Zen and the art of car maintenance

I was sweaty, restless and driving across three cities in Delhi-NCR. It was 39 degrees (celcius) outside but felt more like 45, thanks to my car’s clunky air conditioning. The four-hour drive was arduous to say the least. The first thing I did after coming home as guzzle down a litre of chilled water and crash into bed for a quick 20 minute nap.

I woke up and went down to the parking lot to diagnose what could be wrong. I started the car, turned on the AC and nothing happened. I opened the bonnet to inspect, didn’t understand a thing and shut it back down. It’s a shame I don’t know a ding about what’s inside the hood even after driving my car for close to a 100,000 kilometres. All by myself! Talk about ignorance. I definitely have to be the king of them all.

Anyway, I had to do something about it so I decided to visit a local garage, which was a new experience. I haven’t ever serviced my car outside the company-owned showroom. But then, it’s a 6-year old car and the maintenance/services costs are much higher at the company-owned service stations than vendor-neutral local workshops for older cars.

Nonetheless, the decision was a wise one because I realised the the mechanics who’d worked on my car previously forgot to put the lid of the engine coolant back on! Which means my car has been running on empty for the past several days. Holy moly, I just might have been fried in my car had I not stopped by the workshop today!

And I can’t believe the timing of all this. Just when I’ve finally reached the verge to weaning away from named brands (as much as possible) I became aware of this incredible fact! I was furious! How could they? Of course, nobody answered that question. These local mechanics were much more sensible.

The mechanic who attended to my request was just awesome! First of all, he took me to a 5-7 minute drive nearby to get a sense of the car and point out the flaws of misses the car has developed. Secondly, he thoroughly invested what’s under the hood for nagging issues by asking a lot of questions (there were none, except the engine coolant’s missing lid). And finally, he share three specific tips that I can use to make sure that the car is in order and running healthy at all times.

The guy just educated me on how to take care of my car while thoroughly investigating it and advising me on the best course of action. Guess what? This has never happened in the 8 years that I have actually owned a car! Never! The flashy showroom mechanics would take notes while I describe the issue and that’s about it! There’s no diagnosis. There are no questions about how I drive and what challenges have come up recently. It’s just paperwork!

Wouldn’t every customer/client love to hear insights from an expert? Isn’t that what the essence of modern-day marketing? I can’t understand why a local garage would go the extra mile to do this while the company-owned showrooms and workshops won’t give a hoot unless they have to sell you something. And that’s a shame.

Now that’s not to say that I’m a transformed car-owner now. But I sure am a wiser one.

I’m not suggestion you should get your BMWs or Audis to a local workshop. I, however, invite you to consider if it makes sense to consult with an expert who actually cares about your car and most importantly, you. You’re paying money anyway. Might as well give it to someone you can tell you something useful than just handover the invoice.

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