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Maintain your Car in Top Shape

Discussion in 'Exteriors / Body' started by Sat-Chit-ananda, Apr 23, 2013.

  1. How to Maintain your Car in Top Shape | Team-BHP
    Best Practices : Maintain your Car in Top Shape [HR][/HR]
    The old man's shiny '04 Optra is a lesson in good maintenance

    Team-BHP doesn't recommend selling your 5 year old car just yet (Related Thread (ARTICLE: YOUR 5 year old car : Keep, Upgrade or Swap?)). As car guys however, we relish the driving experience and absolutely need a "tight feeling" machine. This article will list the basic best practices for keeping your car in top shape, thus helping you prolong its life and enjoy healthy service for well over 150,000 kms.

    There are no shortcuts to maintaining a car well and the exercise does require a little effort. But I can assure you, every rupee & minute spent on your car's upkeep will be recovered through a superior driving, owning & resale experience. A well-kept car will serve you better and prove more reliable in the long run. A healthy car is a safer car too. You'll retain it longer, thus saving you big bucks in depreciation losses. Whatever way you look at it, there's tremendous return-on-investment in keeping your car tidy.

    Of course, it's an advantage if you own a car that ages well. German cars usually age the best aesthetically, while Japanese & Korean cars prove the most reliable in the long run. Some models however (e.g. Tata Indica) age prematurely, due to poor production & quality processes.

    Must-Read Articles:

    How to Run-In your new engine (ARTICLE: How to Run-In your new car)

    Preserving your Car (ARTICLE: Mechanical Empathy | Preserving the Car While Driving)

    A Service Checklist (Maintain the car yourself. A service checklist)

    The Detailing Thread (A superb Car cleaning, polishing & detailing guide)

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    A mid-'90s Supra, still with factory paint!

    On the Road:

    • Be gentle to your car when it's cold. Maintain a low rpm level (below 2,000) until the engine has reached operating temperature. This warm-up period isn’t just good for the engine & turbo-charger; gradual warm-up is also beneficial to other components (e.g. transmission, brakes, tyres etc.). If you drive a turbo-charged car (pretty much any diesel today), click here : Turbo Idling Article (Why you must practice the "Idling Rule" with Turbo-Charged Cars).

    • Develop a smooth driving style and don't be hard on the car. Your steering, accelerator, clutch, brake & gear inputs should be polished. In traffic, avoid tail-gating the car in front. Maintaining a healthy gap will allow your braking & deceleration to be a lot smoother. And yes, contrary to popular perception, you can indeed maintain a smooth driving style even when driving fast. On the other hand, if you drive in a rough manner, your car's mechanical bits will suffer additional stress and begin to wear prematurely. A well-driven 100,000 kms car will drive better than an abused 50,000 kms example.

    • Take it easy and go slow on rough roads. It doesn't matter if everyone else is just flying through potholes. Your car takes a massive beating on broken tarmac. The suspension wears out faster and rattles will seep into your cabin too. At a recent Pawna meet, I babied my ride on the poor approach roads (much to the impatience of the passengers). I was happy at the end of it as my car didn't scrape her underbelly even once, and returned home in the exact same condition she left it in.

    • Respect your car. Know when to high-revv and know when to take it easy. At the end of the day, we're car enthusiasts who enjoy our redlining experiences. You should redline only when the conditions permit it. The ideal time to stretch her legs is on smooth roads with scarce traffic. Preserve your car by saving the best for favorable conditions. It's just more fun that way.

    • Don’t lug the engine, don’t be lazy; shift down if your rpm is too low for the current speed. As an example, you'd move down to 1st gear if your car struggles to cross the speed breaker in 2nd. And yes, please don't ride or slip the clutch.

    • Slow down on speed breakers. They are there for a purpose. Cross speed breakers in as gentle a manner as you possibly can. Here is an excellent thread (Art of taking Speed Breakers(humps) without scraping the belly.) on tackling speed bumps.

    • Try to combine the short trips. Your engine never really hits the ideal operating temperature in local 1 - 2 km journeys. If you use your car for short trips only, the component wear & tear rate will be relatively higher. On a related note, you must WALK up the short distances. It's good for your health and that of your car.

    • Beat the traffic and drive at the right time. My previous workplace entailed a 14 km drive to downtown. To avoid rush-hour traffic, I started leaving home at 0800 hours and used to reach the office in 20 minutes (as opposed to 60 minutes if I left at 0900 hours). Not only did I save time, but my car also returned higher fuel economy, was able to maintain consistent speeds, had fewer gearshifts and spent lesser time idling away in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Equally, hitting the highway early in the morning usually results in lesser traffic and a more pleasurable drive (for you and your car). Keep that in mind for the holiday road-trips.

    • If you encounter a mechanical problem that could further damage your car, don’t just drive on. Spend some time trying to diagnose the problem, or call a tow truck!

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    This beautiful 16 year old Benz is wearing its original paintjob

    Minimising Abuse:

    • If your destination entails very poor roads or horrible parking conditions, cab it up! This strategy works even for outstation trips. My neighbour rents an Innova for the family pilgrimage to rough rural areas, when his Mercedes S-Class could well take him there. I prefer to call a taxi for the overcrowded Dadar market. It's more convenient and I don't have to worry about parking either.

    • Don’t allow bad drivers behind the wheel of your car. Be firm and polite when saying no, or just insist that you'd hate to be a passenger in your own car. Also, don’t lend your car out too often. No one cares about your car as much as you do.

    • Don’t overload your car with excessive passengers or cargo. Not only does overloading result in undue stress on vital components, it is also extremely dangerous.

    • Don’t make your car do anything it’s not meant to. Forget about your offroading aspirations in a FWD sedan. Refrain from splashing through water on that beach trip because it'll make for nice pictures. Look how it all went wrong for this Audi owner who "beached" his Q5 : Link (Accidents in India - PICS).

    • Use a beater car. If you have two or more cars in the house, use the cheapest or oldest car for all the laborious work. As an example, in my family, the Nissan Sunny is the one visiting airports, vegetable markets, hardware shops etc. Net result : The other, nicer cars look, feel and drive better because they are spared the strenuous runs.

    • If you employ a chauffeur, restrict him to driving one car (and not all). Few chauffeurs ever treat cars well and most have rough driving styles. Their sleeping & eating in the car doesn't do the cabin any good ei

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    Keeping her Mechanically Tight:

    • Maintain a detailed service history & schedule. As your car logs on the kms, this will serve as a ready reckoner and guide.

    • Always opt for extended warranty when you buy a car (Link to thread (ARTICLE: Extended Warranties. Yes or No?)). This will ensure that smaller faults, even in the 4th or 5th year of ownership, are addressed by expert labour and original parts at the authorised service station. Knowing you have warranty coverage will make you sort out problems faster (human psychology). Another benefit is that you have to compulsorily adhere to manufacturer-recommended service intervals while your car is in the warranty period.

    • Fix mechanical issues as soon as they crop up. Don't procrastinate. These problems are likely to intensify and could severely affect other mechanical parts or (potentially) your safety too. For instance, if there is excessive noise from the front suspension, get it checked before the ball joints give way and lead to loss of car control. Don't drive around with the check engine light on. Repair that faulty cooling fan immediately. A car is built of several wear & tear components that will need replacement at some point in time. The longer you delay the replacement of these parts, the more permanent damage you do to other parts in the system. Keeping your car mechanically perfect will give you a lot of satisfaction.

    • When something needs to be replaced, it just needs to be replaced. Don't cheapen out of replacements that are absolutely critical.

    • Choose the right garage or service station. Car owners usually stick to authorised service stations in the warranty period, and maybe a little after. If you find the quality of work & charges at the company workshop to be reasonable, stick to it. If you are looking for a good independent shop, search through the Team-BHP Directory.

    • Befriend the service advisor. Ensure he is aware of the fact that you are an informed car owner and will not accept shoddy quality of work. Maintain a polite & firm demeanor with him. Handover a written checklist at the time of dropping your car off, explaining each point one by one. Go through this checklist before paying up and taking delivery of your car.

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    Believe it or not, this Santro has covered 100,000 kms. Talk about clean

    Keeping her Shiny & Clean:

    • Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Keep your car spic & span. Depending on your usage, you should wash your car on a daily / weekly / bi-weekly basis. If you employ the services of a car wash guy, tip him to pay “special attention” to your car. The Jopasu car duster (Jopasu Car Duster - A mini review) is a nifty cleaning tool. For more tips, refer to Rudra's excellent guide at this link (For All Car Lovers - Keeping Your Car Clean).

    • Get your car detailed every 6 months, inside out. At the very minimum, you should have your car detailed once a year. If you are so inclined, there is a ton of useful information in this thread (A superb Car cleaning, polishing & detailing guide). Look within the Team-BHP Directory for recommended detailers from your city.

    • A dirty interior says a lot about the car owner. Plus, it takes the fun of driving away. Keep your interiors absolutely tidy and have them detailed along with the exterior. Using a vacuum cleaner comes highly recommended on the forum. Avoid keeping excessive items that clutter the inside of your car. Neatly place in the glovebox or storage bins whatever items you need to have in the car.

    • Don’t eat in your car. Food smells, rots and attracts pests (cockroaches, rodents etc.).

    • Don’t treat your trunk like an attic.

    • After every driving holiday, treat your car to a thorough exterior, interior & underbody wash at the local petrol pump. The one next to my house charges a mere Rs. 250 for a superb job.

    • Get small to medium dents repaired at least once a year. This also helps to avoid rust formation. On a related note, eliminate any rust spots while they are still small. Stick to a topnotch body shop for all denting & painting requirements; ill-fitted body panels & parts lead to rattles and look ugly.

    • At the time of repainting, it's advisable to choose the same colour. Changing the exterior shade requires a complete strip down. Factory fit is indeed factory fit. Thus, an overcoat is a far more suitable option.

    Light beige interiors at the 5 year / 60,000 kms mark

    Last edited: Apr 23, 2013
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