1000 km in a week

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Just got back from a 1000km roadtrip. Phew. That was one good road trip.

1. Bangalore to Kumbakonam: Took a new route this time. Bangalore -> Salem -> Attur -> Veppur -> Vridhachalam -> Jayamkondan -> Kumbakonam. Except for the last stretch, which was a little bad, the road is very good. Much better than the Kulithalai route that I took the last time.

2. Kumbakonam to Pondicherry: Never done this stretch before. Decent roads. It is mind boggling to see the number of wine (alcohol) shops on the sides of the road, right after you enter Pondicherry state. This, I am told, is because of the reduced rates – since it is still an Union Territory.

3. Pondicherry to Chennai: Fantastic stretch. Road upto Tindivanam is as good, if not better than the Golden Quadrilateral stretch from Tindivanam to Chennai.

4. Chennai to Bangalore: I have done this numerous times, but there was a twist this time. I was attending a family function in Pozhichalur (close to Pammal). I was told that there is a direct road from Pozhichalur through Kundrathur to Porur, and I can catch the usual Bangalore road from there. Right after Kundrathur and Anagaaputthur, I found a sign saying Sriperumbudur. I took a risk, and we took the route. Surprisingly awesome road. Takes you right to the highway just before Sriperumbudur bypass. The only bummer was the 100’s of speed bumps (and no, I am not exagerating with the number). Did Chennai to Chinnaar (A2B) in decent time – 4 hours. Chinnaar to Bangalore was just horrible. With the 6 laning effort that is happening, there are quite a few diversions, where 4 lanes become 1 lane. And with the ‘impatient’ bus drivers we have, these diversions quickly become a quagmire. It took us a good 3.5 hours to do what we usually do in 1.5 hours.

Anyways, in all, a good trip. The Skoda Fabia did a pretty darned good  job.

Skoda Service Experience (Related: Shell Petrol Bunk Scam)

These days, the stuff that you mostly hear about is Bad service at Skoda Service Centers. Here is a breath of fresh air, and yes it coincides with the fresh rains of yesterday in Bangalore (though they are totally unrelated).

The Background Story: A few days back, I had gone to the Shell Petrol bunk to fill up petrol. The supervisor was a cheerful fellow, and asked me if I would like a complimentary oil and coolant check. I said Ok. The guy opens the hood of my Skoda Fabia and pulls out the oil dip stick and gives me a (false?) shocking expression and says that the oil is below the minimum mark. He also adds that it is dangerous for me to drive this car. Now, this steed of mine is only 4 months old, and Skoda is a german car known for its reliability – in fact the first scheduled service is 1 yr or 7500km. I defensively said, I will have Skoda look at it, and pulled away (probably the best decision I ever took in recent times).

The Skoda Experience: So I called up Skoda showroom, and the service representative promptly said – not my problem, call Skoda Helpline. :(. I called up helpline, and they offered to get my car to the nearest service center, but they could not tell me when and how the problem (if any) would be diagnosed. But they said, if I called the Hosur Road service center, they may help. Sliver of hope. So after these 2 hiccups, I called up Hosur Road Tafe Access Service Center. (This center is just too far away, else I would have just driven there!). So I called them up. The lady on the phone (Ms. Mona) said, they would be glad to take a look at it. They can even have someone pick up the car and then they will check it, and then someone will call back for estimated fix time. Awesome.

The magic: And then the magic moment – the manager of the lady-on-the-phone (Mr. Naveen) calls me back (ever had someone from a service center call you back??). He says that this is a very common scam that Shell Petrol Bunks these days are doing. They claim to check oil and say there is very less and try to convince you into topping up (hence earning more money!). The manager went on to say that this was a totally wrong way of checking for oil – especially in Skoda (and most high capacity engine cars). Mr. Naveen also called me first thing the next day morning to make sure I was satisfied. Wow. Good going Tafe Access.

How to Check Oil in Skoda: Check the oil dip stick only after 3-4 hours after engine has been stopped. When the engine has just been started or has been in running for some time, the oil is all up there in the pistons and other parts of the engine. It takes 3-4 hours for all the oil to drip back to the oil well – which is where the dip stick checks.

Happy Ending: I went home at 6PM. Skoda sent two engineers at 830PM (on their way home) to check. And there it was – the dip stick was showing full oil.

Moral of the Story: Beware of Shell Petrol Bunk guys who can force you to top up oil. The Skoda guys say that, they once got a car with oil topped up beyond capacity, and because of which the engine had stalled. The other advise that the Skoda guys said, was to not put any after-market parts or service for the first 2 years . Apparently the Skoda warranty department is super strict and will reject claims based on warranty-voided very easily.