Owning and maintaining an old car – Basic tips and tricks

Dear Sir, 

Today morning I switched on my car to find that the coolant level was way below the minimum. I am afraid I must admit that I was lazy to open the bonnet and keep a track of the coolant. But also the fact that it had returned from garage only 5 days ago made me overlook the regular checks. I had to walk to the petrol station and get a bottle of coolant before I could come to work. I hope you understand my situation and give me attendance for this day even though I’m an hour and ten minutes late. 

Had my boss seen me come late today and had he asked me for a written explanation, this would have been my explanation. He would have promptly replied me back with a simple one liner,

Get a new car or get fired.

Yes, I own an old car which for me, is a masterpiece. The non enthusiasts call it a rusty old car waiting to fall apart (not that it is rusty or will fall apart). Sadist fellows!!!

For the n th time bear with me, let me put those specs down proudly…. it’s a VW Golf GTI with 2.3L (2300 cc), V5 engine, Manual gearbox, 170 hp and it can do a 0-60 mph (0-100 kmph) in 7.6 sec (claimed). I own this car for the past 2 years and I absolutely love it.

Are you one of those people who love your old car but distressed due to the fact that it keeps visiting the garage too often? If yes, let me try and put down some of the things I learnt from my ownership. I am not talking about those classic cars which sit in the garage and is driven out on a weekend, but about cars which can be/are used as daily drivers. Mine is a perfect example of that.

Disclaimer: Please note that my knowledge about cars is very basic and I’m not a very technical person, hence no high hopes please.

The reason why people love old cars is for it’s simplicity and the feel they give. Not to mention that they are damn cheap. I love old cars for all the above reason. Talking about the better things like performance, the cars from those days were void of many electronic aid that we find today. Some people love that, some people don’t. For example the current champion of a car Porsche Cayman GT4, which happens to be my favorite car these days, have a rev-match assist in the sport mode which some people would argue for and against. Good drivers know rev matching, heel and toe and techniques like that from before. So the point is old cars are simple and there is no short cuts aided by electronics. You have to turn your heads and look back while reversing(unless you got a parking cam done from outside).

Here goes the things that I have learnt over these 24+ months of ownership.

  1. Have a back up Japanese car or any car. You can’t just put miles on your old car like you did 5 years back. I did that mistake and I regret not having the money to  not buying another small car so that I could alternate my daily drives between them.
  2. Monitor your cars fluid level (engine oil, radiator coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid) and also monitor tire pressure on a regular basis… say once in 4-5 days.
  3. There are a lot of online forums which discuss about cars and car issues. You need not be a petrol-head and you still can read them and get an idea about the car. Know your car (I do not follow this religiously since I just run to my friends who first yell at me and then help me).
  4. With an old car, it’s probably not worth going to the dealerships. The only reasons the dealerships are there is to steal your money. Period. It will be cheaper and much more financially sensible to find a ‘Friendly Neighborhood Garage’ (a term used for local garage) where people know what they are doing.
  5. Use internet. Most of the issues you face will already be listed there with the solutions. I have been yelled at by my friends for not doing this as well. If you have an idea of what needs to be done in your car, then you can talk to the person fixing your car better. He also gets a vibe that you know stuff and he wouldn’t dupe you ….much.
  6. Again use internet. Many of the problems have easy fixes and you can DIY ‘do it yourself’. Working on our car is one of the most satisfying things. It’s like having pizza but much better. So better to take a spanner and a small bucket and do the engine oil and oil filter change yourself. Have your smart phone handy and follow the experts. Do  small things like replacing Air/AC filter which you feel is less challenging.
  7. Like grocery shopping, always be on parts hunt for your car. You never know when you find something for a massive discount. Keep an eye on the online parts and accessories seller/retailer. They have huge discounts most of the time. Buy things in bulk so that you save on shipping. It’s always better to stock the normally used parts like Oil/Air/AC filters, Brake pads, Engine oil since buying in bulk can fetch you a good discount. I use rockauto or even amazon / ebay to buy parts. For VW these guys make some good videos in YouTube and also you can get the parts from this site. There are a lot of good sites available.
  8. Read through your manual and know which item to change at what interval. Engine mountings need to be changed at 100,ooo kms / 60,000 miles for my car and it is clearly mentioned in the service manual. In old cars, the parts likes gaskets, plugs, rubber hoses and rubber bushes fail the most. It’s better to change them one after the another after say after 150,000 kms. Do it step by step but doing it will save you a lot of headache and heartache in the future. Buy them all online one after another and get them replaced. If you want to save labor costs, see what you can get done in one go. For eg, if you are getting the bumper removed for some engine related works, you can do the valve cover gaskets, manifold gaskets etc done at the same time saving you on labor costs.
  9. Never trust your garage guys completely. Whatever they say, take it with a pinch of salt unless you or your acquaintance that led you there, know the person for a long long time. It’s always better to get opinion from others too especially people who know more about cars. Someone would come up with a better idea. Recently a guy went to Jag dealership with his car and the car wouldn’t slot into 2nd gear. They quoted $4800 (approx) for repairs. He was advised by a friend to go to this local garage. The local garage guy bought 2 clutch plates because the sides were worn out in the car and there you go, problem solved. Everything done for less than $400.
  10. Sometimes we have the tendency of leaving a problem unattended. We just believe that it will get better with time. Human body might, but not cars. Unless it is rattles, better to check what it is and then follow step 5 & 6.
  11. Preventive maintenance is always better than breakdown maintenance. Always.
  12. Have some grease, WD40 or equivalent, spanners, screwdrivers handy. Learn how to use a jack. Know the basic stuff.
  13. Motorbikes are better with fewer parts and complications. I always loved motorbikes anyways 😀

These are some of the things that came into my mind quickly but there are lot more than this. If you think I have missed out on something very important, feel free to use the comment section. If you feel that I have written down something wrong and stupid, again feel free to use the comment section. I would love to hear from you guys.

On that bombshell, ‘Drive safe, have fun’!


 

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Witnessing a track day

It is no news that in developed countries like UK, US or even in UAE, track days are pretty common. People who love Motorsports put aside considerable amount of money, investing in track cars/motorbikes.

Again it is not news that you need to be financially well off and have sound knowledge in automobiles to get into something like this. Yes, some amount of knowledge can be replaced by money but still you need more than the basic knowledge.

Since I fall in the category which doesn’t have both of the above mentioned, I choose to stay out and witness track days. I would have given anything to drive a good car around the track but neither is the time right nor my circumstances. Sometimes I wish I would have been in so much a better place without this craziness; this love for motorbikes and cars. I can never explain to my colleagues as to why I still keep my car which breaks down every 2 months for a month, cos the parts are not available. I wish I could just think like people who saw driving a car as a mode of transport from point A to B. Maybe I should start training my mind….maybe

Let me post a few pics of a track day in Dubai Autodrome. I didn’t take my camera and adjust with my mobile cam which is the most pathetic thing in comparison to any other smart phone. I had edit the mother out of these pics to make it look something presentable.

A little BMW

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A little Honda

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A Porsche GT3 , but I am more of a fan of the Cayman GT4 now and then the GT3 RS…buhahaa

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A 6.3L monster Merc SLS AMG, drool drool….

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I know, I know… the pics don’t do any justice but I promise the next time I go there, I’ll have my camera and then loads of panning shots.

But for now, this is all I have 😥

On that sad bombshell, Good night!


 

The blue jean jacket and RX-100 – A retrospect

Well, this night as I cough my sore throat out I cannot stop myself from thinking, what has life come to! After I had visited Ooty a month back, I haven’t been able to clear off my head. That is one place I started strong and finished weak. So weak that even walking was a big task. My mother saddened by the sight had to come to my rescue after my days in Nilgiris and it took her months to revive me to a better condition. I was like a 2004 Golf gti except from the fact that his mother thinks she is in Germany, but she is not. She might as well be reading this post… or does he have a mother? Was he thrown out of the sky because too many iconic cars were crowding up there? Too many questions, and no answers. So moving on…

The Nilgiris was no less of a struggle, as compared to these days but sometimes, just sometimes I wish I would have loved those hills a bit more than this. One of the reason was that beautiful blue jean jacket that I owned and I still have it intact at my parent’s place and another thing was those biblically mesmerizing and ever enchanting Yamaha RX-100.

My very first room-mate of those days, was an interesting chap. He was a guy who was much different that the other people around, a very innocent guy who didn’t know the meaning of the word cheat or getting cheated. I always feel that a person must be utterly heartless to cheat someone as naive as him.

We are deviating from the point here…

So the point is that, he was from Delhi and obviously we used to live in Ooty. That vacation he went to Delhi and one of my class-mate from other room was asking him if he could get a blue jean jacket for him from Delhi. I usually wouldn’t have money for shopping jean jackets or dresses as such, living on a tight budget but I loved the idea of blue jean jacket somehow. Later when he returned back to the room, I asked him for one as well.

Later that month, he bought me and the other guy a jean jacket. This particular other guy chose the hideous one of the two and I got the one I liked. My usual dressing now revolved around this blue jean jacket. I would put it over and fold my hand cuffs of the shirt underneath with the jean jacket to show the color of shirt I was wearing, collar of the shirt above the collar of the jacket, my shirt not tucked in, wearing a dark jean pant and a rough woodlands shoe. The perfect attire for me. If you ask any girl in my institution, they would most probably testify how ‘moronic’ I looked and after that they with take a brick and beat themselves on their heads for even thinking about me. But then, I didn’t care much. That was my way of going and pretty much sums up why I was single all those years.

Image taken from Google web search. Courtesy and rights to respective owner.
Image taken from Google web search. Courtesy and rights to respective owner.

The Nilgiris being mountainous terrain, the normal bikes would huff and puff to climb those steep hills. That’s why we students then had the iconic Yamaha RX-100’s at our disposal. This 2 stroke monster was such a rage then that youngster’s would buy this bike and probably all of the youngsters rode on a Yamaha RX. Even recreating it’s sound with my bassless pathetic vocal chord now would impart instant relief from depression.

Many of my classmates owned this motorbike called RX-100. It would be rare to get a ride of this motorbike, as the owners would be cautious. Everyone wanted to ride the bike, so they probably say no to everyone. One of the RX owner was a pretty good friend of mine. He had a properly maintained RX-100, a blue one.

On a good lucky day, I would get a ride of this motorbike. It would be rare but I have driven it quite a few times. Today I can just sit here and just think of the days when I would wear that dark blue jacket and ride the RX; the motorbike powering through those steep hills with amazing ease and leaving behind an irritating noise for the people passing by…. Oh what fun!

I wish I were able to put my blue jean jacket again this night and start that RX-100 and go for a longish journey to an unknown destination.

This night, with the sore throat I cannot munch on an ice-cream because no general stores or supermarkets nearby will be open at 2:12 am in the morning, which I feel like doing now. I also cannot ride the RX-1oo  because I don’t own one and I am unsure of the fact if I will ever own one.

On that sad bombshell, Good night!


 

 

VW needs me more than Gotham needs Batman! Buhahaha….

This post is meant to be sarcastic and I can guarantee that this post will have couple of strong words, just a couple. If my post hurts someone’s feeling….ooopps! 


I love Volkswagen. I really do.

I wanted to start this post with these lines because my car is VW and I love it. To VW as a company, I don’t give a f**k. They can go to hell. So much for pricey parts, thug customer relations and whatever else. I never had to step back into their dealership ever. When did I step into their dealership in the first place? Never. Even their technicians say proudly that we are too expensive for you to afford us. Well, the US govt will be more expensive now I guess.

I cannot believe that right after college days when I dropped my CV at your showroom, I was not even allowed to meet the HR. How rude! How dare you do that? How dare do you corrupt people throw a CV of an honest man in the dust bin?

But whatever said or done, if I were US govt, I would have first honored you guys for having brilliant engineers on-board. You guys deserve an award and I sincerely would have acknowledged your engineering team first, before slapping that 20 billion USD fine or whatever the amount equates to. If I could have a brain transplant, I would choose a German brain to go with my Indian body.

So I hope that someone is going to get fired from VW? so do you want me now? Yes, I may not be the most technical guy or rather I’ll be the least technical guy but hell yeah, I can teach you a lesson or two about honesty, and not getting your a** wacked by the US govt. The principle is simple, just don’t over-engineer your car and fix it with too much of electronic sensor’ical’ gizmos and finally when caught don’t accept that you installed the defeat device. Just do like the Indian politicians do; they will watch porn and when caught they will say, that was a part of sex education for ministers. Ministers don’t be offended, I would have done the same. Who wants to sit in that stupid building listen to bullshit spoken by other ministers all day long. I am glad you guys used your time wisely.

So coming back to the point, VW are you ready for a brain swap? With a heavy heart, I’ll part my brains for a good German one if that is the only way to save your company’s future… to make things there a bit more honest. I am sure you guys don’t give a shit about that, but I got to do what I got to do. I love you guys *sob sob.  My brain is exactly like your car, all of it won’t work all the times and some of it will work sometimes, and it’s honest like your car, the GTI drives without any drama whatsoever. So deal?

Once again…Love you VW! Mwaaah….

Reason for this post : Link 1 and Link 2


 

 

‘Melcow’ed by Kerala!

Now that this blog has now turned into my life blog from a photography blog and short story blog, I’m glad that I am back in Kerala.

Glad mainly cos the weather is so good. There is freshness all around. It’s drizzling and the village looks green.

Sharing couple of pics taken using my phone

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Kerala is all drama even before landing. The clouds and the airplane passing through it.

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Glimpse of the land.

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Now at home, I can hear the war-cries from my mom and sister battling out each other. Life can’t get any better. I’ll equip them with swords, shields and make them battle it out against each other. Let’s see who falls first. I might as well head to the kitchen to make lime juice for the fallen one.

Now a love story better than Twilight

Some 8 years ago, when I wanted a motorbike badly and obviously I couldn’t afford one. I bought a key-chain to go with my first motorbike keys. After 8 or 9 years, today the key-chain has found a key to go with it. The wait was pretty long and glad the key-chain made it through. I have traveled 4 countries and the key-chain was always with me all this while.

See I told you, a better love story than Twilight. hehe

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Melcow, old guy!
Melcow, old guy! Have a lot of things to do on this motorbike before it can be called decent.

 

On that happy bombshell, Good night!


 

See you at the top, maybe!

The evening was unusually serene and calm. I didn’t understand if it was only me who felt the extra peace waves. I was alone at this place and by this place I mean a small jungle. A broken house, surrounded by lot of bushes and trees allowed to grow uncontrolled. I was a frequent visitor there. I knew the bushes, I knew the trees and I even knew the broken pieces of window panes of that old house. It was scary for many others but heaven for me. The shade, fresh air and the tranquility there, I have experienced nowhere.

One such evening, as I sat there and it felt extremely good, even more than the usual. It was getting dark and the howling breeze carried extra chill with it. At such time, I heard a footstep from inside the house while I was seated on the stairs leading to the entrance. I turned back and I saw a strange figure. I stayed back brushing any thoughts of fleeing the scene.

I asked, ‘Who are you?’ 

‘Someone whom you have been wanting to meet for a long time?’

I uttered, ‘Jesus’ as I have been thinking about Jesus for a while then.

There was no reply for a while and I gazed in astonishment. After a while though, the voice  enquired, ‘Did you want to meet me for long?’

‘If you are Jesus, then yes. I did.’

Why?

‘I wanted to know certain things about life.’

‘Which is… ?’

‘Everyone made by you have the same organs. Brains, a heart, two eyes and so on. Except some, others have them all working and doing the similar things which the organ is meant to do. Then why are some people so successful and why do some others fail so miserably that they are pushed to take their lives?’

There was no reply for a while and I thought I had offended that unfamiliar figure with a rude question.

The voice responded to my query after a while.

‘I’ll explain it to you in a way you understand. How much power does the engine of Bugatti Veyron produce?’

‘ A 1001 horsepower’

‘What is the speed it can go up to?’

‘252 miles per hour.’

‘ What is the power required to go up until 155 miles per hour for the same car?’ 

‘ 353 horsepower or something like that.’

‘So you do realize that to do the extra 100 miles per hour speed, it needs another 650 horse power. Why is that so?’ 

‘The air resistance gets higher with the speed and to conquer that it needs those figures.’ 

‘Isn’t life the same?’

‘How?’

‘To reach from zero to average is fairly simple. You just need some effort, but to go from that average to the top needs three times more input from you, with some favor from time and luck. The air resistance is the resistance from others who act like gravity and try to pull you down. There are too many things that you require to be able to reach the top.’

I pondered and asked, ‘And those things would be…?’ 

‘A fire that burns always, luck that favors, a will that never bends. Most of the times extreme attitude with low tolerance for error.’

‘Nikki is so ruthless, and she is at the top in our school in terms of grade.’

‘One has to be ruthless at times, cunning at other times, patient at some other times. These are all traits and you have to have a lot of these characteristics to be at the top. You also must know when to be what. Being ruthless instead of being patient can backfire. So a lot of thing goes into making someone different from others.’ 

‘I can never be as ruthless as Nikki.’ I murmured as I looked a bit worried.

The voice exclaimed, ‘No two cars are the same. Do you agree?’ 

‘Yes. I do.’

‘Even if an engine from a car made by another manufacturer is tuned to produce a 1000 horsepower, you can be rest assured that the behavior of this car is never going to be same as the behavior of the above mentioned car.’ 

‘Yes, because the manufacturers and people working on it are different.’ 

‘Nikki can never be you and you can never be her. You have a different origin and she has a different origin. You have a different fire lighting your soul up and she has a different one lighting her’s.’ 

‘So you say, we are different and she is ruthless cos she is meant to be so. Does that mean after I die, I will go to heaven with you and Nikki will go to hell?’

‘Have you ever thought of the possibility that after you die and come to me I will ask you : How was your stay in heaven?’

I stood dumbstruck and it was really dark by then. The strange figure disappeared and I walked back home with a lot of doubts in my mind.

At night, sat in my balcony I concluded, ‘If he is Jesus and he made Nikki, then he is a thug. I can’t trust his words. He might be a liar sometimes and he might be truthful some other times. I don’t trust him today. Maybe some other day. 

Well, good that he never realized how much I love Nikki. He can’t be Jesus or else he would have told me that straight on my face. I also don’t want her to go to hell, but come with me to heaven.’


(Imaginary)

Credits: 

Facts about the Bugatti Veyron : TG- UK

‘How was your stay in heaven?’ quote : some webpage I stumbled upon last week. I really don’t know the name of the author or the website.