H Gaaij, Posting this in 2 parts so that you dont get bored. Apologies for these lengthy ramblings, but i just cant control my hands when they start on the keyboard, so kindly excuse if you find this boring. Also will be taking up the earlier replies after the 2nd part so please bear with me. So the odo reads 137800 and I am back from a nice nippy drive in the rains. Last time we talked, the car was limping around on shot elastic pads, the front left shock absorber from the newer setup which made the car stand crooked and made one doubt that the front right damper had gone bad, the tires were almost bald and aquaplaned as soon as they even sensed moisture, the car idled bad when cold, spewed out white smoke when cold started, the engine check light came on every time I tried pushing it in the 3rd and the 4th gear, bent alloys coupled to bad tires made it a literal death trap on the highways. Had limited using it to only emergencies and rode my 500 to work and back till I got everything sorted out. So one fine day, talked to Kawa Auto, Mumbai regarding the elastic pads. Vijay bhai was kind enough to let me know that he had them in stock and they would be mine at 1200 bucks for the set. I was shell shocked. The service center had quoted 2800 plus taxes for one and here I was getting the set for 1200. Definitely sounded fishy. Called up Vijaybhai again regarding this and he told me that the ones he had were also OE pads only without the packing and hence the huge price difference. He also said that if I didn’t feel confident using them, I could go for the original ones from the service center. Slightly more confident, went for them and asked a friend to pick them up from Kawa. The pads arrived that night itself. Checked them out and found them to be perfectly alright. Called up a mechanic who had just started his own show after spending a lot of time at the Tata workshop where my car went in for services regularly. Found out that he had worked on my car many times and knew most of the things that had been replaced and the problems that had been sorted out. Fixed the appointment with him and took the next day off. The suspension had to be set right first and the other things would follow. Just to be cautious, had also picked up a set of brake pads since the car was crossing the 135000 mark and the history showed replacement almost every 30000 kilometers approximately. Also had already arranged for a complete set of four shock absorbers from another source at the authorized service center. They were from a 1000 kilometer old Punto and the owner had wanted to switch over to the new “improved ground clearance” setup. They had cost me around 4500 bucks plus a free fitment whenever I wanted to get it done. Called up the guy to set up the fitment with this mechanic I was going to. He agreed, looked like a set day for all the work. Some other small problems could also be taken care of, including the one serious enough to give me nightmares, the engine check light. Getting up early and getting ready to go anywhere is not too hard for me, especially when it concerns any car or bike or anything mobile with an engine, gearbox and wheels. So 8.30 found me showered, dressed and picking up my One X and the desmodronic key to the car, slipping the wallet (empty till then save for10 bucks) and my usual executive blue pinstriped handkerchief into my black Levis. A pair of Woodlands later, I was in the elevator going down to the parking. The car had already been washed by the watchman and I unlocked it, slipped in, started the car, waited for the erratic idling to regularize, slotted into first and headed to the mechanic, the engine making its usual cold clatters, trying to shake the chills out of itself. The mechanic, Kaushik, had also just opened the garage and since I was the first one there, there were chances that I’d be free by noon. Telling him the car troubles was a five minute job and while he drove the car around to diagnose what was wrong, almost everything matched with what I had figured it would be. The killer was again the engine check light. We would check the piping for leaks and the EGR for any problems while we were at it. As the wheels were removed and put aside, I took a chance to see how they were holding. The condition of the tires was bad, that much I knew, the alloys were in pretty bad shape too. Fiat definitely needs to go up on the strength of the alloys. I’d talked to Vishal in Ahmedabad a couple of days ago about the tires and from what we discussed, 53000 kilometers was good life for C Drives, especially the kind of mixed terrain I drove on. One other factor that aided in these tires wearing out slightly faster was the asymmetric pattern which would only let one rotate the tires front and back and not all round like conventional pattern tires. But 53000 kilometers was definitely good life for the Cees. We were already debating between stock sized C Drives again or upsized A Drives. The Cees would be superior on comfort and handling, the Az would be better on life. We would decide when we put in the tires. That would be the last job on the car. The brake pads were good for another 5000 kilometers or so, but the discs had scoured out some. We decided to face them off instead of changing them. Would do that during the service which was due in another 4000 odd kilometers. The brake pedal would have slightly more travel and the bite would be slightly less, but then I’d wasn’t going fast with those bad tires either, was I? Opening up the brake discs made removing the shock absorbers and the elastic pads that much easier. Once they were out, we could actually see how bad the elastic pads had gone. You could see the play in the bearings. While we were at that, we also decided to dismantle the entire shock absorber assembly, wash it clean and then put it back together. The washing guys were just a common wall away and while the dampers and springs enjoyed the first shampoo of their lifetime, we checked out the rest of the auxiliary systems to see if anything more needed to be replaced. Everything was AOK and we were happy. I’d also come across an article on AWRS, alloy wheel repair specialists coming to India. Finding a link to their website, I had sent them a request for a quote to true up my alloys. The prices had been right through the roof initially and I was not very optimistic whether I could afford to get them done or not. Budget definitely was a constraint. It was getting them done up professionally at AWRS or getting them done the old fashioned way. Heat them up. I guess, luck was on my side. Got a call from AWRS and Yashodhan, the owner there talked to me for quite some time. A gentleman at heart, we also found we had friends in common and just for the heck of it, we decided to meet. He invited me over to his workshop in Thane and offered to do up the alloys for me. The prices would be strictly confidential and not to be revealed to anyone. I agreed and when he told me that he also worked on Sundays, it was so much the better for me. Wouldn’t have to leave a scowling boss behind when I took another day off. The rendezvous was fixed, the venue known. So while the new pads were being checked out by Kaushik and the old stuff was being cleared out, the dampers and springs were also being dried out. Kaushik pronounced that the pads were absolutely ok and that was a huge relief. The helper got the dampers back to the workshop where they were again wiped dry and judicious amounts of grease applied at crucial rust points. They were assembled back and in they went. The lathe shop called to say that the discs were faced and ready and when asked how much material they had to cut, the guy said that both the discs were down by 1 millimeter and of exactly the same width as the other one. We wouldn’t want uneven width discs, would we? Screw up the new pads by uneven wear. Nevertheless, we checked them out with the vernier when we got them back. Satisfied, Kaushik plonked them in, and then the new pads on the calipers. The rear setup was perfectly alright and hence needed no tinkering around with. Taking care to bleed the brakes just to be on the safe side, the wheels were put in and the car taken off the jack. It stood perfect. The lines looking amazing. But that was not all. Once the trial for the suspension was done, Kaushik wanted to sort out the check light issue. So did I. The car rolled perfectly horizontal. It felt slightly smoother, but the tires were still playing havoc with the handling. Unless the tires were replaced, we wouldn’t know the extent of perfection of the job. Even the alignment seemed out but then with bald tires, who cared? Everything when the new tires go in. It was only a few days away. After I visited AWRS on Sunday. A thorough check in the engine bay revealed no leakages near or around the intercooler or its hoses. The sensors all looked fine and with no diagnostic tool around, it would only be possible to detect the problem at the Authorized Service Center. Harrumphing, we gave the car next door for a well deserved wash. 40 minutes later, it stood shining outside the garage, the droplets of water looking like diamonds, glittering in the setting sun. Drove around the town to get a feel of the car. Definitely felt better but needed much more work. While the suspension problem was sorted out, the engine check light was harassing me constantly. Took a couple of hours off from the office and drove to the Authorized Service Center. A couple of guys there still know how to react when the number 98 pulls into the workshop. The others have shifted to other workshops and work for different brands. Just in time for the warranty to get over. So Sanjay came over to give the car a look-see. Told him the problem and he yelled for the guys to bring in the diagnostic tool and hook it up. Fortunately, the Fiat holds the error codes like a grudge. As soon as the tool went into the diagnosis mode, the error popped up with the probable points of problem. The turbocharger, the mass air flow sensor, the intercooler piping, the intake manifold or the EGR valve. Since even the workshop was about to close, they just opened up the EGR to intake manifold piping and removed a lot of kludge from it. Also gave it a shot of the carb/injector cleaner spray. The car smoothened out some more after spewing a lot of smoke for a while but the light issue didn’t go. The guys asked if it was ok to take it slow for a while and since the service was coming up, they would sort out the issue then as they would keep the car overnight and do it up. I wasn’t going anywhere with the bad tires, so I agreed. One more thing that the guys told me was that the Puntoes and especially the Lineas had been having major problems with the timing chains. Some became extremely noisy and some developed play and didn’t let the engine fire properly giving a lot of problems. Fiat had been replacing these in warranty for a long time and due to this consistent problem, they had put timing chain replacement as a paid service schedule for every 60000 kilometers. The chain, two timing gears, the tension/slider pads and a vent pipe cost around 10000 bucks plus labor charges. Since my car was running on stock chain since day one, it would be in the schedule during the upcoming service. One thing that made me very glad was that the workshop had had only one another car that had done very high mileage and that was also under the 100000 mark but had had the timing chain replaced once under warranty and once during a paid service. Mine was one of the very few cars running on stock timing chain and that too the only one with such a high odo reading. Some consolation. Sunday found me ready at 7.00 AM and heading for Thane. Reaching the workshop was no big deal as it is right on the main road and only 20 minutes from Ghodbunder towards Thane. Met Yashodhan ad we warmed up to each other instantly. The guys working on the car were also quite efficient and fast. Within 10 minutes, while we talked, the wheels were off the car and being washed. The one good thing about this setup is that it is an American company. They work on a set of principles and no matter what happens, they do not deviate from it. So the guys were cleaning the wheels with the standard issue AWRS kit. After cleaning them up, Yash examined the wheels and marked the points that had gone bad. One wheel, which I had got done from a lathe shop in Ahmedabad a long time ago, was screwed the worst. But it was nothing serious when he showed me the jobs they had carried out on different cars. Feeling quite confident and buoyant that this would also turn out alright, I went shopping, leaving the car at AWRS. It was 10.00 AM and the mall which was only about 200 feet from the workshop had just opened. My favorite time to shop. I was also hungry. So a couple of burgers, a big strong coffee, a Tom Clancy and a Frederick Forsyth later, I checked the time. It was 1.15. Walking back to AWRS was not even a 2 minute job. Yashodhan was just finishing the last wheel when I entered his office. One thing that amazed me was that the guys didn’t need to remove the tire from the alloy to true it up. I’d already been told that they wouldn’t be heating it. Theirs was a completely different setup and while everything else was accessible, they wouldn’t show me their truing machine. I didn’t have a problem with that as far as my job was being carried out. While the fourth alloy was done and Yash handed over the air filling, balancing and fitting job to the helpers, we sipped tea. I wanted to watch the balancing part of it as it would be the true benchmark of how the job had been carried out. The first time I laid my eyes on the alloys, I was impressed. They were nicely cleaned inside out. All the old weights had been stripped off and the gum rubbed off and cleaned. Even the insides were nice and shiny. Once the tires were up to recommended pressure, the balancing act began. Checking the wheel at both the outside and inside reference proved that it had been trued by a professional workshop. It required 45 gms of weight per wheel for 3 wheels and 25 grams for one. Well under the factory spec or almost the same. I will leave the monetary part out of this review but I will say this. If you want your wheels to be actually true, avoid the lathe guys and go to AWRS. They may seem to cost slightly, but they do a good job in a very professional way. 2.00 PM saw me making turns towards NH 8 and 2.20 saw me paying the toll at Ghodbunder. The car on the highway behaved totally different now. The unnecessary vibrations were gone. The steering didn’t vibrate like crazy. The wheels didn’t hum. The only noise was tires fighting for grip on the rain soaked roads. I was home at 5.00 PM. Now remained the final chapter. The tires. Drive Safe Gaaij, Always wear a seatbelt! Part 2 coming up by midnight!