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Sponsored feature: Safe driving, riding tips in India

14th Sep 2016 3:58 pm

A guide with nifty tips and tricks for making sure your car is ready for whatever the road throws at you.


So you’ve got a car. Great! Now you have to deal with driving on Indian roads. Not so great. Our roads are chaos and mayhem wrapped in noise. And sometimes, they’re even under water. How do you deal with all this? ‘With extreme caution’ sounds like a good idea. However, there are a few things you can actually do to make sure you’re making your life and that of other motorists’, a little bit easier. Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive. Following these tips also do not guarantee that you’ll never get into an accident. Use these to become a safer driver. Spread the information so that you can help everyone improve.

You’re doing it wrong!

Most people like to think that they’re good drivers. It’s everybody else on the road that is the problem. They also believe that they know how to take care of their car. But chances are you’ve been making these mistakes without realising that they’re actually mistakes. Here’s a quick list to keep in mind for the next time you’re on the road.

1) Not paying enough attention
On roads like ours, this is something you just cannot afford to do. And yet, you’ll see examples of this everywhere, increasing the potential for disaster. So if you’re taking phone calls, playing music with the volume really high, daydreaming, counting stars, talking to friends, checking on your dog or absolutely anything other than focusing on driving, you’re not paying enough attention to the task at hand. Of course, if you’ve noticed all this while driving, you’re just as guilty. Focus. Getting rid of every distraction isn’t possible. But paying more attention helps. If you think you can handle a car while doing any of the above things, you’re wrong.

2) Paying attention to the wrong things
Being alert is all-important. When you’re driving, you’re usually headed somewhere. It’s natural to check out signs for directions. But this may cause you to drift about. If you’re looking too far ahead, you may not notice that the car in front of you has stopped suddenly or is slowing down. Our roads are filled with distractions. Pay attention to the right things.

3) Using hazard lights in low visibility
You’ve definitely seen this one. Every time visibility is affected, either by rain, or fog, on come the hazards. This is something you definitely shouldn’t do. Switch on your tail-lights. How else will the car following you know when you’re changing direction? Use hazards only when you’ve suddenly slowed down or have come to a stop on the road.

4) Not knowing where to go
If you need to figure out where you have to turn, pull over, check your route and then head out again. Do not be like the geniuses who figure out they need to go right halfway through a left turn. If you’ve made a mistake, it’s not the end of the world. Go ahead and circle back safely and legally. 

5) Hogging the passing lane
The lane on the extreme right isn’t a fast lane. It’s called the passing lane and should be used as such. Pass the car in front of you, and then move back into the left/middle lane. Of course, in cities with insane levels traffic, this may not always be possible, but this rule should be fairly easy to follow on highways.

6) Holding the steering wheel
A lot of cars these days come equipped with airbags. Holding the steering wheel in the traditional ten o’clock and two o’clock positions doesn’t work anymore. In case of a collision, the airbag will deploy and you’ll end up with a rather explosive face palm. Nine and three or even eight and four
are the recommended positions today. Nine and three on the clock could even give you better control of the steering wheel and give you easy access to steering-mounted controls. Just don’t get your arms locked while turning. When you need to turn, pull the wheel down in the direction of the turn while pushing it up with the other hand. This way your arms never cross.

How many of these mistakes are you guilty of committing?

Treat it right

Take proper care of your car and it will take care of you. This becomes especially important when you’re heading out for a long drive. You have to be able to prepare your car for any weather or road conditions you may encounter. You need to make sure all the bits that require attention get the service they deserve and that every part is functioning optimally. Let’s take a look at what you need to keep in mind:

1) Be prepared for routine maintenance costs
From time to time, your car will need oil changes, brake pads, new tyres and other assorted things. Everyone knows this. But still when the time comes to change/ replace an essential part, most try and avoid spending as they believe it costs too much. Sounds familiar? Instead, just like an SIP, keep a little money aside every month for your car. A little sacrifice today will help for a rainy day.

2) Preparing for actual rainy days
If you’re driving a faulty vehicle in the rains, you’re asking for trouble, both for yourself and your car. Make sure your brakes are functioning properly and get your brake fluids and brake pads checked. We all know water and electrical components don’t mix. Ensure that all these are insulated properly. What’s important is checking that the car battery is in great shape. It undergoes a lot of strain in the monsoons as multiple electrical systems are functioning simultaneously. Checks for leaks and correct any body damage to protect your car from water corrosion. Polish helps too. Make sure your lights are working properly. Check for windshield water repellents to ensure better visibility. Also ensure that your car wiper blades are fresh and clean efficiently. Obviously, keep the washer fluid topped up to clear any dirt or grime that may splash on to the windshield. Finally, make sure you have a monsoon kit that includes a torch, extra fuses, headlamp and tail-lamp bulbs, a small tool kit, tyre inflator and an extra set of wiper blades. You can add more handy gadgets to the kit later if you want.

3) When the sun blazes down
The first thing you need when the mercury soars is the air-conditioning. That’s when it usually stops working. And you blame everything except the person responsible, yourself. Service it regularly, check leaks, top up compressor oil levels and clean dust and dirt. If that car has been parked in direct sunlight, first roll down the windows to let the heat escape. Then switch the AC to its highest fan setting and wait for a couple of minutes. Your AC will cool the car faster. Once temperatures outside and inside the car are similar, roll up the windows. Your engine needs to be kept cool too. Coolant, engine oil, hoses, belt and the battery all need to be looked after. A good coat of wax or polish forms a protective layer on your car and helps reflect heat. Your car will look cool and stay cool. Wondering if we’ve missed the obvious? No. Tyres usually get such little attention; we need to focus a little harder on them. After all, they’re the only points of contact your car has with the road.

Riding well

Everything comes down to this. It doesn’t matter how much power your car has, or what features it’s packed with, or how well you’ve looked after it, if your tyres aren’t in the right condition, nothing matters. The tyres you ride on go a long way in determining levels of grip, handling, stopping power, ride comfort and the all-important fuel economy. ABS, EBD, CSC, nothing can help you if your tyres are bad. Here are tips from tyre expert CEAT on certain tyre-related issues you’re sure to face.

1) Choosing the right tyre
Usually we just stick with the tyre that car comes with. When it’s time to change them, we’re not sure about what to do. It’s human nature to stick with what one knows and get another set that’s exactly the same or at most, check with the dealer. Here’s a little more information to help you out.

2) Upsizing
Fitting a wider tyre with the same or bigger rims than the one your car originally came with is called upsizing. But you can’t just fit monster truck tyres to your little hatch. There’s a science to this process. But what benefits does upsizing provide?

  • Wider footprint: This means the tyre-road contact patch is larger and therefore offers more grip and more control. Your car will feel more planted and the power it generates will be transferred to the road more effectively. 
  • Steering response is much better.
  • Aesthetics: Wider tyres on larger rims means the height of the tyre sidewall reduces. This means your car looks sportier and more aggressive. Sounds good? Take a look at the flip side too.
  • Upsizing makes your rims more prone to damage on bad roads.
  • The cost of these tyres and rims is usually higher.
  • You need to ensure that you’re not violating the insurance company’s terms and conditions.
  • And if done incorrectly, the tyre could rub against certain parts of the car and cause damage.

So what should you consider while upsizing?

  • Ensure that the upsized tyres’ load- carrying capacity and speed rating is not lower than that of thy OEM tyre.
  • Research the legal implications of making modifications to your vehicle.
  • Ensure that the wheel or rim is suitable and do not interfere with the car’s body.
  • Upsizing will affect ABS, ESP and traction-control systems. Understand these effects properly.
  • The error in your speedometer and odometer will increase as your tyre size has increased.
  • Remember that the outer diameter of the tyre remains the same, the rim diameter can increase by up to two inches.

Upsizing is also likely to have an adverse effect on fuel economy. For those who consider this above all else, CEAT has a solution – the CEAT Fuelsmarrt tyre. A specially designed product with a special tread pattern and functionalised polymer-based tread compound for better fuel economy and grip.

How does it work? The CEAT Fuelsmarrt tyres’ design and compound reduces its rolling resistance. Rolling resistance is the energy consumed by a tyre over a certain distance. Lower rolling resistance translates into less energy required which means less fuel is consumed. CEAT discovered that a 4% change in rolling resistance effects a 1 percent change in fuel economy. That doesn’t sound like much, right? Let’s put it in terms that are easy to understand. After extensive testing, CEAT discovered that over a distance of 36,500km, the Fuelsmarrt tyre will save you Rs.15,521. That 1 percent change in fuel economy looks impressive now, doesn’t it? CEAT isn’t claiming this on its own either. An independent testing agency was involved to ensure accuracy. The car this was tested with is one of India’s most popular hatchbacks and the speeds involved in testing, 50 and 80kph, are easily achieved on our roads and highways. What’s important to note, is that as its being used, the money you save on fuel pays for the cost of the tyre. Now that’s something nobody else offers.

Today, CEAT is the leading tyre manufacturer focusing on technology that helps reduce rolling resistance in tyres. Tyre’s aren’t usually considered hi-tech, but the technology involved in developing the CEAT Fuelsmarrt tyre is definitely cutting edge. So if you’re looking for a superior tyre, that provides superior grip and superior fuel economy, you know where to go. 

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