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Auto LPG - its a no-brainer!
Aug 31, 2006 02:46 AM 36753 Views
(Updated Apr 18, 2008 04:35 PM)

I moved back to Mumbai in March of this year, after a 3 year stint in Delhi. One of the things I was thrilled to see was the old family Maruti 800, which I had driven out of the showroom in 1993. Though it had done about 90, 000 kms, and had a bit of body work pending, thanks to rusting in Mumbai's coastal climate, it still ran as smooth as I remembered it, and surprisingly, still gave an awesome 18kmpl in the city, without the AC running.

I prevailed on my dad to sell it off, given the age of the car. However, the offers we got ranged from Rs. 15, 000 to 25, 000. These I found to be ridiculous for a car that was trouble free, owned by an Army man, and had never had anything done to it except for it's periodic oil change.

So we decided to wait for a better price to come by.

Over the next month, my inevitable commute on the suburban railway started - I stay in New Bombay, and my office is on the Western Express Highway, Goregaon(E). One evening, sitting for dinner at home after an everyday Western/ Harbour line commute, my dad asked whether I could scout the market for a laptop of about Rs. 25, 000 to 30, 000. In jest, I told him I would trade mine, which was a year old, and more than sufficed his requirements, with his car - owing to the identical prices for both articles. After some discussion, we shook hands over the deal, and for dessert, I presented him with his "new" laptop, while I got the keys to my "new" car.

The next day I took the car out to my garage, and got an estimate on how much it'll cost to fix the holes in the bodywork. After a detailed inspection, I gave a go ahead, I was duly dropped home. seven days later I saw the car - sparkling and shiny, and spanking new like the day I got it out of the showroom. The entire paint job(Dupont Neptune Blue, the exact original shade too!), including all parts, bodywork, replacement of rubber parts, suspension overhaul, and other tid bits to cover the wear of time, cost me Rs. 32, 000 to fix. The engine was still untouched. Till this point I was lighter only by Rs. 57, 000.

Three days later, after some research on the net, I drove across town to Santa Cruz(Juhu Danda Actually). My research had me zeroed in on Suraj Auto, retrofitters of LPG Kits - - as the best bet in terms of price and reputation. I left the car there that morning, and picked it up again at about 5 pm, all fitted out and still looking pretty. no structural changes except for four holes drilled in the floor of the boot to mount the cylinder rack and allow access to the spare wheel during times of need. Total Cost of kit, plus installation: Rs. 19, 500, plus Rs. 300 for 11 litres of gas, for testing, and use over the course of the next 3 days. The RTO cost me another Rs. 2, 000 to get the appropriate endorsement on the Registration book.

AT this point, I was lighter in toto by Rs. 57, 000+ 19, 500+ 300+ 2000= Rs. 78, 800.

I ran the car for a week, to get used to the LPG. It was surprisingly smooth. It did take some getting used to to open the boot hatch for refuelling, but given that it needs to be done once a week, it's not that bad. The first week, the car gave me 12 kmpl to a litre of LPG, without AC. I was not very happy - since I had estimated 14 kmpl. I took it back to Suraj Auto, and he did some minor adjustments. Also, he told me to run the tank to empty before I fuel up next, and then recalculate.

Couple of days running brought the tank to empty. I headed to the Reliance Petrol Pump at DAKC, New Bombay, and filled it to capacity(45 litre tank that fills to about 80%, which is about 35 litres). Over the course of the next week, the car gave me 14 kmpl to a litre of LPG, without AC. Perfect! Bang on calculcation. And it has not dropped even one KmPL over the last so many months. As a result I have practically stopped using my new Wagon R these days, and stick with my "new" 800!

Before you guys call to judgement on the KMPL, please be advised of the following:

My average daily run is 90 kms - New Bombay to Goregaon(E), a distance of about 42 - 45 km one way. The second 45 kms in the evenings are largely traffic jams, and 1st / 2nd gear driving.

Driving style. 1st gear - upto 10 kmph, 2nd gear - upto 20 kmph, 3rd gear - upto 30 kmph. 4th gear is engaged anywhere between 30kmph or 40kmph. Except for the 15 km stretch between Chembur and Vashi, over the Thane Creek Bridge, I run at or below 60 kmph(again, largely on account of traffic) - though I make it a point not to go over 80 kmph even on empty roads.(In case you're curious, the car still does 110 kmph, even on LPG). That makes for smoother driving, safer driving, and I get to headbang to my favourite music in the car just that much longer.

The only other "improvement" I plan on doing on the car next month, is get a set of tubeless tyres, which(and I have confirmed this with a number of tyre dealers) can be fitted on the original rims since they are in good shape.(Otherwise you need to get a set of alloys). That will eliminate flat tyres altogether, and I'll be able to reclaim sufficient booth space to stash my office bag, lunch, and a few other things in the space created by throwing out the spare wheel!. FYI - A tubeless tyre handles better, is safe(no bursting), and in case of puntchures, can be driven average of 250 kms without much ado. In fact, I have a friend who drove his Esteem for two months on 4 puntchured tyres. he would just inflate them every morning on his way to work, and then got them fixed only to get rid of my nagging! Oh! Did I mention, the cost of the tubless Goodyear GT770+ is LOWER than the GPS2 tube tupe radials by almost 200 bucks a tyre! This "upgrade" will cost an estimated Rs. 4, 000.

Totally lighter by Rs. 78, 800+ 4, 000= Rs. 82, 800. - from start to finish.

In it's present condition, this car is going strong for at least the next 5 years. For a 13 year old car, it sure beats the hell out of some new ones!  In the Mumbai traffic jams, I would rather spend Rs. 24 a litre than Rs. 50 plus. Amen! To  Petrol. I've convered to LPG. And I'll convert to solar power, the day it gets economically viable as automotive technology!

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