Most of us have run out of fuel at some point or the other, because the wife was fighting, or you were in a big rush, or there was no pump on the route. To make matters worse, when you go get fuel in a can and try to pour it into the narrow filler mouth, it spills out and makes a real mess. And not all the fuel goes in because the can only be tilted to a point because of its short neck. The solution is easy. Take an empty PET bottle – mineral water, cold drink etc. – and slice off the bottom. You now have a ready to use funnel. Just pour it, buddy.
Most of us have at some time or the other experienced the horror of locking the keys inside our vehicles. There have even been some unlucky ones I know, who have done it while the engine was running or lights were on. Well, if you don’t want to get caught out again, especially when you are touring, keep a spare in your wallet or hang one around your neck. You could even get it gold plated (it’s not that expensive) and wear it as a pendant. And what’s more, the key to your automobile will always be close to your heart.
Don’t Lose It
Fuel filler caps are pretty easy to lose and a pain to replace. You are even, more likely to lose one if you are in the habit of sitting in your seat and leaving the opening and refitting to overworked petrol pump attendants. Fortunately, some cars these days come with an attachment for the cap. If your vehicle does not have it you could screw a plastic strap or thin chain to the cap and attach the other end to the lid.
Many windscreens have dull marks, smears and small scratches that rough or badly worn wiper blades tend to leave behind. Toothpaste is great for removing these marks. Use a clean soft cloth to apply the toothpaste and spread it with light circular motions. The mild abrasive, (remember we use it to clean our teeth,) will clean your windscreen, make it smell better and eliminate most scratches too. But remember to rinse it off…
If something starts squeaking or needs lubrication when you are on the road, the solution is as close as the engine compartment. The engine oil dipstick is a great source for small quantities of oil and its length is also just perfect for that hard-to-reach place. But remember to clean the dipstick before putting it back into the engine.
Take It Off
Given the atrocious state of our roads and the constant repair and patchwork taking place, it is quite likely that at some point or the other, the tyres will throw up tar onto your vehicles lower panels. Tar cannot only damage the paint, but look unsightly too. An easy way to remove it is to spray a little WD-40, the multi-purpose magic tool that comes in a can, on the affected area and wipe the tar off with soft cotton waste.
Often the perfume in room-or car-fresheners is overpowering and the fragrances available may also not be to your choice. An unwrapped bar of your favourite bathing soap positioned under the seat will keep your car smelling fresh, and you too. And whenever there is any need to wash your hands while driving, remember you will be traveling with our own personal favourite bar of soap.
Sparkle and Shine
Most of us have our vehicles washed with the yellow cloth that is sold at fuel stations or any other rag the cleaner chooses to use. These cheap rags usually scratch the paint and also leave the vehicle stained with watermarks, as the cloth is too thin to be really absorbent. The solution lies in your bathroom, seriously. Just pull out your old bathing towel. If it has been well used it will be soft and absorbent after many a body rubdown. Gift your lovely machine your old bath towel and watch it smile, sparkle and shine.
There are times when the drive belts (a/c, fan, etc) start to slip around the pulley and make a squeaking sound. This could be because they have become too hard or are nearing the end of their useful lives. If you just can’t drive with those most irritating squeaks, open the bonnet and empty the contents of your favourite soft drink over the belt. The sugary liquid will make the belt sticky and stop it from slipping for a while. But make sure the engine is switched off when you do this, or your soft drink will be all over you. And also ensure you replace or adjust the belt before you replenish your stock of soft drinks.
Punctures or flat tyres come unannounced and have a dirty habit of putting in an appearance at the wrong time and in the wrong place. What do you do if your car has a flat on a soft or rough surface? On soft ground the jack will sink with the weight and on uneven surfaces, without a secure base it can slip. You can get around this problem if you have a one inch thick plank of wood covering an area of about 12″x12″. You can place it below the jack and provide it a solid and smoother surface. You can even nail or stick rubber matting on both sides of the plank. This will increase the grip available to the jack.
If you are driving off-road or over rough and broken terrain, the chances of getting a puncture or flat increases. In such situations it is best to over-inflate the tyres as this will make them hard and less prone to be punctured by sharp objects. Being ‘full of air’ is always not that bad.
If you are traveling to a new place or looking for an address in an unfamiliar area, you will surely need to refer to a map or the guiding instructions. Doing this while driving is difficult, dangerous and time consuming. It is best to write the instruction clearly on a piece of paper and before the start of the journey stick it over the driving seat or on the sun visor. Now all you have to do is glance at it. No more fiddling with glove boxes, door pockets, and looking for that all-important instruction sheet.
Slippery and Smooth
Wiper blades can become dull and unevenly worn after some time. They then leave streaks of water and marks on the windscreen. To make them smooth and even again, simply wet sand them with 400 or higher grade sand or polish paper. Not only will the life of the blades be extended, but the windscreen will be cleaner too.
Tubeless tyres are now being seen on more cars in India. But the repair facilities for punctures on tubeless tyres is yet very limited and almost unheard of on most highways. You can of course learn to use the repair kit and fix the puncture on your own, or carry a spare tube with you. Have the tyre taken off the wheel by a regular puncture shop guy, and the object responsible for the puncture removed. Then all he has to do is cut off the fixed rubber nozzle or tyre valve for inflating fixed on the wheel and slip in the tube and inflate it like its done on regular tube tyres. Your tubeless tyre will now run with a tube as long as you want it too.
With rising fuel costs its only natural that we want to stretch the distance covered in a litre. And a good driving style can help and also make you do well in the mileage runs or contests. To stretch it, check your vehicle’s specifications and the rpm at which max torque is developed. Then shift gears at this rpm and while driving or cruising keep your engine at this very mark. And you will go even further if you keep your car in ‘top gear.’
If you do a lot of driving on the highway, especially in the monsoons, you have surely suffered due to a windscreen coated with muck and the stubborn oily deposits that get discharged from the thousands of diesel burning trucks you follow or pass. Even the best of windscreen washer fluids find it difficult to clear the glass of this sticky and oily layer. You can aid their cause by adding a cap full of Vodka to the windscreen washer bottle. Gin or any other white liquor will also do, as the spirit within them is a good cleaning solvent for oily and sticky substances. And if you are driving through a dry state and the cops stop you, keep away from the windscreen while taking the breath test.
If you are a road traveler you should never hit the highway without putting a towing rope in your car. If you have one you won’t have to sit it out and wait until the mechanic turns up in the event of a breakdown. You can simply wave out to the passing trucks – most of them are only too happy to use your rope and tow your car for a fee to the nearest town.
Black is Back
Moulded bumpers, side mouldings etc, often turn grey thanks to the strong sunlight we experience in India. There are of course many colour restoration products that have shown up in the market, but your humble shoe polish, the liquid kind with the applicator on top, works well. Wash and dry the bumper and then apply the shoe polish liberally and let it dry. Wipe off the excess with a cloth and you will be amazed at how well the polish works. Best of all it’s cheap and also lasts long.
Another good method of cleaning a windscreen smeared with dirt and muck is to use newspaper. Splash the windscreen with water and wipe it dry with newspaper. Newsprint happily absorbs the oil deposits left behind by diesel fumes and helps clean up the windscreen and improve visibility.
These days many cars come fitted with fog lights. But please don’t get fooled by the name. These lights are not to be used only in fog and low visibility conditions. These are lights with a low and wide beam and are very useful while driving on hilly or twisty roads and also on the highway. The wide beam pattern lights up the edges of the road very well and gives you a broader vision.