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Posted at: Jun 8, 2019, 12:36 AM; last updated: Jun 8, 2019, 12:36 AM (IST)GOOD MOTORING

Freewheeling, literally

Basic knowledge of the car, road rules and etiquette should be a must when one starts driving
Freewheeling, literally

H. Kishie Singh

One of the most dangerous moves a driver or mo’bike rider can make is to freewheel downhill, meaning drive with engine switched off. And I see this all the time on the Kalka-Dharampur National Highway. It’s about 25 km, and all downhill.  

A driver with his mother, wife and two children in the car switches off the engine and comes downhill with his foot firmly on the brake pedal. Horrors!

With his foot on the brake pedal, there will be constant friction between the brake shoe pad and the brake, disc or drum. After a few kilometres, the heat will build up and render the brakes ineffective.

Fuel saved! Family in hospital! 

It is an unwritten rule in motoring: if you go uphill in a particular gear, you must come down in the same gear. The engine provides the braking. It is cheaper, more effective and much safer. 

A few years ago, coming down on this Dharampur- Kalka stretch, there was a brand new car that had run into the mountain side. The front end was completely smashed, airbags open and passengers shaken up; thankfully, no one was hurt.

How did this happen? I stopped to offer help. What happened, I asked? The man had given a brand new car to his son to drive. Of course, no instructions were given; just the keys and the driver’s seat! Chances are the man had no automotive knowledge to impart. This happens all the time in India. You buy a car and start driving! That simple. No knowledge of road rules, road etiquette, how to park, no common sense. That is why the traffic on our roads is a mess.

This is what transpired that day. With his son at the wheel, the father must have told the son to switch off the engine to save gas. The son twisted the key all the way to lock! This locked the steering wheel and the son was not able to go around the corner. Fortunately, he was facing the hill and drove straight into it. What if he was facing the khud?

Let’s see what happened.

As you get into the car, the steering wheel is locked. You insert the key into the slot in the steering column and unlock the steering. That is move one. Move two: The first twist of the key moves it to accessories, like the music system and others. Move three: One more twist takes the key to operate ignition/on. All the lights on the dashboard come on. This is the ECG of your car showing fuel, battery, oil, power train, seatbelt, airbag, and maybe more. Move four: It activates the starter. As soon as the engine fires up, release the key. It will automatically flip back to ignition/on. And the car will continue to purr, idle is the correct word and warm up. 

The proper procedure is to engage gear, then, and only then, release the handbrake.  More on this later.

Now we know what the young man did to crash his dad’s car. He twisted the key all the way to lock and lost the use of his steering wheel. 

Here’s something else that can be problematic if you kill the engine. You will lose your power brakes, power steering and power windows too.

Happy Motoring!

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