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Old 29th June 2009, 16:29   #1
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Default Maiden venture - longish highway drive on Mumbai Pune Expressway

I did my first (relatively) long drive yesterday. And enjoyed every bit of it. I now know what Alto can do and cannot do. I have been on several motorbike rides spanning 1200+kms at a stretch, but this was a first in a car. My own car.

Its been 5 months since I bought my car and since then have been planning a trip to Himalayas. But then fate had its own plans and I got transferred from Delhi to Bombay. One Sunday morning, while chatting with my friend who lives in Poona, I got to know that Poona was only about 180 kms from Bombay. I told me friend to wait till I reached Poona and then we could continue with our conversations.

I took a quick shower, picked up the keys and went down to the parking lot. It was pouring that morning and I tried hard to remember what HVK and other expert travellers had mentioned about drive preparedness. All I could remember were 3 words - enjoy the drive. And that is what I intended to do.

I had heard a lot of the Bombay Poona expressway and was eager to hit it as soon as possible. I must mention here that I am quite a sedate driver and high speeds don't excite me as much as the scenery enroute. I have always maintained that the journey is more worthwhile than the destination.

I started off slowly, not knowing how Alto would react to wet roads. Would I have to drive slow, mind bends, drive on a lower gear for more distances or could I just 'point and shoot', as some BHPians would say? I decided to take it as things came by.

The rain puring down, the wipers doing their job, off I went. The first thing I noticed was that the wipers were almost helpless in heavy rain coupled with a 70kmph driving speed. Has any other Alto owner experienced this?

AK Roy sir, would like your comments.

Another thing which I experienced was fogging inside the car. The front windshield fogged out. I tried switching on the heater and turning the knobs around, turning the switch that directed the air towards the windshield but to no avail. Finally, it worked when I switched on the AC and the glass cleared.

Any idea on what is the best way to keep the glass from fogging? It rains heavily in Bombay and I will face this problem frequently.

Anyways, once the car hit the highway, I knew why travellers and driving enthusiasts love powerful cars. I drove and watched the Safaris, Scorpios, Accents, Santros, Indicas pass me merrily in high speeds. My Alto refused to go beyond 90 with the AC on. I sulked wondering if something was wrong with the vehicle or with my way of driving. I decided to floor the pedal and give it everything its got. She did move but did not hit top speed immediately. It took about 10 seconds before the needle crossed the 100 mark. What annoyed me was that the engine sounded like a diesel engine. I knew it was due to the AC. I could now understand why TBHP members said that an 800 cc car with AC is no good when it comes to power.

Ahead I went, at 100 and 110. The expressway is a pleasure to be on. I didn't have to change gears or do anything. Just a monotonous foot-on-the-pedal driving. So much so, that my other leg went to sleep and I had to shake it and wake it up. I really relished the way people drove - disciplined, no honking - a refreshing change from the traffic up North. It was solitude all the way. The kind of solitude that gives wings to your thoughts and lights up a faint smile on your face. Your mind is one with the vehicle and you just absorb the tiny hills up ahead with the dark clouds crowning their barren tops. I missed the Himalayas in Kashmir as I saw the mountains, small yet conquering.

My thoughts were only interrupted by some disturbing rattles in the car or the sound of the tyre against the road. Even the wipers seemed to start protesting now. They made a 'friction' sound against the glass. I must do something to the wiper blades before they start leaving marks on the glass.

THe ghat section on the expressway didn't look like one at all. With AC on, however, I had to move to a lower gear to maintain speeds of 80+. That is where Alto disappointed me. And the toll of Rs.140 looked like blue murder to me. But there is a price to pay for driving pleasure, I guess.
Driving downhill with Alto was again a pleasure. This time I switched off the AC and rolled the windows down. Some rain water will not harm me. Without the AC, I could touch 130 on my way back without feeling unsafe. Once I crossed 130, I started to feel a little unsure. The steering wheel became - how should I say this - loose. I mean, even the smallest gravel on the road made the steering wheel move even though I held it well. I couldn't imagine driving at that speed without a hand on the wheel. That made me conscious and I had to slow down to the 120 range.

Any other Alto owner experienced this?

The flip side to such a beautiful day, lovely drive and lovelier roads is that it comes to an end too soon. I took 1 hour 40 minutes onward and 1 hour 10 minutes on my return journey. Of course, I stopped over twice on the onward leg. But this drive has left me with an unquenched thirst to hit the road again. And this time, it will be with a camera and will be for a longer stretch. I know I will not find expressways everywhere. But as long as I have the desire, no road will remain less travelled.
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Old 29th June 2009, 16:42   #2
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Congrats on making the first road trip in your car. It's always special.

It is common for the windscreen and windows to fog from inside when it's raining heavily and the A/C isn't on. The easiest way to get rid of it is to turn on the A/C. If it happens in a non-A/C car, the driver or someone sitting in the front seat will have to periodically wipe the windscreen with a cloth, there is no other option. You would have observed taxi drivers doing it.

The fog is caused by the difference in temperature between the inside and outside of the car, combined with the humidity in the air. The A/C removes the humidity and also lowers the cabin temperature.

The situation is normally worse if the reverse happens - fogging outside the windscreen due to a cooler cabin. The fog/frost may refuse to go even if you use the wiper. You will have to heat the cabin a bit to get rid of this problem.
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Old 29th June 2009, 16:58   #3
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The Bombay Poona expressway is a good road for the first long drive.

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Originally Posted by travelwriter View Post
Once I crossed 130, I started to feel a little unsure. The steering wheel became - how should I say this - loose. I mean, even the smallest gravel on the road made the steering wheel move even though I held it well.....Any other Alto owner experienced this?...
Well, it is a small car and at 130 it would have been touching the limits. I think what you felt was normal for an Alto.
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Old 29th June 2009, 17:13   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by straightdrive View Post
The Bombay Poona...normal for an Alto.
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Originally Posted by pjay_in View Post
Congrats ...rid of this problem.

Thanks, guys. I guess a few more drives and I will get to know the nuances.

THe other thing which ticks me off with an Alto is the headlights. It is so feeble that night driving seems risky (at least for me...heavy glasses, you see).

Anyway I can make them brighter? Different bulbs or something?
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Old 29th June 2009, 17:14   #5
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Fogging is quite normal when there is a difference of temperature and with A/c, you can effectively take care of it. Am sure that you will get over it with few more long drive or driving through winter (not sure how much of a winter you have in Mumbai). At times, if the outside temperature is quite low, then you might experience fogging on the windshield, for which you need to use your wipers.

I never pushed my FILs Alto over 100, so not sure about the balance and stability at high speeds.
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Old 29th June 2009, 17:29   #6
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I hate giving gyan on public fora but can't help mention here that I wouldn't drive an Alto at 130 for too long. The tyres aren't perhaps made for that kind of speed. Lot of accidents happen due to tyre failure.
AK Roy has Michelins and Aura, by the way That makes it possible to drive at high speed for extended periods of time, though I am not too sure he does that.
Regarding fogging - the only other option, other than AC, is to open the windows !! Smokers need to do this, even in rain.
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Old 29th June 2009, 22:23   #7
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Congrats on Phase 1! You'll soon discover that India is a very scenic country and driving becomes a passionate way of life.
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Old 30th June 2009, 08:53   #8
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You have talked about your Alto's performance here. I think you need to go for a check up of your car. On NE-1 ( National Expressway 1 ) between A'bad and Vadodara, we have driven our 1 lakh kms+ Maruti 800 at around 110 with four passengers. The car was bought in 1992.

Alto is known to cross 100 kmph mark quite easily and is quite good upto 130 and its after that the progress slows down. All this with AC that is what I have experienced.
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Old 30th June 2009, 11:05   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aaggoswami View Post
You have talked about your Alto's performance here. I think you need to go for a check up of your car.

Alto is known to cross 100 kmph mark quite easily and is quite good upto 130 and its after that the progress slows down. All this with AC that is what I have experienced.
I too feel that you need to check the car. I had used Alto for long drives earlier and has done speeds of 120 to 130 kmph (though never felt safe when it comes to braking)
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Old 30th June 2009, 13:21   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gadadhar View Post
I too feel that you need to check the car...)
Quote:
Originally Posted by aaggoswami View Post
You have ...experienced.
I too am starting to feel that there is something wrong. But when I went to a service centre sometime back, they did not find anything wrong. Maybe I couldn't explain correctly. I am planning another visit soon. I will tell them that the engine sounds like a diesel engine at high speeds with AC on and that it is a fight to get it to beyond 100.

Also, I have not done 130+ speeds for long distances. It was for around 20 kms at the most.

Thanks for the tips. Will post again once I have a doc check the car.

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.....Smokers need to do this, even in rain.
Have that nicotine turking issue here as well. Keep the windows down, I say!!
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Old 30th June 2009, 13:36   #11
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Congrats on your maiden venture, I'm sure it is just the first of many more ! Keeping the windows open will not be an option if he plans to do 100+ speeds as there will be high wind buffetting and wind turbulence, not safe.
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Old 30th June 2009, 15:15   #12
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Congrats on your first journey. Few things probably you can check are,
Wiper blades, how old they are? Do you leave your car outside, in the Sun?
Balancing of the wheels, may be that is the reason of the floating. I have an alto too and driven it around 120 but never felt like what you said. It did feel unstable at high speed but not like no steering feeling. Better keep this car at max 100kmph.
Is this a new car? If not probably you can get your Throttle Body cleaned. That may be the reason of not crossing 90 mark. Alto crosses 100 kmph quite effortlessly. Or probably your gear shifting was not correct. Have you tried that 60/70/80-100 thing at 5th gear or so, instead of lower gear (4th basically)?
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Old 30th June 2009, 16:38   #13
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Quote:
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Congrats on your first journey. ..?
Thanks, Kannan. I will remember your tip.

Kaushik, that was really valuable info.

My car is new. I bought it in Dec 08 and it has done 5500 kms (after this trip).

As for the wheel balancing / alignment thing, I do find the car swerving to the right if I leave the steering wheel. I will get that checked.

I used to park the car right under the sun in Delhi, and you know how hot it can get. Could this have messed up the wiper blades? And is replacement the only option, in that case?

I must cclarify here that my Alto does take some coaxing to go beyond 90. But once it does, it does well. Except when the AC is on, there is an annoying drone that I can hear with the windows rolled up.

I am not clear on the 60/70/80-100 thing you mentioned. What is that? When I drive, I usually slot into the 5th gear around 50 (without AC) and 60 (with AC). There is a slight protest from the car with the AC on, but when I perist driving in 5th, it calms down to a smoother drive.

I plan to go the service station, but what I should ask them to check is the gap. I don't want to come back with an answer that everything is ok. Just rectify driving style.

You feel the problem could be serious?
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Old 30th June 2009, 18:07   #14
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Nice start but my car do touch 130kmph with AC on highways (mostly in GQs never tried that in 2 laned roads). But the acceleration maynot be like the biger cars. But it is risky to keep that speeds in indian highways. My speeds hover generally 80-100 (2 laned) and 100-120 (GQ, 4 laned) with occassional push to the pedal to 130 - 135.

All my highway trips are with AC on and if the car was slowing that way then I cannot cover the distances faster. Dont worry about who is overtaking or not. You better enjoy your drive. Slowly you will realize you are also covering the distance faster. There is not much difference in the timings in a very long drive whether your car can hit 150 or 100 in indian roads. In the end it is all about driver endurance.

Better profile tyres also provide stability at higher speeds. Now coming to wipers, I generally put AC when it rains, all problems solved.

Congrats on your first journey. At 10K service switch to Castrol Magnatec, you will hear less sounds then and more pickup.

Abhi
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Old 30th June 2009, 21:09   #15
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Nice start and wish and hope to see many more long drives like these.

I still have an alto that performs superbly on highways. It has done 120+ speeds comfortably on 4 laned roads with the AC on all the time. From my experience I would say the car would feel stable until 120 and it would tend to show off its instability there after.

The noise inside the cabin does seem to be high at speeds beyond 100. I wouldn't say it is the engine that creats all the noise rather it is a combination of friction between tire and the road, air flow into the car from front and the engine noise. Have some good music playing inside and you will not feel the noise.

Alto is one small, practical everyday vehicle, with decent pick up, mileage, breaking and on and on.

Do enjoy your future trips and do post some pics there on.
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