Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Driving in foggy conditions

Driving in foggy conditions

Foggy conditions in India, is a common phenomenon this time around. Especially prevalent in some selected parts of the country in the winter months. Driving surely becomes a challenge in early morning hours and late evenings as well. However, a few tips of caution can save the blues and we can drive through the fog avoiding all possible accidents. 

Things to remember while driving in fog:

  1. First and foremost – Fog Lamps. We should consider ourselves lucky that we are born in an era where so much of development has already happened and we have all the tools to make our lives simpler and more comfortable. Have you ever wondered how a fog lamp really helps? Well it’s simple physics. Yellow light travels a farther distance than the conventional lights of headlamps because of the higher wavelength. Fog lamps have much higher wavelength than that of headlamps hence it percolates through the fog and travels much ahead helping you see the road ahead or the oncoming person can see your lights and adjust his course accordingly. (Remember: why all danger stop signs are red in colour? Red has the maximum wavelength)
  2. Try to maintain lane discipline. This is highly imperative in foggy conditions. Since you won’t be able to see the road ahead, you have to take assistance of the white lane markings on the road and stick your tyres to those lines. This will avoid most possible causes of accident.
  3. Keep your windows rolled up and put on the AC otherwise fog will enter your car and mist will condense inside your windscreen. Again simple physics, since the outside of the car will be colder than inside hence condensation happens inside the windscreen hampering your visibility. (Remember how a glass filled with cold water condenses vapour outside the glass)
  4. Ensure your tail lights are operational and there is actually no harm in using your hazard lights as well.
  5. Lastly, to keep it short and simple – drive slow!

Driving in rain on Indian roads

Driving in rain on Indian roads

Monsoon is definitely the most awaited season in India. The entire country’s agriculture being rainfall dependent and the sultry summers for so many months, monsoon does bring in a lot of respite for the Indians. However, for driving enthusiasts like me, rainfall is definitely a show spoiler.

Talking about driving in rain on Indian roads, I will stick to the drives on highways. In city driving, rain is always not that bad except the water logging. Who would mind a romantic drive in the rain alongwith your wife or girlfriend? However, when it comes to long drives, rain does play a spoil-sport.

Things to consider while driving in rain:

  1. The obvious things first – the roads will be wet and slippery. Hence the first thing to ponder about should be good braking. Braking again depends on 2 factors, tyre tread condition and ABS+EBD+BA kind of technology.
    • Tyre condition: Just be vigilant about your tyre tread wear. Deeper the tread pattern, better the hold on the road. Bald tyres are an invitation to disaster on wet roads.
    • ABS+ABD+BA: Technology like these can save you on a bad day, save you much better than you can even think of. Read my other post on braking technology to understand this better. So prefer to have a car with these technologies for rainy driving condition.
  2. Wipers are important equipment - ensure the rubber on the wiper is smooth and while moving on the windscreen it should not be noisy. If any sound comes while operating wipers, get them changed as soon as possible.
  3. If visibility is hampered badly because of the downpours then just stop by. It is not a good idea to keep moving in torrential rain when you can’t see the highway ahead. Be even more cautious if it is night driving.
  4. If you really need to be moving even when visibility goes low, then ensure you follow the white lane markings on the highway; sometimes that is still visible even if it is raining heavily.
  5. Always keep the AC on, even if you feel cold inside. The moment you switch off the AC you will notice haze on your windscreen, this happens because the temperature is colder outside the glass and inside the car it is hot that’s why vapours condense on the inside of your windscreen. (Remember a glass filled with cold water has mist condensed outside – same principle). So to avoid possible accident cause, just turn on the AC and keep the temperature just optimum. If the air is chilled direct it towards the inside of the windscreen.
  6. I have noticed many times that the water forms small puddles near the median section of the road, just beside the road divider. If the car is in good speed (above 40 / 50 kmph) if you go through this water puddle, you will notice that the car goes off-balance and vibrates quite a bit through that water. So try to take the left lane in case of rain to avoid these small puddles.
  7. You could possibly use high beam to increase your visibility however fog lamps can be used as well.
  8. If your car doesn’t have a rear wiper / defogger then again it’s a challenge. It’s very very difficult to understand who is coming behind you. Since the side view mirror also doesn’t help much as the side window is all wet hence you can’t see through it as well. If you have rear wiper then use it at your will, if not then the only thing that I can say is – be cautious.
  9. Last but not the least – slow down!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mileage vs Speed

 Mileage vs Speed 

I was driving through the beautiful stretch of the newly laid 4 lane road of NH2 which is part of the Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) from Hazaribagh towards Varanasi. Incidentally that stretch of GQ is a concrete surface and not a bitumen one. The roads were empty with no sign of vehicles for kilometres all together. The roads were so straight, where you can even see the horizon merging into the end of the road as if the road itself is a pathway to heaven. 

Sighting that never ending road in front of me, I was holding the steering wheel with that amazing machine at the touch of my foot pedal, which if I press will kiss 180 kmph without a second thought. Still the dilemma was hazing my thoughts, whether to push it as my heart wanted it to or listen to my mind and save a lot of money. 

Mileage vs Speed was the debate between my heart and my mind. 

Aiming for Mileage: 

After all these years of driving, I have realised that to get the maximum fuel efficiency from a car one should drive just below 100 kmph and just below 3K RPM of the engine. There’s no hard and fast rule to this theory however with all the permutation combinations that I have tried all these years, I have reached towards this conclusion. 

It is also evident that beyond 100 kmph, every increase of 10 kmph results in the mileage to drop by 2 kmpl. Hence, if you were getting a mileage of 16 kmpl at 100 kmph, if you increase the speed to 110 kmph then mileage will fall down to 14 kmph, at 120 it will be 12, at 130 it will be 10 and beyond 140 or 150 it will be simply pathetic. 

When I was driving from Bangalore to Hyderabad on my 3rd instance, I decided to aim for the best possible mileage and my 7+ year old car which is a petrol sedan, with 5 passengers and full AC on returned a mileage of 17 kmpl. That’s a lot. In the city it never gives more than 10. 

Relation between Speed and RPM: 

If the vehicle is moving in the 5th gear just under 100 kmph, you will notice that the RPM is just below 3. However if the gears are lower, RPM at the same speed will be much higher. The relation between these two variables is quite simple; we can achieve the maximum fuel efficiency from the car if we just stick under 3K RPM whatever be the gear. Since 5th gear will give maximum speed under 3 RPM, the vehicle will move the maximum distance and hence more efficiency. 

Gunning for Speed: 

After all, when we are on the highway not always we can stick under 100 kmph. We have distances to cover, destinations to meet and many a times with time constraints. In these situations it doesn’t really make sense to stick under 100 kmph when the roads are so inviting that one can comfortably cross 150. When I was going to Gir, Gujarat from Mumbai I had to cover a distance of 980 km during the day time. I left morning 6 AM but I knew that if I aim for mileage I will not reach my destination in time. Since I wanted to reach before dark so I had to push and I did push to 175 kmph on many occasions. Obviously the roads were also good enough for me to do that. 


If there is no hurry to reach to the destination, if you have enough time available to complete the journey, if there are no set time targets then one should Aim for Mileage. However when the distances are long and there is time constraint involved then it’s advisable to Gun for Speed. In my driving experience, when I have around 500 km to cover in a day I go for mileage, since I know that I can easily cover that 500 km in about 8 hours. However whenever I drive for 1000 km in a day then I always drive as fast as a can to reach to my destination and complete the journey during the day time. Usually it takes around 14-15 hours for 1000 km, hence can’t stick below 100 kmph. 

Now would you like to know what decision I took when I was facing that dilemma on the NH2 GQ between Hazaribagh and Varanasi? Yes! I agreed to listen to my heart and I pushed the gas to drive above 170 kmph and kept my mind aside for my next journey.