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Old 22nd October 2020, 22:20   #1
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Default Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!

Introduction

This is to share with you my memorable experiences with a boxy minivan, a 2003 Maruti Versa, that I held for the longest period among all vehicles that I’ve owned.

This vehicle came as a bland bread box but its virtues grew on me and eventually went on to woo me like no vehicle ever has.

This is my only vehicle whose pictures are in all formats – from roll camera prints to digicam files to mobile camera pictures.

Read on !!!

Acknowledgement

In owning and maintaining the Maruti Versa, I have to specifically thank

1. Providence and "Team Chacha" for having saved the vehicle from a certain complete damage in the 2006 mega floods when I was not in town; it is possible that even if I were around, I might not have taken as quick actions as they did.

2. Joby, the vehicle transformation specialist, who is the current owner of my Versa. The Versa is close to completing ten years with him.

3. the team at Robert Bosch Chassis systems for stepping in and helping me overcome a brake related issue that had kept the vehicle down for 4 days.


Why the change of car and why Versa in particular?

I’d narrated the story of my 1995 Maruti Esteem to you all here (The story of a 1995 Maruti Esteem)

There was no compelling reason to part with the Esteem except that she was nearing the 9 year mark.

We had gone out to dine at a restaurant one evening, and as we were alighting from the Esteem, my better half spotted this beautifully appointed black Versa that had just arrived – the sliding door opened, and out come 1,2,3,4,5,6 people and she was kind of stunned.

Normally she has never shown any keenness in car matters but on returning home that day, she expressed a desire that our next vehicle should be a Versa. I asked her why and she just said she liked it so much.

That was how the seed of the Versa was planted.

A couple of months later, in May 2004, I got bitten by the car-change bug and then started looking at the Versa brochure.

Maruti Versa.pdf

Although I hadn’t seen one in detail, I started appreciating a few aspects and standard features about the boxy minivan
  • Electronic Power Steering
  • front power windows
  • HVAC ( with a twin AC on the DX2 variant)
  • central locking
  • tachometer
  • Load Sensing Proportionating valve (LSPV) - to vary the hydraulic pressure to the rear brakes based on load
  • 82bhp Mpfi G series 16 valve engine (big deal those days)
  • low turning radius of 4.5m.

Unlike my first car, the Padmini, which I first sold and then landed an Esteem after a 45 day treasure hunt and a lot of drama, this time I was clear that the Esteem would go only after Versa comes.

Would the Versa be an affordable vehicle?

With the Esteem, I had to do my due diligence to see if I could afford to run and maintain one.

In the case of the Versa, while I knew that several components were Japanese, the fact that the on-road price was bumped down from 2002 made me believe that import substitution of parts had started; plus the Versa was definitely priced lower than the Esteem.

The on-road price for a Versa DX was approx. INR 4.55 lacs and the DX2 was priced at 4.95 lacs on road then.

So, it was going to be a Versa next.

Last edited by vigsom : 23rd October 2020 at 09:39.
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Old 22nd October 2020, 22:33   #2
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Default re: Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!

The Search for a Versa – Jun2004

Get something different and go pre-owned – these were, are, and will probably always remain my mission statements w.r.t cars.

With the Padmini and the Esteem, I had, in my assessment, moved from iron standard to bronze standard with respect to my ability to maintain cars; and this confidence helped me move forward.

Getting a pre-owned Versa then was akin to looking for a needle in a haystack; the car was a poor seller, and that made the task of searching for pre-owned all the more daunting.

“No ads in the newspapers, no clubs to visit, then how do I find one?”, was the question I asked myself. Dealers was the answer.

I had, by now, known the Surat market and the “better” dealers, so decided to try this route and approached one of them

1. saw this end-2002 white DX2, done some 30,000km, with a DVD player, screen and a few other add ons.

The dealer wanted some 4.25 lacs which I felt was absurd.

I was sure that the dealer wouldn’t budge below 4.1 lacs, and hence didn’t go about doing a detailed assessment.

2. In the process of looking for a good 800 for somebody, I chanced upon another GJ-01 registered 2002 Versa DX which had again done some 26,000kms, which again was fully loaded but overpriced at 4.25 lakhs.

In both these examples, I saw some more standard features and conveniences:

• flexi seating with double folding third row, single folding center now, and a jump seat that becomes an armrest when folded

• reclining and folding front seats

• fold down the center row seat and you can be seated in the third row with legs outstretched on the second row

• 155/80R13 LT tyres – same tyre type (L607) as the Toyota Qualis. These tyres were designed to take a max of 65psig.

These two examples led me to wonder why the owners were parting with their Versas so quick at such low odo readings, but I didn’t realise why until many days later. Read on !!!!

Seeing either overpriced fully loaded cars, or no cars, I decided to post an ad in the Gujarat Samachar and titled it “Versa Joyye Chhe” (Wanted Versa).

I’d inserted the ad to be published in the weekend editions.

The Saturday morning edition carried my ad and I got a complimentary copy of the paper too.

1. At approx. 11 that morning, I got a call from the manager of a popular beach side restaurant stating that their boss had a Versa DX2 and was keen to sell.

I went to evaluate the car. The moment he took the covers off, I was like – Wow !!!!

• Superior White DX2

• Dec 2003 done just 6,400kms

• JVC DVD player with roof mounted screen

• fabric seat covers

• dark sun control film

• Rear spoiler

Took a test drive and then immediately realized why the two examples I saw before this were being put up for sale at very low odo readings - the ride was just too bumpy, like riding a horse.

I was sure that the owners must have realised this behaviour and labelled it as not - acceptable.

I looked at the RC, and the registration was valid only until Dec 2005; didn’t understand this too but decided to probe further.

The owner said he would release the vehicle for a non-negotiable price of 4.2 lacs, which was OK for a car this pristine, but again, I would be paying for stuff that I wouldn’t need eg. DVD player and screen.

I hate this screen being installed in a way that disrupts rear view through the IRVM.

I told him I would revert.

2. Surprise of surprises, another gentleman called that night mentioning that he was keen on selling his Versa DX, and that we could meet the next morning if I wanted to see the vehicle.

I was obviously interested and said Yes.

The next day, viz Sunday, I went to his place and looked at the vehicle – absolutely stock, Dec 2003 Versa DX, also Superior White, done 21,900km.

On looking at the car, one couldn’t say this vehicle had done 21,900 kms. She looked so original.

I took a test drive, and surprisingly, this Versa rode smoother than the one that had done 6,400kms.

Was it that this one had completed its extended running in? No idea.

When I examined the RC, this one also showed a registration validity of Dec 2005.

I asked the owner about this and he said that all private vehicles in Gujarat with over 5 seats carried a registration validity of only 2 years from new, requiring registration renewal (CPI) at the RTO every year thereafter.

This 2003 Versa DX was the first sub 4 lakh pre-owned Versa that I had seen – the owner quoted 3.75 lakhs which I felt was fair considering that the vehicle was only 7 months old.

I asked him how the vehicle had done so many kms in 7 months plus why he was selling.

He said that his usage was high @3000km a month and he hadn’t realized that a petrol minivan would make his fuel bills sky rocket. He was,therefore, looking to move to a Chevy Tavera.

Since this was a pristine vehicle, I didn’t ask Chacha to do an evaluation of the vehicle's mechanicals but did request Joby to assess the bodyline and paint.

He had this to say, ” Ek dum untouch gaadi hai” (absolutely untouched original).

I told the owner I would get back.

Last edited by vigsom : 23rd October 2020 at 09:56.
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Old 22nd October 2020, 22:53   #3
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Default re: Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!

I returned home and then did a comparison of the Dec2003 Versa DX2 vs the Dec 2003 Versa DX. Refer the table below:

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You will see that there was approx. INR 24K of accessories in the DX2, but honestly

• I didn’t want a screen or the DVD player, as I was already contemplating shifting the Esteem’s audio set up to the next car.

• The spoiler wasn't good quality – this was fitted onto the hatch via clamps on both sides, which I didn’t appreciate much. Over time, the FRP around the clamps would crack and eventually disintegrate.

• Seat covers – really didn’t matter as the stock seats were already great

That left me with one big difference – the twin AC in the DX2.

While evaluating the DX, I raised the tailgate and checked the throw of the single AC at blower speed no.2; found that I was able to feel the draft at the rear, so verified that the single AC was powerful enough for third row passengers.

Also, my vehicle was going to be predominantly a 5 seater so the twin AC wasn’t a feature that I would really need.

I decided that 3.95 lacs would be a fair price for the DX2 but the owner was firm on not going below 4.2 lacs; understandably so since his steed had done only 6,400kms and was only 7 months old.

Yes, for someone who was looking for a DX2, and with all the goodies, it would have been a great buy.

Seeing a stalemate there, I left and approached the owner of the DX. This was a stock car and I had all the freedom to build it to my taste.

Here again, the owner was reluctant to go below his expected 3.75 lacs. I could understand his predicament – he had bought the wrong car, found it difficult to let go of so early, and would also lose an EMI in foreclosing his loan with Kotak Primus.

Eventually, after a lot of back and forth, he came down to INR 3.68 lacs. I didn’t want to stretch the negotiations further since I had realized that he had reached his low limit. I've realized over several years that anydeal has to be a win-win and for this, either side shouldn't feel disappointed.

I paid the owner 25k as advance and he said he would get back the next day with the process of loan closure.

D-Day

I went with the owner to Kotak, and once he cleared the loan, got the NOC from them for hypothecation release, and handed over all that came with the vehicle, I gave him the balance money.

This was an as good as new vehicle and came with the following:

• 2 original keys

• Copy of the original invoice (the original invoice was retained by Kotak Primus)

• Live Maruti insurance

• Owner’s Manual

• Spare bulbs in the glove box

• Tool kit

• Warning triangle

• First Aid Kit

• a coupon that would get me free issues of an auto magazine

• a good quality carrier used only once

• full length floor mats – in two parts for the rear and one for the front – very high quality

The owner was a pious man; when he handed over the car, he took off his footwear, bowed before the Ganpati idol that was inside the car, and thanked me profusely for helping him realize his dream of the Tavera. There is a lot more to parting with a car than just a business deal !!!

I drove the tall boy home, then in the evening took my better half and our son for a pooja, post which, yet again, people were stunned to see an eight seater standing tall in the parking.

The Esteem, meanwhile, was parked in another slot in the same complex.

The same evening, 2 friends with their families (8 of them plus three of us) went for an ice-cream treat with 8 people in the Versa and 3 in a Zen, and by the time we returned, the three in the Zen had also enjoyed a ride in the Versa.

It was when there were eight people in the Versa that I realized its load-hauling capabilities.

Here is a picture of the taller boy, less than 10 days into purchase.

Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-versa_new.jpg

The Esteem finds a new home

With the Versa in, I was looking to part with the Esteem.

As expected, there were several low-ballers bidding for the Esteem but I kept them all at bay.

Esteem was finally picked up by a colleague in the same apartment.

The deal was sealed the same day Maj. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (now Colonel) won silver at the Athens Olympics. If I remember right, the date was 17 Aug 2004.

Although Esteem found a new home, she was there, just one parking slot away, in the same apartment, making me think if I was right in giving her away !!!

Ownership and Insurance Transfer of the Versa

The applications for hypothecation cancellation and ownership transfer were submitted to the RTO and the process took 15 days.

Those days, even though the bank’s NOC was there, the protocol would require the RTO to reconfirm with the bank before the hypothecation was cancelled. The transfer took 15 days and I paid INR 1030 in all.

Maruti Insurance was transferred to my name via an endorsement by the earlier owner of the car as he had some links at the Maruti dealership.

Initial Impressions

Remember what I’d mentioned in the introduction to this thread –the several attributes of the Versa started growing on me.

I acquired the Versa during the monsoon, and my first drive in rain was just electrifying -I felt so secure inside, being able to look at the road high up like a Dada.

Likes

1. Versatility - load it as much as you want - no issues

2. Rocket speed pick up

3. Great maneuverability in tight lanes due to its compact dimensions, flat sides and great turning radius

4. Lot of glass all around – makes the cabin airy plus gives the driver a great all round view

5. Reasonable water wading capability

Dislikes

1. Ride and handling - drive at speeds over 100 kmph and one is asking for trouble, especially in cross-winds

2. Bad ergonomics – those who have to work on the engine find it difficult since the engine is under the front seats

Performance and Fuel Efficiency

This car would return approx. 13kmpl in City, 01kmpl lower than the carb. Esteem.

Last edited by vigsom : 23rd October 2020 at 14:00.
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Old 22nd October 2020, 23:12   #4
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Default re: Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!

The Start of a long innings !!

While my ownership experience with the Versa had its regular experiences eg. routine maintenance and upkeep, I would also like to share some learnings and unforgettable experiences in those years :

2004

1. After getting the Versa, I decided to lift and shift the KEH-P8450 Head Unit and the dome speakers TS-2150 from the Esteem into this car – and the results were quite dissatisfying.

The acoustics in a sedan are way different from an MUV, and the same great sounding ICE in the Esteem turned out to be a just a meooow in the Versa.

A tray had to be installed at the rear of the Versa to house the TS-2150s – by doing this, access to the rear of the car was hampered.

Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-rearspeakersversa.jpg

Having taken a step forward, although disappointing, I decided to live with the new set up. It wasn’t bad per se but nowhere as good as in the Esteem.

While in Mumbai once, I visited bhpian @V-16, saw his Versa, and realized that installing 6*9s in the panels on the sides of the third row was a better option. Those panels would need to be substituted with 12mm MDF panels with openings for the 6x9s. I didn’t try that though.

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2005 - An assortment of experiences

Many on the forum have said this – when you’re getting bored with a car, do something to make it look, perform or sound different; same here.

1. Beautification

A few months into ownership and there was this itch to eliminate the boxy profile of the Versa; few observations :

a. rear looked too tall, bland and unicolor
b. wheels looked bland
c. grille looked pedestrian

I thought of options and the following ideas emerged:

a. a faux colour band ( tail blazer) similar to older cars in the West.

b. spoiler purely to up the looks of the vehicle

c. some nice looking hyper-silver wheel caps on black rims

I evaluated three options for the spoiler – two clamp type and one bolt type. Rejected the clamp type and chose the bolt type since it would ensure a proper fit on the tailgate plus would be durable too. The spoiler cost me INR 1200.

For wheel caps, chose a nice design from the options available by KT (Kuang Tong). I didn’t want to install alloys.

Got the rims painted black, the tail blazer painted, the grille repainted in silver-black and the spoiler painted and fitted – all for a mere INR 2500

Stock (sample picture of another car)
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After the mod
Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-versa1.jpg

Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-versa2.jpg

2. Jun2005 – the first load test for the Versa

One of my ex-bosses asked for the Versa for two days to be used during his daughter’s wedding. I was not going to hand over the car but as a mid-path, offered to help with any transportation arrangements that might be needed, but with me driving the Versa.

Boss said that he was expecting six guests by a train arriving at 2am . I was ok to bring them over but needed someone from the family to identify them for me.

Boss’ elder brother was then slated to come along.

That night, it started to pour, and the rain never stopped. Boss’ elder bro and I went to the station at 2 only to realize that the train was two hours late. We had also hired a Qualis to take care of baggage, should we find it in excess.

The train arrived at 4am, and boss’ elder bro saw 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11 – eleven guests alight, most of them ladies

Need I mention how much luggage there was? There were at least 30 pieces.

Boss’ elder bro was himself perplexed at this arrival of unscheduled guests and then wondered how we would handle them all and their baggage.

We then worked out the logistics, rather than have the ladies and the small kids split into two vehicles, we got all the luggage filled to the brim in the Qualis, and eleven guests(09 ladies and 02 kids) plus boss’ elder bro and me – all in the Versa that rainy morning. It was just a 7km ride to the venue so I didn’t mind the additional load.

The Versa passed its load test in style – no sign of struggle at all. In fact that ride was when I realized that the Versa loves being loaded and rides best in this condition.

Last edited by vigsom : 23rd October 2020 at 16:29.
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Old 22nd October 2020, 23:28   #5
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2005 (Contd.)

3. Coolant Replacement – very tricky indeed !!!

I decided to change the coolant myself and went about the usual practice of draining coolant into a container, only to realize that the volume drained was only about 2 liters.

Only then did I realize that the radiator in this vehicle sits higher than the block and one would have to decouple the radiator bottom hose to drain out all the coolant from the block.

Filled the coolant back in and then before the car reached Chacha’s garage just 500m away, the temperature gauge had crossed its normal 50%; some air had been trapped !!!

Yes, the coolant change was a royal pain the first time, because we knew nothing about this vehcile that had the radiator at a higher elevation than the engine.

We

1. removed the radiator bottom hose
2. drained coolant into a pan
3. fitted the hose back
4. filled coolant in the radiator and the expansion tank
5. ran the engine till the thermostat opened, stopped the engine to allow coolant to be taken in from the tank and repeated this several times till no more coolant drop was seen in the expansion tank.

The process took almost 5 hours.

We later found that there is a Thermostat cap under the gear lever plate (hard to access) - this cap is unique to the Eeco and the Versa.

Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-thermostatcap_versa.jpg

plus a bleeder hose from the heater outlet pipe plugged into a blank at the jack pedestal

Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-bleederhose_versa.png

The bleeder hose was used during the next coolant replacement in 2009.

4. Cassette + MP3 Player

In late 2005, another upgrade bug bit me – this time it was the urge to move from an only cassette player to an mp3 player, as mp3s became quite popular. The audiophiles would, however, swear by audio CDs but shun mp3 CDs.

I settled for a Pioneer DEH-P5750MP for some INR 7100 but wanted a rather weird set up – that I should be able to use the mp3 player and the cassette player whenever I wanted to play either.

My electrician’s boss, who was then regarded the best in Surat, told me that he would need to do some internal modification such that with one wiring socket, either of the players could be used. He also mentioned that two 1 DIN players cannot fit with their surround strips in one 2 DIN slot.

Seeing that this was getting complicated, I decided to shelve the idea, returned the unused 5750 and got myself a JVC KW-XC 404 double din mp3 cum cassette player for INR 9200.

After installation, I realized that the player, although good looking, and with a parametric equalizer, had a very weak on-board amp.

The ICE started sounding much weaker that with the 8450 cassette player.

2006 -The Great Escape from Flood Fury !!!

This was Aug 2006, and I had gone home on leave.

One day, my better half called me to state that there was a warning that water was going to be discharged from the Ukai reservoir and that the authorities had sounded a flood warning.

I told her to relax since we had seen the 1998 flood and from information that I had gathered from my colleagues, the situation wasn’t as grim as then.

However, good samaritan Chacha (my automotive guru who I’ve introduced to you through my Padmini thread) sensed something wrong and sent his partner home to collect the Versa to be taken to a higher plane, just in case a flood situation arose.

I will forever be thankful to him and his team for his foresight, as by late the same night, the release of water had assumed alarming proportions – 11 lakh cusecs against the river’s capacity of 3.5 lakh cusecs.

File picture of the Tapti in spate in Aug2006
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Meanwhile power lines were shut, I could communicate with my wife only once a day since they needed to conserve charge on the mobile battery, and there was no information on the whereabouts of the Versa as Chacha and his partner were unreachable.

I was there 2000km away, assuming the worst, getting worked up, and my mother having to tell me that all would be well !!!

I returned to Surat on 16 Aug 2006, to see mass devastation along the route from the Railway Station to my residence.

While there was devastation, the indomitable spirit of Surat was also on display. People just got back to bringing normalcy, and in just one week, except cars that were flood affected, everything else was Business As Usual (BAU).

Restless and impatient, I went to Chacha immediately after I arrived and he told me the Versa was safe but the clutch plate was stuck as the car was in standing 1.5 feet water for 2 days.

The Versa was saved because one of his technicians, Ravi, decided to take the vehicle to his place in Vesu, a residential area that hadn’t seen water in the 1998 floods. This time around there was 1.5 feet of water outside Ravi’s house with some 6 inches inside the house too.

The next morning, I went to Ravi’s place to try and get the Versa back to running. Man, what a relief it was to see her all unscathed !!!

We checked the engine oil, and the air filter just to be doubly sure, and pushed the Versa out of the Society to a clear road to attempt to free the clutch.

The issue was like this – start the car with gear in neutral, then press the clutch and one couldn’t slot it in gear. Shut the engine off and the gears would shift.

The following steps were performed to attempt to free the clutch :

a. Ensured that there was a clear 70-80m obstruction free road for the car to be pushed without any blocks

b. Two people pushed the car with me in the driver seat

c. Once the car gained some momentum, pressed the clutch, slotted the car in no.2 gear and started the car

d. The car started, lunged forward but I simultaneously pressed the clutch with left foot and brake and accelerator with right foot, and the clutch disc freed itself.

e. In just 3-4 seconds, the clutch was free and operating normal. I continued to keep the clutch pressed for a while with the engine running to ensure that it warmed up and didn’t adhere again to the flywheel.

The release bearing, however, had a whine, but we just monitored it. This bearing continued to operate without fuss until the clutch was replaced, almost a decade later.

The Versa was back in operation, with zero impact due to the massive floods that year.

My earlier car, the Esteem wasn’t lucky and was submerged in 8 feet of water. It was quite an effort to bring that car back into operation. The fuel pump had to be replaced and all the power windows went kaput.

Last edited by vigsom : 23rd October 2020 at 17:32.
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Old 23rd October 2020, 07:46   #6
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2007- The year of ICE !!!

Re-iterating - The best way to love a car all over again is to perform minor upgrades from time to time. This way, the excitement remains.

I’ve already written about how the audio set up of this car was far from satisfactory; hence decided to add an amplifier to see how better it got.

I was a pure novice at ICE and that showed in how I swapped a Pioneer 5750 MP for a JVC double din.

While looking for an amplifier, there was this chance introduction to a distributor for Nippon, Kenwood, Philips products ,where I decided to look at options.

1. Amplifier

options presented to me were the Sony, Pioneer and Kenwood.

- I did hear negative stories about Sony products, so scored that off my list
- knew that Pioneer Head Units were good but not sure about how good Pioneer amplifiers were.

Hence, decided to go with the Kenwood 8401 4 channel amplifier, which seemed well built with decent specs for a 4 speaker speaker set up.
I also found that the amp would be able to drive a low RMS sub in bridged mode.

The Kenwood 8401 amp
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2. Subwoofer

I was ok with just an 8” sub but there were no options in that size. The reason I wanted an 8” sub was so that I could build a custom enclosure and install it under the center seat and not intrude into boot space.

8” was not available so settled with a Philips 10" ASW1000 200W RMS subwoofer.

3. RCA interconnects

Some cheap ones were available but on the distributor’s recommendation, I got Monster 100 series interconnects

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4. Oxygen Free Cables

Got these separately from an electronics store

5. Wiring Kit

This was not necessary as my trusted electrician used the right gauge cables for such jobs.

6. Enclosure for the Sub

Went to a person who fabricates speaker rings, speaker trays and subwoofer enclosures, and got an MDF enclosure of the following dimensions made for the subwoofer to sit under the center seat. The volume of the enclosure was just approx. 0.35 cu.ft

Length 11"
Width 11"
Height1 6.5"
Height2 7.5"

The Sub
Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-philipssub_enclosure1.jpg

under the second row seat
Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-subunderseat.jpg

7. Installation

The amp was initially wired with the front channels driving the sub and the rear channels driving the 2150s, which I found weird, but later modified as follows:

a. Front channels – driving the front speakers with HPF at 100Hz
b. Rear channels bridged – driving the subwoofer with LPF at 100Hz.

While many of you might find the set up rather odd, I had several people appreciate the overall soundstage and even I did find the set up quite good.

Based on my interactions with several installers later, I learnt that no other car in Surat except mine had the front speakers driven off the amp. There, it was always the rear 6x9s and the sub off the amp.

In my view, the 8401 amp and the Monster interconnects were the right choice, while the HU could have been better.

In hindsight, I would rate the 8401 amp as excellent for speakers but tad underpowered for even a 200W RMS sub

I then undertook another project to raise the height of the center seat by approx. 1.5 inches.

This was to improve under thigh support for passengers plus also prevent the seat spring from getting too close to the top of the subwoofer.

Seat - original
Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-seatheight_original.jpg

Seat - revised (Note the height increase)
Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-seatheight_revised.jpg


2008 - Transforming the interiors

This was the year of the modification that transformed the interiors of the Versa. Details here (Transforming a Maruti's dull interiors to dual-tone Beige-Black colours)

The results were extremely satisfying.

I am sharing just one before and after picture here while more details can be found in the thread link that I have posted above.

Before
Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-beforemod.jpg

After
Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-lftdoor.jpg

I also experimented with the sub in the front. It looked as though the enclosure was designed to fit in that gap below the dash without disturbing the AC blower suction.

The blower suction shown
Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-acsuction.jpg

The sub in the front
Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-subfront2.jpg

The soundstage was sounding the best with the sub in front. However, I wasn’t too comfortable with this placement as it left no room for sideways movement of the left leg and therefore I shifted the sub back to under the center seat.

2009 - The year of ups and downs

1. New enclosure for the subwoofer

The under-seat subwoofer was doing its job satisfactorily but passengers complained of discomfort

I then decided to upgrade the enclosure to a larger one and shift the enclosure to the boot.

Had the subwoofer enclosure upgraded to approx. 0.6 cu.ft with the following dimensions. The carpenter took back the old enclosure for Rs.300

Length 17"
Width 14"
Height1 6.5"
Height2 7.5"

The new sub enclosure with the sub placed off center
Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-philipssub_enclosure2.jpg

This subwoofer enclosure went into the boot (or whatever was left of it) and I didn’t experiment any more. The soundstage was just about right for my ears.

I had built a coupler such that the sub could be removed whenever I needed more room for baggage.

Last edited by vigsom : 23rd October 2020 at 14:35.
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Old 23rd October 2020, 11:31   #7
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2009(Contd.)

2. Wheel Cylinder Leak

One morning in Jun 2009, I saw the brake warning light pop up suddenly on my way to Office. Pulled over and inspected the brake fluid level and found it to be approx. half.

Bent down and inspected the rear brakes and found some seepage on the right rear wheel.

Continued to drive and while at Office, sourced some DOT3 brake fluid from a spare parts shop closeby.

The next day, had the system inspected by Chacha and found that the right rear wheel cylinder, made by Nissin Japan, had developed pitting on the inside. There was some polymeric substance on the cylinder piston and springs too.

When we enquired at the MGP distributor, we were told that the part was SGP, available in their warehouse but would cost INR 1845

A normal wheel cylinder would then cost INR 160 or thereabouts.

We tried several wheel cylinders that were available – in some, the length matched but the mounting holes didn’t, while in some the holes matched but the length was different.

The car was thus stuck with its right wheel off.

Not willing to give up, I checked that the front calipers were supplied by TVS, while the brake pads were from Sumitomo.

I called up someone known to me in Brakes India Ltd. to check about the rear brakes; the feedback was that TVS wasn’t making the rear brakes for the Versa.

Not giving up, I explored with Robert Bosch Chassis Systems (RBIC) Pune and then sent a mail to their EVP and CFO. Details are attached:

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Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-reply_rbic.jpg

Post this mail, the following day, the local area engineer called me to tell me that both wheel cylinders PD2803 and PD3317 were available at a dealer in Surat, Shirish Motors.

I sourced the parts, and they cost INR 144 each.

The packs read "Omni Up" which led me to believe that these were for the Omni with the upgraded brakes.

The cylinders were a perfect fit on the Versa except that the brake pipe to the right wheel cylinder had to be bent slightly by 10 degrees to fit the cylinder nozzle.

By that evening, Versa was back in action, and I thanked the RBIC team for their quick actions

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Failure Analysis : The wheel cylinder was impacted because I hadn’t changed brake fluid from 2004 to 2009. It was on the stock brake fluid.

That’s when I realized how important it is to change brake fluid every 2, or in the worst case, 3 years.

3. Jun 2009 – Tyres replaced at 47,870km

The Versa had done 47,870km and needed a set of new tyres as the old ones were getting noisy, while they still had approx.10k of tread left.

I had by then experimented with 175/70 R13 but realized that the stock 4J rims cannot take them. Plus, with wider rims and 175/70R13, the spare cannot be mounted back in its slot under the car.

So decided to go with stock size 155/80R13 tubetype and same type L607.

The stock tyres hadn't experienced even one puncture in 47,870kms.

Five new tyres cost me some INR 13.8k and I got back INR 2k for the old tyres. So, my net expense was INR 11.8k.

4. July 2009 –Shock of the year - we lost Chacha :-(

I was dining with a group of people one evening and received a call from one of Chacha’s old technicians to inform me that Chacha passed away that afternoon.

I couldn’t digest the message for sometime, and couldn’t leave the venue either.

Visited Chacha’s place the next morning and found his elder brother, an aged Doctor, quite unruffled. Maybe he was a seasoned Doc, having seen several demises in his professional life.

Chacha, the good Samaritan that he was, passed away in his sleep.

His departure left a huge void in my life, but I can today say with pride that I have been a good disciple, and have followed his ideals – to diagnose right, to solve right, and to help those who bank on your knowledge and experience !!!

The garage continued to operate after his departure but eventually wound up sometime in 2013.

Last edited by vigsom : 23rd October 2020 at 18:11.
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Old 23rd October 2020, 12:40   #8
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2010 - Charging System issue

One night ,I realized that the battery warning light was coming on off and on. The car was on full Electrical load - AC, lights, ICE .

I also noticed that the horn was sounding weaker than normal, lights were not that bright, leading me to believe that there was a problem with the charging system.

Came home , shut the car off and turned the key on again - only the engine check light and the oil pressure light came on.

Started the car and raised the rpm to approx. 2500 and then the battery warning would come on; took my foot off the accelerator and the battery warning would go off.

Went to my trusted auto electrician, Jayesh, the next morning (was scared that the battery would lose charge as the workshop was 11km away),but nothing happened.

Normally one would believe this to be a problem with the alternator but it turned out to be a bad coupler on the main charging cable.

Removed the battery, then accessed the coupler.

The coupler would not decouple and eventually the coupler ends had to be cut.

The coupler was thus bypassed, and the cable ends had to be soldered using high temperature solder.

All was well after this - the battery light came on with ignition on, went off after engine fired, and the voltage across battery was 13.7V with engine running - a sign that the battery had run down a bit.

I was told that this is a common problem and M800 was notorious for this.

Some pics of the coupler are attached. You can see the broken white portion - the coupler saw sparking and the complete inside had disintegrated/ experienced sulfation.

the coupler after disconnection
Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-versa_mainwiringcoupler2.jpg

Inside the damaged coupler
Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-mainwiringcoupler1.jpg


Money Matters

A: Expenses on routine maintenance

a) Engine oil + filter change at 30k,40k,50k kms INR 3000 (5 lits oil each time)

b) Gear plus differential oil at 25k, 50k kms INR 1000

c) Nulon at 40k kms INR 410

d) Coolant change at 20k and 40k kms INR 600

e) Wiper blades (Bosch 17” pair) INR 260
Also got a complimentary pair of blades from Syndicate once when I asked them for a set of blades against payment – this set lasted me 2 years

f) Both struts rubber supports INR 200 (made by NASKA)

g) Throttle Body cleaning once INR 300 (was admonished by Chacha for buying Throttle body cleaner for the garage)

h) Tyres at 47,870km INR 11,800

i) Front caliper slider pins and boots INR 280

j) Rear wheel cylinders INR 288

k) Spark Plugs RC8YC MGP INR 240

l) Tappet cover gasket and Tappet cover O Rings(4) INR 430

m) Charging circuit coupler removal and re-soldering INR 200

Sub Total A INR 19,000 approx.

Most of the above jobs were done by me so there were no labour costs involved

B: Expenses on Makeover and Accessories

a) Spoiler + KT Wheel Caps INR 1800

b) Spoiler + Tail Blazer + rims + grille painting INR 2500

c) Head Unit JVC KW-XC404 INR 9200

d) Kenwood 8401 amp INR 6200

e) Monster Interconnects INR 1100

f) Oxygen free cables INR 500

g) JBL 5.25” Coaxials in doors + MDF rings INR 2050

h) Subwoofer + MDF enclosure1+ MDF enclosure2 INR 3300

i) Wiring and installation INR 700

j) Interiors makeover to two-tone INR 10,000

Sub Total B INR 37,400 approx.

Grand total A+B INR 56,400

2010-Contd. – The Versa soldiers on !!!!!

In Dec 2010, I was happy to offer the Versa to my friend, Joby who runs a premium car care center. The Versa had undergone a lot of transformation under Joby's care too, and he spent countless hours helping me perform several mods.

The car is now 17 years young at 1,20,000km.

When I sold him the Versa, I told him that he would initially find the vehicle awkward, but would never be able to get a replacement for the convenience and versatility that this vehicle offered, and would never get bored with the vehicle. Today, 10 years thence, he says I was right.

Early this week, I was at his workshop and did a quick re-cap on all the non-routine service/replacements that he has done, with most of these jobs performed in 2017

1. clutch set - once

2. tailgate dampers - once

3. AC service – once – the original evaporator coil is still fine, unlike ones on the Mahindras and Hyundais that fail in 4 years

4. front struts - once

5. windscreen, headlights and tail lights - once

6. 5J alloys with 175/70 R13 tyres

7. Thermostat cap cum elbow
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Not one oil seal has leaked so far except the spark plug seals that were changed once in my period of ownership and once in his.

The car still sports the original spoiler that was installed 15 years ago.

Learnings

1. With ICE, get it right the first time. I was quite lucky not to pay though my nose for upgrades.

If I look back, I should have just given away the ICE set up with the Esteem, and got a DEH5750MP with 6x9s in the panels next to the rear seats.

With the sub, I should have just gone with the bigger enclosure first time.

2. Brake Fluid - never ever skip replacing the brake fluid.

Summing Up - The Ownership Experience

The Versa is an all-rounder.

Only those who have owned one would have realized the several virtues that come with this machine – Quality, Reliability, Cost, Delivery, Versatility.

Barring visits to the RTO for annual inspection, this car rarely gave us any headaches.

Here are some pictures depicting the various avatars of the Versa over 17 years

2004
Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-versa_new.jpg

2005-2010
Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-imag0170a.jpg
Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-versa1.jpg
Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-versa1-2.jpg

2020- these pictures are just 4 days old
Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-p_20201021_152018_1.jpg
Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-versa_rev02_1.jpg
Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!-versa_rev02_2.jpg

Do I still love the Versa?

Of course Yes.

The Versa is still my local runabout vehicle every time I go to Surat; and it is amazing to see the vehicle run like stock even after 17 years.

Last edited by vigsom : 23rd October 2020 at 18:16.
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Old 24th October 2020, 04:59   #9
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Default re: Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 25th October 2020, 12:03   #10
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Default Re: Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!

Lovely.

Your Esteem thread was worth a read. And this one is even better. Glad to see such a well maintained Versa. It's indeed a Versatile vehicle. There was a time when Dad was influenced by this car but idea was shot down as it looked like a Van.
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Old 25th October 2020, 13:13   #11
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Default Re: Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!

Let me profess my regards to you as I am humbled again by reading your ownership thread. I have read a great many amount of ownership threads but none so meticulous and thorough. I have been a car owner for long and done some rare jobs in them but it has never come to my wisdom to register them even for myself and here you are sharing your 2 decade old memory like it was yesterday.

What a brilliant read. Your post is an inspiration.
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Old 25th October 2020, 13:24   #12
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Default Re: Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!

When I saw this on the home page I was thinking, someone had the time to review a boxy unassuming van. Man, you changed my perspective about the lovely Versa which I don't know whether it still lives on as the Eeco. Obviously, Maruti must have chopped off all the good bits to price it appropriately.

I have been thinking about a vehicle like whatever it went through your years of ownership and the Versa never crossed my mind. I went to the extent of looking at a used Matador van and "not" the Versa

Awesome review. The G series engines are made to run probably forever. Japanese cars of the '90s and early 2000s were built to last a lifetime. Loved the simple review. Cheers!
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Old 25th October 2020, 14:09   #13
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Default Re: Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!

Awesome writeup.

Many including me would have written off the Versa and not read through any write up on the boxy van it was. But your experience and love for the vehicle clearly shows any vehicle in the right hands and with great love is a treasure that can last long, especially the engineering marvels produced in 90s and 2000s. Wish we had the quality of yester years rather than the gizmos of today.

And needless to say the detailes of ownership you have. Commendable.

Loved the red banding at the rear. Really adds character to the van. And loved the stress test story of yours in the initial days.
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Old 26th October 2020, 04:31   #14
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Default Re: Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!

I am a regular reader on tbhp and i read almost all the content that gets posted, but none of them kept me hooked like yours. After reading the Padmini's, the Esteem's and the Versa's thread it feels like finishing a trilogy

I have just started my car journey and i hope i am able to take good care of her, but i need a "chacha" too, may his soul rest in peace, he was a true mentor and teacher. Currently tbhp is my "chacha" _/\_

While reading the thread the maintenance of tbhp server started and i was left with a black screen, i was aghast but within it was back so yaay. The time was 4 am
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Old 26th October 2020, 12:31   #15
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Default Re: Review: 2003 Maruti Versa – The car that never tires!

Hi Vigsom,

A nicely written review I must say. Coincidentally when we were buying our first car back in 2008 we had shortlisted the Versa for the space it had to offer, high driving position, 7 seating options, power steering, AC and great after sales service. It was the perfect family van we were looking for. However had to rule it out since it was made to order car and waiting period for the same was close to 4 - 5 months with no confirmed delivery date.
Wishing you many more miles with the car.
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