Lockdown in India has been extended to May 3rd now to fight the Covid-19 epidemic that has gripped almost the entire planet in its clutches. The first phase of the lockdown was for 21 days with today being the last day. With this lockdown now turning out to be around six weeks we need to take proper care of our vehicles as they can no longer be used regularly – a situation more harmful than extensive usage.
In the past, we’ve written about vehicle maintenance tips during this lockdown and got many responses from our readers but one query stood out in particular. We mentioned that Maruti Suzuki cars with Smart Hybrid technology needed an idle start time of 30 minutes opposed to 15 minutes for regular cars. Also, these cars require their headlamps to be switched on during the idle time. While the presence of a small Li-ion battery explains the purpose of a longer idle time the need to switch on headlamps is something that required further investigation. Hence, we got in touch with Partho Banerjee, Executive Director (Service), Maruti Suzuki India to get an answer.
Why Turn on Headlamps when Idling?
Banerjee told us that Smart Hybrid equipped cars have a Li-ion battery in addition to the regular lead-acid one. This battery is responsible for providing power during start/ stop situations and with its power assist to the engine, it helps improve fuel-efficiency. When not in use for long the battery drains and hence engine idling is recommended. The reason why headlamps need to be switched on is that engine ignition is handled by the lead-acid battery and hence there should be an additional load on the system to kickstart the li-ion battery charging process, he added.
What if I don’t Switch On the Headlamp?
In case, people do not idle their cars for about 30 minutes every two weeks or do not switch on the headlamps in their Smart Hybrid vehicles the results could be negative, said Banerjee. Since the Li-ion battery would be low on charge, it would not be able to perform as expected until it gets charged. This will result in lower fuel-economy as the gains of the Hybrid system will not be available for some time. He added that only once the battery is charged to its optimum level, desired performance will be on tap.
Our discussion with Partho Banerjee makes it clear that owners of normal cars should ensure they idle the engines for at least 15 minutes. Owners of Maruti Suzuki Smart Hybrid vehicles though have to spend twice the time and ensure that the headlamp is on during the idling process. The immediate benefits of following these guidelines will be improved fuel-efficiency or lower emissions when vehicles are allowed back on the road. In the long-term though, one needs to ensure their vehicles stay in perfect health during and after the lockdown period as the battle against Coronavirus is going to be a long one as mentioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Banerjee also said that once the lockdown is over and people are allowed to move, personal transportation is going to be the preferred means. Public transport will take longer to resume normal operations and people will want to avoid being in crowded places as much as possible. This will mean more usage of your car for various purposes and hence one must ensure good health of their car/s during this lockdown period as cars standing at one place for long often turn on with a range of problems, which is the last thing you would want when trying to get to a normal life after the Covid-19 lockdown.
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