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Used Maruti Alto K10: Purchase, ownership & modifications made

Had shortlisted cars such as the Maruti Zen, Hyundai Santro Xing and even the Hyundai i10.

BHPian Phukan_Tridiv recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Prelude

My earliest memory of a car is of Ambassador Nova my father had owned in Oyster Blue. I was a kid aged 3-4 years back then, and memories of that car have almost faded by now. What I though remember is that I used to stand in the co-drivers seat every time we would go for a drive, with my mother holding me as a support. Being a kid, standing on the seat was the only option for me to peek out the window and relish the view outside. Then came a day when father decided to let go the Ambassador for a Carb Maruti 800 STD in Moonbeam Silver colour. It was 2004, and our 800 was from the last batch of carb 800s as MPFI models were introduced in the meantime. It was the 800 which made me an ardent car lover. Contemporarily, I got to watch Fast and the Furious for the very first time. The car desire kicked in! In the following years, I was given a desktop by my parents. My cousin set me up with the NFS Most Wanted. The craze developed even further! Meantime, an Alto joined the 800 in the stable. As time marched on, my heart started longing to get behind the steering wheel. Though I had to wait for the fulfilment of my fetish till I turned 18! I remember the next day of my birthday, my father gave me the keys to the 800 and said - "This is the time!".

My father was a brilliant instructor, and within some months, I got myself a DL. I was appointed as the driver for making errands. Gradually, my ventures were further permitted to National Highways. Having said that, while I was happy behind the steering wheels of our family cars, my friends were getting their own rides which were mostly two-wheelers. This is the time in your youth when you want a vehicle of your own. Because of my inability to ride motorbikes, I could not ask my parents for the same. Deep down, my heart longed for a car, any car, which I can call "mine."

Covid and Nationwide Lockdown

On 24 March 2020, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a nationwide lockdown for 21 days to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. At that time, I was in Guwahati attending my university. The sudden address of lockdown made me rush back to my native place, Sonari, which is about 450 km away from Guwahati. Back at home, our family would sit in front of the television and witness the calamity of the virus. As the virus had been highly contagious (it still is), our family decided to boycott any mode of public transportation for the year as much as possible. In my native place, which is a small urban area, the cases of Covid-19 were few. And then suddenly it came into my mind that I will have to move back to Guwahati again to attend my classes when the educational institutions re-open. Guwahati had been the hotspot of Covid-19 cases in Assam. Provided, we were afraid of a Second Wave of the pandemic anytime (which came to be true). These facts made me and my parents anxious. Staying away from the virus meant staying away from the crowd. Before the pandemic, I usually preferred City-buses to commute in Guwahati as the fare is dirt cheap in addition to occasional Uber and Ola rides. Now after the spread of the virus, I was in no way ready to hop into buses and cabs. So eventually it indicated that I would need a personal vehicle!

Any teenager of my age would usually ask for a motorbike or gearless scooter as a ride. I would have done that too but the only two-wheeler I can operate comfortably is a bicycle! I do like motorbikes, but essentially, I am a four-wheeler person. In my opinion, at the same cost of bikes which are targeted towards people of my age, one can easily get a used four-wheeler. It has a roof, more seating, is much safer and provides much more comfort. So, the equations left me with getting a car. The very next day, I decided to take the opinions of my parents. To my wonder, my mother approved my proposal in a jiffy. My father had been a bit unsure but eventually, he too made up his mind to get me a vehicle and asked me to look for a used car before my university reopens.

Which Car?

I preferably looked for a hatchback. It needed it to be cheap to run and to maintain. Also at the same time, I wanted the car to have a feel-good factor, the car should drive well. It is no wonder that my options were mostly limited to Maruti and Hyundai.

  • Maruti Zen: Gosh I love the Zen! Zen is an iconic vehicle. The first mass-market Pocket Rocket in India. It is compact, frugal, cheap to maintain and a hell of a lot of fun to drive. Zen was my first preference no doubt.
  • The Original Alto: The Alto is a workhorse. It is a cute looking proportional car that will never leave your side no matter what. Though the performance is no match to the Zen, it still is a zippy car to drive. Fill it and forget it, that is what the Alto is.
  • Maruti 800 5S: We have a Maruti 800 carb in our garage. The 800 is extremely abuse friendly and I can vouch for it. While the 4 speed 800 had been just enough in the power figure department, the 5 speed was a totally different animal. Sadly, the 5 speed 800s were exceedingly rare to find.
  • Hyundai Santro Xing: Santro is a great car without a doubt. It is practical, spacious, zippy and has an upmarket feel comparatively to the Marutis of the same segment. Though I am not an admirer of the looks of the Santro, I decided to keep on the bucket list.
  • Hyundai i10 (Gen 1): The i10 is a neutral car. It ticks all the boxes a first-time car buyer would want. My parents liked the vehicle. There was no deal-breaker as such for the I10. It is a different thing that I could not find one specimen within my budget.

Here I would like to mention that I could have searched for Esteem, the old Baleno, the Gen 1 Figo etc also. But I wanted my first car to be simple and forgiving. Also, being a student, I lacked the money and time to keep making frequent visits to garages in case something goes wrong.

The Hunt

In Assam, the market for used cars is a mess. Sellers, be it individuals or dealers, often demand obnoxious amounts. Also, these cars are always not at the best of their condition. I started my hunt aiming at the Zen. For the first few days, I searched for a specimen locally. I could find 2-3 Zens but they were in a sad condition, making me consider OLX and other online marketplaces. In OLX, I managed to shortlist 3 cars. Till the time I could make my enquiry, two of them already were already sold. The remaining was a 2002 Zen LX. It looked pretty neat from the outside but when I reached out to the dealer, he sounded very arrogant and shady. I don't prefer making contacts with dusky characters, hence the car was dropped from the list.
In the meantime, I was also looking for the other cars which were on my wish list. I could actually find a Santro in clean condition, but the owner was asking an absurd amount for the car. Ultimately, this car was dismissed too. My close friends and my parents know that I am very picky. Thus, I was not pressurized by anyone to get done with this ordeal as soon as possible. Still and all almost two months went by just checking and dismissing vehicles! My university was also opening in a month, meaning that I had to get myself a vehicle as soon as possible! It was a now or never moment!

The Change in Plan!

As I had been unable to get a used car within my fiscal estimate, my parents decided to increase the threshold by another 50K. With the new budget, the first car which came to my mind was the Gen 1 Maruti Suzuki Alto K10. My cousin has a K10, and God oh God it is an absolute nippy hatch! Unlike Zen, used K10s were available easily. I contacted a few sellers through OLX. Mostly were dealers and they were quoting above 2 lakhs for the VXI variants. Though those cars were in neat condition, I had my mind made up not to spend a penny above 2 lakh.

As I was in a hurry, I decided to apply all possible efforts to have myself a deal. Along with local dealers, a decision was also made to check with Maruti True Value. The nearest True Value outlet from my place was situated 50 km away. One fine day, I reached the outlet with my mom. The staff had been welcoming and in no time, we were in their used car parking lot. At that time, they had two K10s for sale, both being the first-gen. The first one was the Lxi variant in white colour. The car had too many dents and scratches and seemed to be roughly used. Thus, we did not bother ourselves check out the car. The second example they had was the VXI variant in the Silky Silver shade.

The body panels were in near perfect shape except for some minor scratches here and there. Because of the previous lockdown, the car had been under the sun and spoiling hands of rain for six months. This resulted in 50 shades of silver on the car. Anyway, The interiors were in a better state. I took the keys from the SA and cranked up the engine. K10 roared to life without any hesitation! As if the car had been waiting for this moment for ages! The engine idled smooth and there were no funny noises or vibrations. The insurance of the car had lapsed, so the SA requested me to have a spin inside their establishment. After what possibly could be the shortest test drive of recent times, I found the car to be satisfactory enough. The SA quoted a price of 2.20 lakhs for the car. It was 20k over my budget. I tried negotiating with the SA and after a long event of hustling, he came down to 2.05lakhs, inclusive of a new battery and four new wheel caps. I told him that I will let him know about my decision within 24 hours. Reaching home, it was decided that I will be booking the car. So that’s what I did and scheduled the delivery after two days. The four-month-long search came to an end, a new member was about the join the garage!

The D-Day

I reached the dealer at 11 am, accompanied by my mom and my buddy Newton. The K10 was thoroughly washed and polished! It almost felt like getting a brand-new car! Though, the romance was short-lived as the car ran out of petrol in the washing area and my SA resorted to pushing the car around the parking lot. Nevertheless, Petrol was soon sourced, poured in and the K10 barked into life. The delivery went smooth and by the evening, the car was in our garage! While we were driving back home, I found the car to be performing better than my exceptions. Let me remind you, I actually bought a used car without having a proper road test because of time constraints. This could have gone wrong in so many ways! Now as the car was doing well, I was assured that it would run this way, and the money is not wasted.

The very next day, I took the car to a known mechanic for a check-up. He checked the car in detail and told me that I have made a good purchase. The car is mechanically fine apart from two worn bearings (Front Wheels) and a leaking shock absorber (Front left). I decided to change both front shock-absorbers as the other would require replacement anyway in some days. Along with these, I performed a quick service to the car which included-

  • New Engine Oil- 5w30 (Shell Helix Semi Synthetic).
  • Flushing and refilling the coolant (Ecstar).
  • New Air Filter and Cabin AC Filter (MGP).
  • New Front brake pads (TVS Girling).
  • Cleaning the rear drum brake setup.

The final bill was around 6k which was very cheap and reasonable. The next thing the car needed was a set of new tyres. The car was on Bridgestone S322 155/65 R13 rubbers, which is the OEM size. The rear two tyres had some thread left so it was decided to change the front two only for the time. I wanted an upgrade in size as I felt the stock ones be a bit puny. The correct upsize would have been 165/60 R13 but I was unable to find tyres in that size. So I plonked in two 165/65 R13 Yokohama Earth 1 tyres. Compared to the earlier stock setup, these had a slightly bigger diameter. The mismatch in diameter did not result in any change in normal speeds. More on that later.

For a couple of weeks, I drove the car around my hometown for some 500 km. In these 500kms, I did not encounter any issue except noticing the front left headlamp bulb not glowing at its full potential. I simply thought the bulb to be faulty and bought a new headlight bulb from the MGP store and went to a technician for the replacement. While replacing the bulb, the technician and I were astonished to find that the faulty bulb in question was a 90/100w, that too without a relay! Now if you are not aware, the stock headlight bulbs of the K10 are of 60/55W and one must install a relay set up to put in higher wattage bulbs. Anyway, I took it as negligence of the previous owner and went on to install the new bulb. The bulb was installed and they were operating in their full glory. A happy me paid the technician and sat in the car to head home. And it was the moment when the hell broke loose! The car refused to start! The starter motor was engaging but the car was not firing up. I immediately checked the fuel gauge. The tank was half full. I tried to start her up once again but the same story repeated. On the third attempt, I came to realize that the fuel pump was not working. I jumped off the car, lifted the hood and checked the fuse box. Meanwhile, the technician also arrived at the spot. I located the fuse of the fuel pump, checked, and installed it again. This time the car started effortlessly. So I deduced the cause to be a loose fuse.

The aura of the next morning was disrupted by the same issue. I had to reinstall the fuse again for the pump to start working. As the event occurred twice in a time frame of 24 hours, I was very much sure that the fuse itself is faulty. Soon I bought a new fuse and replaced the earlier one. Now the car was starting fine but the left headlight bulb went dim. The bulb was only replaced a day before so the situation was kind of funny. A frustrated me reached the shop where I had replaced the bulb just a day ago. The technician was also puzzled. He tried installing another bulb of the same wattage, and the results were the same. It was concluded by both parties that something is either wrong with the bulb holder or the wiring itself. He checked the holder and found it to be okay. After maintaining a minute of silence, he dropped the atom bomb by declaring that my car has faulty wiring! He further said that I will have to drop my car off for a day in his shop as checking the complete wiring of the car will require a lot of time. Hearing his words, I started feeling tense as we all know wiring issues are chronic if not solved in a single go. The technician further added that it would be better if I take the car to MASS as he has his expertise on trucks, not on such small vehicles. Luckily, I have some known faces in our nearest MASS. Reaching them, I was confirmed that the issue is originating in the fuse box. After some minutes of further investigation, my technician declared the headlamp relay to be the culprit. He added that the fuse slot of the Fuel Pump had some debris inside which was causing the fuse to come out. And the issue of the dim headlight was reverted to the faulty relay. He asked me if anyone had installed higher wattage bulbs without an extra relay setup. We all know what my reply was. So finally, a new relay worth Rs 250 was installed and the fuse slots were cleaned. Till the date of writing this review, this issue has not been repeated again.

The New Set of Keys

When I bought the car, I was given both the keys. It was my short-sightedness that I did not test the spare key. Later, it was revealed that the spare key was made locally and it did not have an immobilizer setup, meaning this key was good for opening the locks only. I could have lived with it but having a non-functional key was itching my mind. Now I had two options, take the main key to MASS and request them to provide me with a new spare key, of course with the immobilizer ecosystem, or to order a completely new set of keys and locks for the car. I decided to go with the second option. As it was a pre-owned car, I was a bit afraid of the fact that someone somewhere may possess an extra pair of keys to the car without my knowledge. A totally new setup would establish peace in mind. The next day, I went to the nearest MASS and placed an order for the new key and lockset. I was called in for the installation after a week. The procedure took around two hours. After the immobilizer code was verified, I was handed over a set of brand new keys. It certainly felt as if I have bought a new car! Once again!

Continue reading BHPian Phukan_Tridiv's ownership experience for more insights and information.

 
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