FF Recommends: How to maintain and buy an automobile

June 12, 2021 | FF Daily #396: Advice from Adil Jal Darukhanawala, one of the pioneers of Indian automotive journalism

Founding Fuel

Good morning,

Since the time the pandemic started, lockdowns have become a way of life and people are either in WFH mode or hybrid. This has created two kinds of people as well. Those who own an automobile and those who don’t.

Those who own one find themselves in a place where their usage has dropped dramatically and they have questions such as how to maintain it right. Those who don’t own one feel conflicted about what automobile to buy and when because demand has gone up dramatically. 

For answers, our colleague Charles Assisi connected with Adil Jal Darukhanawala, one of the pioneers of Indian automotive journalism. The outcome of their conversation was not just packed with information, but also laced with jokes as well.

Adil answers questions on

  • How should I take care of my car given it’s stationary?
  • How to protect my car during the monsoon (Starts at 04:55)
  • What’s the best way to clean the car and maintain hygiene? (Starts at 07:14)
  • How to take care of electronics in new and high-end cars? (Starts at 15:49)
  • How to protect against surface rust? (Starts at 18:36)
  • Should I over-inflate the tyres given it’s stationary? (Starts at 23:00)
  • Do I need to delay servicing given I haven’t used it and it might be dangerous to send in the car? (Starts at 26:27)
  • Should I buy a car or stick to Ola and Uber? (Starts at 30:50)
  • Which car to buy to maximise ROI? SUV or sedan? First hand or second hand? (Starts at 37:40)
  • Isn’t there a risk of EV regulation for new car buyers? (Starts at 42:55)
  • Buying a new car: Should I prioritise build quality or features? (Starts at 45:10)
  • Should I postpone car purchase due to delay of new launches? How to deal with longer wait times for delivery? (Starts at 48:48)

Have a good weekend!

Listen to the full conversation

Snippets from the conversation 

My car is often stationary now. Any weekly routines you prescribe?

Get the inside of your car cleaned every week. That’s vital. 

First, many people I know keep their hand brakes engaged. Disengage it and place the car in gear. The reason for this is that the hand brakes engage across the rear of the car and rust accumulates there. This applies across all makes. 

Second, warm up your car and keep it idling for 8-10 minutes every week. This will keep your battery charged. 

And drive the car around where you live for about a kilometre or two. This keeps the oil in the car moving. These are cardinal things to follow.

Nowadays, I see people putting in things such as electronic ionisers into the car’s cigarette lighters. Please take all of these things out. It drains the car battery. 

You spoke about keeping the insides clean. Why did you stress on that?

Have you ever opened the bonnet of your car to check the coolant levels? I guess you haven’t. Once upon a time opening the bonnet was a regular thing for most people when the Premier Padmini and the Ambassador were the only options. But now, because most cars are solid mechanically, people don’t bother to look there. So, you’ve been lulled into a false sense of security. Just because the mechanicals are fine, does not mean the interiors are all clean. You have to work to do it.

The gear paddles you touch often must be cleaned. The insides of the glasses must be cleaned. People clean the outside. But you forget the inside is where you sit. Keep the car mats clean. You don’t need any fancy disinfectants. Many people clean the dashboards, but don’t clean the door pads as they must. These are small things. But it takes time. Don’t neglect it. The service centre does not bother to do all of this well and in any case, this is a place you visit once in six months at best.

We know of someone who feels conflicted about which car to buy now—a compact or a sedan? What’s your advice?

For someone who feels that kind of conflict, I’d say, save the money and put it in the bank. Buy a good pair of Nike or Adidas instead and take an Uber or Ola when you need a ride. (laughs) 

Why do you say that?

Because even if the pandemic goes away, whether it be a compact or a sedan, it will lie idle for a long time anyway. At least the shoes will inspire the person to move.

I never thought I’d live to hear you advise someone not to buy a car. 

This is a thought that is actually gaining momentum and if I were in this position, I’d buy a motorcycle actually—properly kitted up, of course. But people have to understand that this is not about buying a car. In Bangalore for instance, people drive badly. They drive as if they are celebrating after having gotten freedom from the British. Then there are parking issues in the city. Having said that, it’s better to buy a brand new top-end hatchback than a secondhand saloon.. 

Should I buy a new car? 

Buy a new car now. Book as early as possible. Don’t procrastinate on that if your mind is made up. Order books are full and don’t expect discounts. All companies now offer a clause that says if you change your mind, you get your booking amount back. So, even if you have to wait for six months, you’re in a good position.  

There is much else that Adil answered. Listen to the full conversation.

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