Personal Finance

Drive with a smile in the season of dread

| Updated on June 25, 2011 Published on June 25, 2011

Awareness of vehicle maintenance and safe driving during monsoon will help mitigate losses.

Monsoon is a season of dread for vehicle owners. It is that time of the year when the owner incurs the maximum maintenance costs; mostly out of compulsion rather than choice. Monsoons in India are infamous for flooding, water logging, landslides, car skidding and accidents.

Statistics prove that the rate of road accidents increases during monsoon. This is because there is very little awareness of vehicular and driving precautions to be taken before and during the monsoon. There is lesser awareness of how to mitigate losses arising out of vehicle damage due to rains and floods.

Though it is mandatory to buy an insurance policy with your vehicle, statistics show that more than 50 per cent of vehicles on Indian roads are not insured.

Water logged roads, potholes and sludge make driving difficult and damages the car. It is necessary to take some precautions to protect one's vehicle and reduce financial losses due to vehicle damage before the monsoon sets in.

Here are the some helpful tips that can monsoon-proof your car:

Service: Car service is of utmost importance. It is necessary to replace the engine oil, air filter and fuel filter. Check the suspension joints and silencer pipe because these are is the most affected parts during rain.

Tyres: Rainwater makes roads slippery, which often causes cars to skid and hydroplane. In order to avoid skidding, check tyre treads. If the treads are not deep enough, the vehicle is at a high risk of skidding. Hence it is essential to check your tyres. Also, carrying a spare tyre is important as being stuck in the rain with a flat can cause you anguish.

Lights: Ensure that the headlights and emergency lights are working. Replace them if they are broken or cracked as water seeps in from the cracks and damages the bulb and other associated electrical parts.

Brakes: Rainwater moistens the brake drums, which can cause lower braking efficiency. To avoid this, it is advisable to pump the brakes when you are out of water till the water is drained from the brake drums. Oil the drums regularly so that water does not damage them.

Wipers: Wipers are the most critical component of a vehicle during monsoon. The condition of the wipers should be reviewed and the wiper should be replaced if required before rains start. A bad set of wipers can leave scratches on your windscreen and also distort vision in heavy downpours.

Insurance: Another very important part of vehicle protection, not just during monsoon but at all times, is car insurance. For damage control and to mitigate the risk, one must insure the car from a reputed insurance company. Check if the insurance policy is renewed and updated so that in the event of damage to the vehicle, your loss will be covered. Ensure that you have adequate car insurance cover for damages arising during monsoon.

Always carry a copy of the policy document in your car. Note down toll-free numbers of the insurance company. Keep the contact details of your insurance agent handy. Register you claim at earliest.

Call up the insurance company's call centre, who will guide you to the nearest networked workshop. Once the surveyor carries out the survey and authorises the claim, it is settled directly with the workshop or garage by the company (cashless facility).

In case you carry out the repairs at your own expense and file for a reimbursement claim later, you need to provide the surveyor with the requisite proofs, for example, repair bills from the garage. In case of reimbursement claims, the disbursal process could takes up seven working days, after submission of the documents.

Insurance companies offer various ways to track claim status: Through customer support; online claim status check; and SMS alerts.

One must also drive carefully and avoid speeding during monsoons. It is advisable to drive at a steady pace and not go beyond 50 kmph as this gives the driver better control even if the roads are slippery or another car skids. Also if the car is stalled in a waterlogged area, switch off the engine and get out of the car.

(Karan Chopra, Head, Retail Business, HDFC ERGO General Insurance)

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