperature, tyre pressure and more. These are irrelevant to the health of your engine. You still have to check engine oil manually, the good old way. And while you have the bonnet open, check the battery, brake oil, radiator and give the engine a visual check.

The accompanying photographs shows dipsticks. Note that the upper mark, which denotes Ďfullí is different in different sticks. This could lead to lesser quantity of oil being poured into the engine, and that could in turn lead to engine failure. Also note where the rubber stop-plug is placed. The desi dipsticks does not even fit in the block.

Once in a while the police go on a challaning spree. It could be for the number plates one day, and for seat belts another day. Often the problem of high beams also comes to the fore, that is when the police stops motorists and insist that the upper half of the headlights should be painted black. Nowhere in the Motor Vehicles Act is this mentioned. It is an arbitrary decision taken by the police and has no legal sanction.

What has been recommended in the Motor Vehicles Act is that a small black circle about 20mm in diameter be painted in the centre of the headlight. This applied when the seven-inch headlights were standard. Todayís headlights are of various shapes and sizes, so this is not possible. However, manufactures have addressed this problem and built this black spot into the bulb so the half blacked out lights are no longer relevant. They never were.

The police could launch a programme to educate drivers about the difference between high beam and low beam and when which should be used. After this education programme, drivers should be challaned for driving on high beam. Incidentally, Chandigarh has the best-lit roads in India so the question of driving on high beams does not arise.

As if driving around with high beams is not bad enough, many drivers have extra lights fitted on the car. It is not unusual to see a car speeding with four lights up front. This is illegal. The drivers should be challaned. The law also demands that extra lights, usually fog lights, if fitted should be covered.

Good motoring.