Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Car Literacy

If the acronym TCC (Torque Converter Clutch) means nothing to you, this post might be worth a read.

I grew up in India in a middle-class family. When I was 10, my father took me with a year's worth of savings to buy me a terrific new vehicle - a honking bottle green BSA bicycle. Later in high school, I graduated to a TVS-50 moped - 0 to 20mph in under 60 seconds. Watch out girls, here I come! In college, I inherited my father's Bajaj Chetak - the one that farted at least once when I tried to kick-start it. (Needless to say girls turned me down for dates for fear of having to ride pillion on that beast)

The short of it is that I didn't grow up around cars. I know nothing about them. I had no father-son under-the-hood outings (although there were plenty where Dad took me to the printing press and asked me to smell that wondrous black ink). I still believe cars are objects that take me from one spot to another and I pick cars to drive that do that safely, reliably and economically.

This results in some disdain towards me from some of my friends. The same ones who won't notice if their wife just got a makeover and is in the hot tub with the neighbor - but hey, reposition the glove compartment half a millimeter on the new Mercedes and they'll spend three hours talking about it.

So back to the TCC. It houses a bunch of solenoids. These solenoids broke down in the automatic transmission of our Honda Odyssey purely because of wear and tear (brought about by poor lubrication). This resulted in that dreaded yellow engine diagnostic light. Our transmission was busted and had to be rebuilt. Total cost: $2000.

Thanks to my ability to come across as absurdly ignorant about cars, thus evoking the sympathy of mechanics who then feel obliged to educate me, I learned some things from this experience. I'll share two.

First, get your trans fluid changed every 18 months or so (your care manual probably recommends once every three years). The transmission is a part that wears just like the engine. Good lubrication keeps it humming. A trans fluid change costs only about $80 and in returns provides insurance against a huge repair bill later.

Second, if your transmission has a problem, take the car to a transmission specialist. If you take it to a dealer, they will promptly outsource it a trans specialist anyway and hit your pocket for an additional margin. So a specialist will be cheaper.

Finally, as with all problems I face in life, I decided to read myself out of it. I found a pretty decent book that makes me sound semi-intelligent. Review coming up in the future.

Also:

28 comments:

anu g said...

Hey Aspi, that TVS moped really brought back some very nostalgic memories.I used to own one in collge, and I spent years zooming around on it with my friends, somtimes three of us!I remember my sister's friend who owned a motorcyle saying that he was amused with these mopeds cos when the signal changed from red to green, the mopedders would be the first to zoom off, while those with gears used to take a while....Sigh!Reminds me of the song ...Those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end....i didnt realise just one foto would bring back all those memories.Thanks so much!U have made my day!

Aspi said...

Triple sawari! I wish there had been more rambunctious girls like you in my college :)

Sidekick said...

This brought back memories of my 2 wheeler deprived days! Growing up, my brother had a TVS 50 which he never let me touch. Later in college, my boyfriend refused to let me try his 100CC mo-bike! He thinks i'm joking when i say i married him to get my hands on his bike - which didn't happen either......so i've been stuck in a permanent state of 2 wheeler envy!

Aspi, since u mentioned a book review in this post, i'd look fwd to more book reviews if/when u get a chance. soon we'll be left with no music shows to discuss, although VoI is doing its best to drag out the inevitable! i don't think I have the energy for JDJ or NB but books/movies/music i can get behind!!!

megan said...

omg what a manly post.. are you trying to redeem yourself with your man friends for talking about clothes and fashion last few weeks?

Priti said...

Hey Aspi. Look forward to the review. Hopefully it will carry some mission critical tips - which are needed by me, as of yesterday!

Aspi said...

Priti, did your car break down or did you buy a new car?

Aspi said...

sidekick, you should most definitely fulfill your dream and buy a scooter. They aren't that expensive and you can drive them around a lot of places.

meg, this was a manly post? Wait till I do one on waxing chest hair.

Priti said...

Lol - the latter! You sure are a genius, Aspi! Seriously. Actually I need to understand technology a little more; I leave most of the stuff to the service station. They might be ripping me off most times, even when not required. But not even bothering about stuf that needs attention - esp for long term maintenance.

Kanan said...

Great post, Aspi. Reminded me of my bicycle days, in those days even bicycle was a luxury and the feeling of owning one was priceless. I inherited my mom's old Raleigh that she used to ride on since she was a teenager; this cycle was taller than me when I started riding it in my 5th grade. Later in 12th I graduated to a brand new Luna. I remember I had to wait for five long days, which seemed like five years to get my drivers license as I was not allowed to even sit on a parked Luna without license. LOL! Later on I did get to drive a couple of rounds around the block on my dad's Bajaj 150. They didn't make many of them even back then (that's 20 years back). Chetak was the famous one, but 150 had it's own unique style and I loved it better than Chetak hands down.

Thanks for the transmission tip. My dear old fully loaded Camry V6 LE (not to mention with sun-moon roof :( *sigh*) left me because of sick transmission and the mechanics won't reduce the transmission fixing price from their estimated $3000. Actually the value of the car itself was less than the fixing price at the time so it was no use. Like you know how they say in Gujarati: sona karta ghaDamaN monghu. But I can surely use your tips for the current car. I think when they do an 18-month maintenance service, one of the items on checklist includes transmission fluid replacement but I will have to double check.

Btw I disagree with M on this being a manly post.

PS. That makeover and hot tub comment was hilarious! :D

ritha said...

very interesting..waiting for the next post on this subject.

Sania said...

Gah - you're reminding me that the brake light has been on in my car for way too long. Maybe I'll actually do something about it.

saritha said...

Wonderful post Aspi!

It brought back so many memories from childhood.Someone stole my brand new bicycle when I was in 7th standard.And I just can't forget that.(durmargudu,dushtudu...naashnamai pothadu..cursing in telugu)

We had LML vespa and I liked it a lot.As a kid it's a great feeling to stand in the front and wave to strangers while ur dad's driving.I feel sad to see my kiddo all buckled up in his car seat.No one in my family owns a scooter now but I think I'll get hold of one when I visit India and see to it that my son goes for a ride with somebody...ofcourse,if he's comfortable.

We later graduated to a second hand Premier Padmini in early 90's.My parents sold it last year and moved onto a latest model... I somehow felt bad to lose our first ever car.

Perhaps one can never forget their first bike or car.

Mind Rush said...

I have heard that keeping your car in good shape is all about your relationship building skills. I have friends who have kept their dentist, hair dresser and mechanic for like 20 years. They drive for 45 minutes to see their car mechanic. These wise folk tell me that if you keep your mechanic happy and well-schmoozed, your car will run for ever!

Then there is gender. Mechanics seem to distinguish between the 3 main genders: Men, boys and others. Guess who gets the best service??!

Howz that for a "manly" post?

careful consumer said...

Probably a mistake to come across as absurdly ignorant about cars--makes one wonder if you really needed that new transmission (and whether it was really new)

Aspi said...

Boy I had fun reading about everyone's fond memories of two-wheelers. My Dad still keeps one specially for me in India - its a silver Honda Activa.

And I drive it all around town whenever I'm visiting. Kids love it too!

Sania said...

Dude - I've had the same hairdresser for 14 years. And I'm not that old. It really pays off in the long run...

anu g said...

Saritha, my dad bought a Premier Padmini in 1975, and sill has it!!It still works too,( though he doesnt drive any more).My husband who loves cars (no, no, Aspi, not as much as the tub-lady's husband!), is amazed that my dad could stick to one for so many years. But I guess my father is like most others of his generation for whom buying a car was a huge investment bought after great budgeting and thought.

Priti said...

Mind rush! You said it - and hit the nail on the head. About mechanics being careful on who to give their best service to (read that as who they know they think can be fooled). It becomes imperative I know the vehicle more than my current knowledge, which is abysmal at the moment.
Am still in a "trance" about memories of my scooter rides with my dad. Hey who said that on SRGMP?! (SRGMP again...sigh!!!).

Priti said...

Shucks - the line reads garbled! Maybe the dread of dealing with a mechanic did it! The mechanics know who can be made a fool of....!!! i

Aspi said...

sania: It really pays off in the long run...

I can vouch for that. I've seen Sania on Facebook and she has a killer haircut.

anu g said...

Saritha it was amusing to read all the Telugu gaalis.I seem to be deluged by them in recent times.

When we went for the cricket-match,the crowd kept changing its attitude thru the match.

Initially it was all support for India with the naaras' Jeetege bhai jeetega,India jeetega......,Ek do ek do, Aus ko phek do' alongwith the encouraging comments 'Maar saale ko'.Even Brett Lee who was nearby was not spared. When he was trying to avert a 4, the crowd they shouted "Lee, Ball ponee (Lee,ball ko jaane do).
*Sidekick the translation is for u.(Now I know how my husband feels when he is driving and I do the backseat driving').
As India began playing badly it was a mood of resignation 'Yenti raa,kottu(Arre Yaar, maar naa!).

Once it was known that India was defintely going to lose,the gaalis began 'Nee Avva!Howla Gaadu!Out ayyaadu'...and many other unprintable ones.

saritha said...

ROFL anu,

Now thats what Iam talking abt.I was never comfortable with these words in India....lekin after 4yrs of bread/butter life here in US,I simply relish these gaalis like my fav paani puri at Parklane.

'howla gaadu' is the typical telangana tittu.Pls serve some more.We are in the middle of a family flu with everyone at home sneezing $&coughing....but ur chatpata update has made me feel ok.

anu g said...

Saritha , I shouldnt be (as my daughter says) 'corrupting' you youngsters here! So no more gaalis!
Ok, so r u also a Secbad girl? The parklane guy was indeed a famous hangout.I remember the time my husband (then fiance) took me there for some paani-puri, there came my brother-in-law and said 'Hey, what r u guys upto here in my adda?". General Bazar is one place where u r certain to meet some friend/acquaintance every time u visit, isnt it?
ps. Whats ROFL?

anu g said...

Saritha heres wishing u a speedy recovery! We need u all pumped up and ready to give ur updates on the next episode of VOI.
Btw, Rani Mukherji is going to be the guest this time.Its all over the news channels.

Aspi said...

anu g, like my hindi teacher would say: ROFL it ijh minning the Rolling On The Floor Laughing.

Saritha said...

thanks anu!

Iam very much a hyd'badi girl.I studied in sec'bad college though.That parklane adda was added to my list after marriage.Is he still serving those oval shaped puris?I like them....And that chinese restaraunt Naan King...I hope the quality is still good.

We shop at Parklane and General Bazar for Dussera and Diwali esp for men's wear.I sometimes prefer Sultan bazar for my salwar kameez.

On a diff note,
Rani on VOI?I hope she doesn't sing a song from 'Laaga....' I can't stand her voice.

m said...

i can't stand her voice either so imma press mute whenever she is on. But i can't stand her face either but there is slim chance she will come in a burkah so i am gonna skip VOI this weekend.

anu g said...

Re-read this after seeing a pic of me with my tvs-moped. Really funny:). Miss the fun, and all the regulars on the drift.