“Car Wash” Workouts


Read these first:-

(This is one of the more scary car wash made for an advertisement. But the true horror is seeing your loved vehicles being man-handled at the car wash centers and being blasted with cheap detergents & shampoos that can rust the car body and wash half done properly and you still need to pay for it. This was one thing that we decided not to do when and if we decided to open our own car wash center)

The dreaded GST came into effect from 1 April 2015 and one have to admit that while it has saved the Government’s hide for more than one occasions (especially when the price of oil went down), it however had brought a cascading impact on the country’s economy. The consumer have ended paying more for basic goods and services – in some cases, with an unnecessary spike in price even by those small traders who now have to pass on GST charges in their prices because the bigger traders have done the same. Guess who gets whacked left, right and center in the end?

On the positive side of the GST is that we have been forced to relook into the items we buy or consume on monthly basis and start to eliminate luxury items away. We end up scrutinizing our needs and then buying things that we really need for daily consumption and opt for more home cooked food than going for expensive menus at some fancy restaurants (and sadly that included our favourite Sushi restaurant). And soon, this list included McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Kenny Rogers. Nowadays our go-to-place is our local mamak restaurant.

2015 was a bad year and eventhough things started to “stabilise” in 2016, it was not a good year as well.

One day in 2015, I got a call from my cousin who was retrenched when his company decided to downsize the staff. Despite his good experience and skills, he was not retained and it was a bad timing indeed as his wife was also retrenched from her company almost the same time (but later found a position opened in the same organisation). My cousin after considering whether to go back to his 9 to 5 routine with another company decided instead to go into business with his friend. Together they opened a car wash center near to a car workshop. Business was slow on the weekends especially because the center was not next to the main road (where there are other car wash centers) and as most office in the vicinity were closed. I would occasionally bring my car to his car wash as well – I know he would do a good job and at the same time, I was able to support his business as well.

My cousin however was always on the lookout for a better place for the car wash – one that fronts the main road where it is easily seen by potential customers. And one day he called me saying that he got the right spot – when I visited him, it was good place indeed although he was not alone to provide car washing services in the area, there was another 2 – 3 car wash centers in the vicinity. First day at his place, I asked him to polish my car – it was cheaper than other places I often go and having my own cousin doing the polish works alone is a good reason to have the polish done here and not elsewhere. But then I saw his problem – he was doing the work all alone (another cousin joins in occasionally). Then when he was free, we had a chat – one thing I noticed he looked healthier (a bit darker but healthier). He slimmed down a lot as well (compared to the time when he was working in an air-conditioned, cozy office). And because he was his own boss, he looked less stressful as well – he had time to kill this time around.

Considering that he could use extra help especially on the weekends and since I don’t have much to do on the weekends (other than eat, sleep and watch TV), I decided to join-in to help him – I had always wanted to help him for all the things he had done when I first started to date my wife (back then he had already married, so although I am elder than him, in a way he was a “senior” than me when it comes to relationships, ha ha). I did not much money to spare for his business (good thing, he had other “investors” coming in) but I had the time and myself to help him. After discussing with him and getting his green light from my HEO, I came over on fine Saturday morning, wearing an old T-shirt and my short pants. No pay for the work done, which was ok for me as money was not the reason I joined him.

I have washed my own car many times before this but I found out that it is a whole different ball game when it comes to washing someone’s else car. Firstly some of the cars that comes in is clearly not driven by humans. Yes, I repeat it – not humans. Vomits, chips, spilled milk, dog furs, mud, black oil and dusts is just a small part of things that you will discover in some of the cars (especially, sorry to say, women drivers). It is amazing that there are humans out there who are willing to be driving on daily basis in a car covered with those things. Secondly some of the drivers who came in for the car wash are simply too impatient before we get the car all done. I noticed this mainly from the lady drivers, the male drivers on the other hand, don’t mind the extra time taken to clean their cars. Sometimes it is the other way around – too many cars lined up and very less time to get the car washed up and me and my cousin get too impatient to clear them.

At first, I follow the so-called “routine” – often looking for queues from my cousin and often limit myself to wiping down the car after it has gone through the snow wash. Then slowly I moved on to interior cleaning, vacuuming, tire polish and later on to shampooing the car (we did not use the cheap detergent but a proper car shampoo). And we embarked on improving the quality of service, gradually – one that immediately sets us apart from our competitors. We decided to wash the cars in the same manner we wash our own car or rather how we want car wash centers to wash our cars. Yes, it takes longer to complete the washing but in the end, the effort taken is much appreciated by our customers – the car is a lot more cleaner and we included a small effort of detailing of the interiors.

Which car wash centers dusts off the dusts on your dashboard. the dial meters and the finger prints on the mirrors and the old stain under the car plate number? Yes, we do all that. In fact, if we have time, we actually wipe and clean each strand of the tire rims to make it clean and shiny. Detailing is part of our services for no extra cost. And once we have done all the washing and wiping and before we hand over the keys back to our customers, there is one final round of quality check. And our customers loves that and so much that we often see them bring their cars, their wife’s car on weekly basis and telling their friends & family members to visit us as well. We got a lot of referrals and that pushed us to ensure quality is always maintained eventhough we have cars waiting to be washed. No rushed work as far as we are concerned. Surprisingly people wait for us – once a customer waited for 2 hours for my cousin to open shop. This is excluding those who are coming in for wax & polish (which took at least half a day to be done but we still had customers) and some to clean their headlights.

There were other developments as well – I started to meet my daily active minutes, consistently meeting it on the weekends when I am “working” at the car wash. And if there are enough cars to wash, I can easily clock in the minimum 10,000 steps. I sweat a lot so much so I started to drink gallons of water – sometimes within minutes my large 1.5 liter water bottle would be empty and I have to replenish on a regular basis. Interestingly drinking a lot of water when I am at “work” did not mean frequent visit to the toilet and in fact, all the days I was at the car wash, I did not once went to the toilet, no matter how much water I had been drinking the whole day. I gather most of the water that I drank is dispensed when I sweat a lot. It was a good workout from morning until late evening and by the time I come back home with a very soaked T-shirt, I would be energy drained – just enough to take a light dinner (sometimes a burger near the car wash) and knock off for a good night sleep. Yes, I started to lose weight and feel healthier as well.

Business was good except when it rains – there were days when we hardly had any cars due to the heavy rain. We will sit at the sofa, waiting for customers to come in once the rain had stopped but never once there have been a dull moment at the car wash except maybe when the cats from the nearby workshop decided to mess up the place (you know I hate cats right?). No dull moments because me and my cousin share the same passion for old Tamil songs especially one from MSV and Illayaraja – we will fire up our smartphones and sit down to listen to the songs whilst waiting for the rain to stop. On other days, we will recall back our childhood and incidents such as the meet up at our Grandma’s house for Deepavali. There were plenty of funny & interesting stories, some unknown to me from that “era” and we would end up laughing on that events. Usually after the rain had stopped, we will see cars now muddied coming over for a good wash.

My stint at my cousin’s car wash was however a short one – just several months short. My cousin soon found that despite good business and a string of loyal customers (ha, I even had one, coming in on the weekends for detailing), it was not enough to continue. He had other issues well to resolve – one had been manpower. It is hard to expand with just one person handling the whole thing. So ended my weekly workout at the car wash – I was kind of sad to leave that active & fun environment but my wife was relieved to see me at home on the weekends. My cousin had moved on as well – he got busy with other work but both of us agreed that if we have the chance and opportunity, we would open a proper car wash center but maintain the same level of commitment and quality. Car wash center is one kind of gym that gives you work and works you at the same time.

In the Year of the Monkey


Frankly speaking, I had Part 2 in mind (had half way drafted the content) but over time, the passion for one subject fades away and another subject grabs of one’s attention.

Read these first:-

 

(One good way to damage the sidewalls but modern tires is designed to absorb such sudden shocks)

Last month – on the month of the CNY – had proved to be a rather very expensive month for me as an owner of a car.

Firstly I accidentally scrapped my left back tire against the kerb and caused a small portion of the tire sidewall to be sliced off. I know for fact that whilst you can abuse the main tread and still drive safely, the same cannot be said for the sidewall. And it was painful because the tire was still new – barely a year since I last changed it. I took it to 2 different tire shops – the first one looked at it and said it was nothing to worry. The mechanic went back into the shop, brought back a bottle of super-glue and simply glued the sliced piece of the sidewall back into the tire. Feeling unconvinced, I went back to the shop where I first changed the tires a year ago. Unfortunately there were too many cars at the tire shop and the mechanics were busy. I managed to convince one of the them to check the tires. He came over and very lazily said it was nothing to worry as well.

But deep down, I was not happy or feeling safe, driving around with a sliced sidewall. As far I can remember, I never had damaged sidewalls before this and this was the first time I encountered this. It was time to do some goggling on the net and find out from the experts out there if I am feeling worried for nothing. Unfortunately for me, it looked like I had a very unique situation and generally most experts do not suggest driving around with a damaged sidewall (mine was not damaged but sliced). A few days had passed and for a moment I had forgotten that I was driving around with a sliced + patched up sidewall but that notion of not feeling safe kept bugging me, more so when I have my kids in the car. And one day, somewhere in a motoring forum, I finally read what I was looking for – someone had commented that no amount of money saved can come close to the safety of the people in the car.

That caused my mind to be made up but I had to wait for few more days as most of the shops were closed for CNY. But once the shops were opened, I headed to the nearest shop and talked to the owner. He too said that the tire were still driveable but the point is, the sidewall strength is compromised. So one need to be very careful when driving. I pondered on his statement – I do drive fast in the morning and I am the one who send my youngest to school in the morning. I could not imagine the carnage if the tire decides to blow out.

I decided to change the tires and considering the old tires were still new, the owner decided to give good discount for my new tires. But lesson well learned and I have now become more careful and patience when I am driving – another sidewall damage is the last thing I want.

It was not the only problem I had with the car and interestingly I only discovered this second problem by chance. My wife wanted me to check her car engine bay and to check the water level. Since I was doing that, I decided to check my car as well. When I opened the engine bay, I noticed that black oil splashed all over the place. I have seen this before – the engine gasket worn out and the engine oil was leaking. I had the same problem once with my old car. That probably explains the loss of power when I am driving to work in the morning.

Good thing was my car’s scheduled service was coming up and despite a last minute call to the service centre, I managed to get an early appointment at about 8.30 am. I don’t want the leak to continue and damage other components. At the service centre, despite making appointment at 8.30 am, I had to wait for other cars (from previous days) to be done first and only at 10.30 am, the car was brought into the service bay. I knew the mechanic from previous visits, so standing next to him whilst he worked on my car was not a problem and he was also explaining on what he was doing. The engine oil was indeed leaking and it was time to replace the sealants and cleanup of the leaked oil.

Another cost to the car so soon after I had changed the tires. It was another costly affair but once again, it was necessary. The service took almost 3 hours to complete (partly because they had to order some of the parts) and as I chatting away with the mechanic, he asked me if I had changed the timing belt. It was time to change based on the mileage but as I checked my car service records, I don’t see any indication of the manufacturer had changed the timing belt but I can guarantee that I have adhered to the service schedule to the dot.

And I was very tempted to allow the mechanic to proceed to change the timing belt. I decided to call the other service centre to check their records and was relieved when they confirmed that the timing belt had been changed and I had nothing else to worry. The car is back to it’s perfect state and it is great to be driving again, feeling safe and confident and with a set of good music in the background, the morning traffic was not so bad and somehow and surprisingly I can find a sense of calmness to allow the morning queue jumpers, road hoggers and other morons on the road to do what they do and don’t get angry so easily (unlike the previous time).

Two incidents involving the car and it burned my pockets very badly but the fact is that no amount of money can replace one’s life and that should be the case all the time.

Do You Listen To Your Car?


Screw on tire2

(The thing that you do not want to see sticking out from your tires)

Before I start, I was not meaning “listen” in this sense

Couple weeks ago, we suppose to make a trip to Kuantan to visit an elderly aunty who was not feeling well. And to ensure we don’t inconvenient the relatives (who I know don’t have much space in their house), I even booked hotel rooms for the family. It was long holidays too, so I decided to set the time to depart from the house during the non-peak hours so that we will reach Kuantan without getting caught in the massive traffic that was expected. But at the last minute, I could not go due to an “emergency” at work place and we had to get a replacement for me (since I was the designated driver for the trip). We looked around but everyone already had plans for the long holidays.

In the end, my sister volunteered (or rather was strongly persuaded to take over). At first she said wanted to use her car instead of mine for the journey which made sense but after a second thought, she decided to use my car instead. After all it was more spacious and more comfortable for that long journey to Kuantan. The main reason why she decided to use my car was because she said she had to pump air into her back right tire on weekly basis and she suspected something not right with the tire. But she has yet to bring the car to the mechanic for a proper check-up. So, not wanting to take any risk of the whole family stranded by the road side on their way to Kuantan or worse, losing control of the car near Genting, it was better to take my car instead – after all, it had 4 brand new tires and the car just completed its periodic service and I had high confidence on the reliability of the car.

With my car not available, I decided to use my sister’s car for work instead and almost immediately I noticed a loud sound from the back tires. I had to pull over and check. And when I pump air into the tires, the right back tire was indeed had much less air than the rest of the tires (for normal wear and tear, the air should be reducing almost the same pace on all tires. If one reduces more than the rest, it’s time to bring the tire for check-up). I know there was a leak somewhere but I could not pin point the source. Much later, when my sister took the car for service, there was indeed a leak from an old puncture. Good thing we made the correct decision by not using her car for the long trip.

Then last night as I was driving past the toll booth, there was a faint “thud, thud, thud” sound. I rolled down the window and as I drive past the road barriers (where the sound would bounce back and it will clearer to hear), there was no mistake of the “thud, thud, thud” sound. The last time I heard that sound was when there a screw firmly lodged on the tire.

Now I am hearing the same sound again. I just shook my head in despair and slowly moved to the left lane. No point being a “hero” on the highway with one flat tire. I kept driving slower until I cleared the highway and entered a commercial area. I parked my car and took a quick look at the tires. I did not notice any screws or nails but then again, checking by the road side with poor light conditions did not help either. The sound was still there. So to minimize the option of having a flat tire before I reach home (where I can jack up the car and have a better look), I drove to the nearest petrol station and pumped air on all tires. One thing I noticed was that there was no drastic reduction of air. That was strange because if there was a screw or nail, there would have a considerable lost of air to one of the tires compared to the other tires. Something was not right. In fact the tire that I thought had a puncture had almost nil lost of air.

Not taking any chances, I continued driving slow, taking the back lanes where there was a less traffic and where it is easier to stop by the road side. It took longer time than usual but I somehow made it home in one piece. First thing to do after I had parked the car in the porch was to take the torchlight and make a more thorough inspection of the tires. Then I found the culprit – a small stone wedged in the middle of the tire and that made sense. I had the same problem when I changed the tires to Michelin couple years ago as well. It has a wider grooves than other make – it makes an excellent tires on wet roads but it easily picks up small stones. Some how I don’t have the same problem with Continental or Goodyear tires. This is the last time I am going to use the Michelin tires. And to be sure, I drove around the residential area after removing the stone and there was no longer the “thud, thud, thud” sound.

And over the years, there have been many types of sounds emitting from the car and I have made mental note of what sound means what problem.

Once there was an intermittent sound of something knocking against the interior of the car. I stopped the car and double checked and noticed that the passenger side seat belt was twisted and the metal part of the belt was hitting against the side of the car whenever I am changing lanes. Low tire pressure usually give a growling sound and although it is not a bad thing but it still dangerous to drive around (especially when cornering) and obviously it is fuel inefficient. And there is the usual “trrrrrr” sound which comes from the USB stick – the cover of the USB stick vibrates and makes that “trrrrrr” sound. And in my previous car, there is a sound of plastic being flipped around and that comes from the plastic covering inside the doors and the sound comes from the sound vibration of the speakers. Another is the whining sound when closing the doors – this indicates lack of lubrication on the door. And if one drives the older Proton models, the squeaky noise is part and parcel of driving a national car. The newer models don’t have that problem to some extent – they are well built and the NVH insulation is quite good.

The thing is, I make a point to listen to the car every morning as I am leaving the house and does the same before I leave the office. The sound of the engine, the sound of the tires and any other sound that is out of place. If something sounds out of place, always stop and check. The last thing you want to do is to have trouble when you are flying at 110 km/h. And early morning is the best time to listen to the sounds – it quiet (which makes it easier to listen things) and there are no other cars and if there are any strange sounds, home is just nearby. The sound that I fear the most is of course the “thud, thud, thud” sound. It has caused me more headaches than any “other sounds” over the years.

There are times when the car actually talks to you and if you listen to it closely, you can understand it’s language. And here’s a quick guide for more sounds that could indicate problems to your car (another is here). That takes the surprise element out from the equation and makes driving a bit more safer and economical. Well, do you do the same? Have you listened to your car lately?

Ending The Year 2014


najib golf

(Not everyone can be the PM – very, very hard at “work” overseas. Some had said that there is nothing wrong for a leader to take a break. Well, that is correct but not when the country is seeing one of the worst floods around. The big mamma still on holiday, its so seems – no one had seen her wading through the high water in downtown Kota Bahru. Image source)

Before I go further, my deepest condolences to the family and friends on those were abroad the Air Asia Flight QZ8501 – the 3rd tragedy in the year that involves a Malaysian linked airline. I don’t know why Malaysians had to face this – not once or twice but three times in the same year. MH370 is still missing and MH17 just had to be at the wrong place, wrong time and QZ8501 must have met mother of all storms. One just hope that there will be some kind of closure in 2015.

Heartfelt prayers also goes to the flood victims in the East Coast (and also in the West Coast now) that saw one of the worst flooding since 1971. Prepping is no longer a joke – with such flooding is due to be a yearly affair, we need to look at prepping in a wider scope. Management of the rivers and coastal areas would be critical aspect of prepping from the Government. Citizens on the other hand should look into making their homes to be flood-proof or have an alternative place to stay and of course with proper stockpile of food and water. Stories piling up on instances of people running out of food and water and the situation looks hopelessly lost. Nonetheless it is a grave reminder of things to come. The more we put off prepping for such instances in the coming years, the more painful it is going to be. It is a reminder to me too as I have been focusing less on prepping in 2014.

My own 3 weeks break came and went without a blink and I will be soon be traveling again on work assignment. My flight back to Malaysia was scheduled to take off at about 8 plus in the morning and knowing that I need to be in the airport at least 2 hours before boarding and it is about 1 hour plus from the apartment to the airport, I booked a taxi to fetch me from the apartment at about 4 in the morning (that taxi driver came and waited for me since 3.30 am!). With the taxi booked and all luggage packed for the trip back home by 9 pm, I contemplated of taking a short nap. The night was still early and I was sure that I could woke up at 3 am. Just when I was to jump on the bed, I had a dreadful vision – the alarm ringing but I casually switching it off and going to bed, only to wake up at 10 am in the morning. I did not want to miss my flight, so I made a big pot of coffee and watched movie on TV. Good thing I was not feeling that sleepy and hours went off fast. A good shower in the wee morning ensure I was awake as I took the luggage down to the awaiting taxi.

I must have dozed off in the taxi – there was a bump and when I opened my eyes, we were just arriving at the airport. Another long wait for the airport for the check-in and breakfast but at least I was at the airport.

wolf

(Although I was disappointed on missing some of the titles that I saw in the previous year, this should be enough to last me until the next Big Bad Wolf Book sale)

When I came back home, instead of the usual nap I often take whenever I come back from overseas, I had to go off and do some work for the house (haircut however came first before anything else). My kids were excited to see me back, so they hardly allowed me to catch up on my sleep. Then at night, we went to the Big Bad Wolf Book Sales and I spent almost RM300 on books (this time around, my choice of books was less compared to the stack that my son had). It was however worth the trip – RM300 bought us almost 3 boxes of new books.

We came back late and decided against driving off to north in the morning (you see, I had promised my son to take him to the water park in Ipoh for the holidays). We decided to go after lunch which was not so bad as the traffic by then was fine and we did not have to slow down in many areas. The only “funny” thing that happened was my car door automatically unlocks itself and locks again when I press the brakes. By the time, we reached the in-laws house to stay for the holidays, it was already evening and my relatives were coming back from work. We stayed up late again, chit-chatting and watching movie. I was already feeling like zombie when I finally went to the bed (I was given a room of my own) but had a very disruptive sleep because I had to wake up a few times at night going to the bathroom (had too much to drink).

In the morning, the weather was great but I had something to do first – go and fix my car central locking. Still remember when it unlocks and locks itself when I was driving? It became worse – I found the car unlock when I went to check on it in the morning. That means if I lock up the car, a few minutes later, it will unlock itself and that is all that was needed for a car jacker to have an easy access to my car. I called the service centre and good thing was they had few cars on service schedule in the morning. The mechanic “managed” to fix it within 30 minutes – loose wiring they said. Happily I took the car out and barely 100 meters from the service centre, the problem started again. I drove back and this time, the mechanic followed me in the car. It was apparent then, that he had not fixed the problem. He took it back to check and this time, it took him almost 2 hours (including replacing the whole central locking mechanism) to get it right. Almost half day had gone by then. I went back and seeing that it was too late to go to water park, I decided on something that I have been holding back for past few days – catching up on my sleep.

rain

(I think this is Kuala Kangsar after our lunch in Chemor – we made a pit stop here because there is a famous bakery here where we wanted to buy bread. Situation was not ideal to bring the kids out for the fun day at the water park)

The next day, when we suppose to go to the water park, it started to rain cats and dogs. The situation looked gloomy. Even my son did not want to go out as the weather was very bad. My father in law however decided that we go for a lunch at one place he knows in Chemor (very near to the water park that we wanted to go). It was raining when we left the house, it was raining when we were on the highway and it was getting even worse when we drove into Chemor town. After parking the car at the back of the a small restaurant (it looked quite old as well) and struggling with the umbrella in the heavy downpour, we managed to get the 2 car load of people in front of the restaurant. We walked in and the atmosphere immediately changed. Inside was very modern and roomier. Lunch was extraordinary with my son ordering spicy crab curry and a good load of crabs to go with it. It was still raining when we left the restaurant and decided to take the old road instead of the highway and drive through the places where my grandmother used to live.

The so-called break from work at my in-laws place ended up with a bang (literally). We head back home on a working day, hoping that the highway would be free (and it was indeed) and the ride would be more pleasant. Nearing KL, things started to slow as we caught with the on-going road works with 2 of the 3 lanes closed. The traffic started to move slower and at some places, it was almost bumper to bumper. It was just after lunch time too and things was getting were warm in the car (despite the air-cond high). That coupled with the crawling traffic started to show its ugly side – I was falling asleep.

Often there was enough space in between for me to recover and stop the car but this time, there was none. Just when I thought of stopping at the next R&R, I must have dozed off as the next thing I realised is that I have bumped into the car in front. For moment, I was blur on what had happened. The driver came out and started looking at his bumper. Fearing the worst, I came out from the car, expecting to confront an angry driver but instead the man looked at me and said that there was no damaged and extended his hands. I shook his hand, said sorry and went back to my car. Rest assured, I stayed wide awake the rest of the journey but I still stopped at the next R&R for a break (and also to check if there is any other hidden damage). Imagine if I had dozed off when the traffic was fast (and me traveling at 110 km/h) and rear-ended a truck instead. I must have done some good karma to walk away from this with nothing more than a word of “sorry” and an handshake.

2014 had not been a very good year but it has not been a very bad one too. I had good times catching up with my primary school mates – some not met for almost 30 plus years recently. Blogging had taken a very back seat this year with me hardly having the time (but not ideas – thanks to travels and good old Malaysian politicians) to blog. I traveled to a new country this year, met good friends there, enjoyed the food & culture and hope to go to another in 2015. Work compounded this year compared in 2013 but that was expected – when one moves up in the organization structure, there will be more responsibilities, tasks and plans.

Happy New Year everyone and I will see you next year!

Speed Demons on Highway 2


(There is always a limit to everything we do and a limit to speeding is there for obvious reasons. Slow down and you will live longer. Some idiots would never learn no matter what happens when one speeds over the speed limit on the highway)

Driving on Malaysian highways often promises a good story for this blog and it is the case for this week and one that deal with speed demons on highways. About 9 years ago, I had a close encounter with a speed demon and a recent trip north saw  another close encounter with another speed demon.

But first read this first:-

At least 37 people were killed when a bus in a mountainous area of Malaysia plunged into a ravine on Wednesday, the country’s Bernama news agency said, citing rescue officials. There also were 16 people injured, and they were sent to hospitals, the report said.

There were 53 people on board. Among the dead were Bangladeshi, Thai and Chinese nationals. The bus driver also died. The bus was descending from Genting Highlands when it fell into a 200-feet-deep ravine, Bernama reported. The incident occurred near the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

(Source)

Back in August last year, the country saw one of the worst accident relating to express buses. Before that, back in 2011, there was another horrible accident involving express/tour buses where 28 people perished. And beginning this year when it comes to express buses, it was not good news either:-

Three people died and at least 14 injured when an express bus they were travelling in crashed at KM107.2 of the North-South Expressway, from Pagoh to Yong Peng today. The bus driver was believed to have lost control of the vehicle, causing it to crash into a railing and landing at the side of the highway at about 2pm.

The Star Online reported that the bus was travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Johor with 17 passengers, including a number of foreigners. Two men and a 10-year-old boy were killed while seven passengers suffered serious injuries.

(Source)

Last weekend, we had to do a quick trip up North and it was sort of a last minute decision.

My mother in law was not well and my wife despite postponing the call to go and visit her somehow knew that time was up to visit her mother. So instead of going during CNY when one can expect sheer madness on highways, we decided to go one week earlier and come back the very next day. The highway was almost empty and we actually had empty tables at the famed R&R. There was the usual big bike convoys dominating the fast lane and having little care for the 110 km/h speed limit. The same went to Singapore registered cars – they were driving on the fast lane like they were on a private race track. The same also went to those with luxury car where the RM300 ticket for speeding would hardly made any dent on their pockets.

It was not the first time I encounter them but I seriously think that some of the idiots who uses the highway should be barred from using vehicles for life. I mean if they are bloody ignorant of the law, then at least they should have some common sense. They would either drive above the speed limit like their back is on fire (or hog the fast lane) and when confronted with another faster vehicle, they would dash into the slower lane without sense of space or the courtesy to put on the indicators to warn the slower traffic on the left. Some would cut in too close for comfort, completely ignoring the fact that there is another vehicle on the slow lane.

Then towards Ipoh, we saw something that left us speechless. There was a car overtook us on the fast lane and I know it was driven above the speed limit (I was already driving at 110 km/h then). Following just behind that speeding car is a police car but that too is driven above the speed limit. Well, I am fine with that but what irked me was that the police did nothing to pull over the speeding car and give the driver a speeding ticket. Perhaps the policeman had a bad stomach ache and rushing to the nearest toilet. Perhaps. But then again, it sends the wrong message and if the enforcement agencies keeps one eyes closed, you can be assured that there would not be the end of fiery deaths on the highway.

The stay with the in-laws was pretty short (it usually do, ha ha) but enough for me to take a good break for the trip back. My wife had fulfilled her part of the obligation and that was good enough, at least for now. The next day as usual we decided to leave early to KL. My sister in law and her 2 year old daughter followed us back and since there was plenty of space in my car, we were more than happy to accommodate them. I hardly drove more than 90 km/h and kept to the 110 km/h speed limit at certain part of the highway. And with a good selection of songs in my flash drive, it was a relaxing ride back.

aeroline_speeding2

(It took mere minutes for these 2 buses – there is another in front of this bus – to disappear from my sight despite we were traveling at about 110 km/h)

Some kilometers before Behrang (about 11.20 am on Sunday), I noticed something on my rear mirrors – not one but two speeding high deck express buses (High deck just like the high deck bus where 28 people died back in 2011). Knowing on how they usually fly through on the fast lane (and sometimes on the slow lane, adding the risks to other road users), I maintained on the middle lane and I was already cruising at 100 – 110 km/h. The first bus (Aeroline) bus flies through on the slow lane and quickly cut into the middle lane, a few paces in front of me. The second bus came right behind my car in the middle lane and started to flash his headlights (if we has stopped, I would bashed his head for coming up so close, endangering me and my family and flashing his headlights like a big dirty bully). He was trying to bully me to move over from the middle lane but since it was not safe to move over, I continued to drive on the middle lane, hoping that the idiot would move over on the fast lane. After all, he was faster than me – both buses was flying at about 140 km/h!

I got my son to snap some photos to be passed over to JPJ (hopefully they will blacklist these drivers) whilst I concentrated on driving. And I was quite angry too. Not only the idiots were endangering me and other road users with their deadly driving, they were also endangering the passengers. But the, when I went to Aeroline’s website, I read the biggest joke from the company titled “Safety”:-

AEROLINE coaches are built on high quality imported Scania (Sweden)chassis. AEROLINE operates its very own dedicated maintenance facility that is manned by experienced mechanics to maintain the coaches to our own standards, by using only quality parts.

Furthermore, each AEROLINE captain is hand picked and undergo regular training and monitoring. With the aid of GPS tracking system, our command centre is able to monitor the operation of each bus in real time, thus ensuring every journey a safe one.

(Source)

Ya right, perhaps who ever wrote that “safety” statement should hand pick himself to take up a trip in their Aeroline buses where driving at more than 140 km/h and weaving in & out dangerously on a high deck buses meant nothing for these drivers. One wrong move weaving in and out of traffic or one tire blow out or encounter with one inexperienced driver and you will have another 20 – 30 passenger on the ditch and dead. No matter what the politicians, the bus company owners & management and the public may say after a tragedy, it will not bring back the dead. But unfortunately Aeroline is not the only bus company that I noticed speeding above the speed limit (but that does not mean they are not guilty of sheer recklessness). Another bus (from another bus company) just behind these Aeroline buses was also speeding at 140 km/h and was also weaving in and out of traffic. Within minutes, all these buses had disappeared from our sight as far as we can see up front.

And one main reason for this is because there is a serious lapse of enforcement. It is a fact that we fare badly when it comes to enforcement and it is not due to the laziness of the enforcement agencies. Sometimes the need for a stricter enforcement is curtailed, not by shortcomings of the enforcement agencies but rather due to the short sighted & (very, very) dumb politicians who flip-flops enforcement related policies on weak reasons and shout for all the wrong reasons.

This is where we have to relook into the implementation of the Automated Enforcement System (AES) on a larger scale. This is where also, rather unfortunately, the Pakatan fellows failed us miserably – yes, initially there seemed to be some “questions” in awarding the AES implementation to the private companies but that was not the main concern here. It was clear that the Pakatan politicians were barking on the wrong tree and had been asking all the wrong questions. The main concern is to ensure a strict adherence to the traffic rules and AES would have provided that unbiased, all weather, 24 x 7 automated enforcement that the other enforcement agencies may not been to able to provide effectively.

And now, nation wide AES implementation seemed to be on hold and that is allowing more idiots to break the traffic laws on a greater scale. They know that they cannot be caught (forget the yearly Ops Sikap – one, it is done during major holidays when the highways are packed thus reducing the opportunity to fly like you were on a race track and two, these drivers know that the police is out there in a greater force to nab these offenders) . That is why on other “non festival” days bus drivers like the above Aerobus drivers do not hesitate for a second to drive dangerously on the highways and endangering others on the road. Some unlucky ones end up killing their passengers and the whole vicious cycles starts again.

And there is another aspect of strict enforcement, ahem, since Najib been going around saying that the Government does not enough money for subsidies and what not. The more drivers nabbed for violation of traffic rules (and trust me, you will get a truckload of them without a sweat), the more fines can be collected and these money can be re-used for critical Government expenses (flying the fat lady overseas in private jets however does not count).

Just imagine that in the first 1 week of the AES in operation, it captured 63,558 offenses (an average of one offense every two-and-a-half minutes). Even if you use a modest RM50 fine per offense (speeding ticket will cost RM300), the Government can easily collect RM300,000 per week. Imagine how much they can collect on monthly basis. That is a lot of money that can be used again to beef up enforcement (more AES cameras) and make the roads safer again. Insurance claims has not been cheap as well – “net claims paid out for bodily injury and property damage due to road accidents in the first nine months of 2013 have risen to RM4.1 billion, compared to RM3.68 billion in the same period in 2012”.

We may have one of the best highways in the region (we still do) but we also have the 3rd world mentality when it comes to using them in the right way and in a safe way. You can be rest assured that you going to have more buses speeding above the speed limit and more deaths from unsafe speeding vehicles if attitude and enforcement does not change.

Please keep this mind as you balik kampung this Chinese New Year. Enjoy the holidays and have a plenty of rest.

NAP 2014: Talk of Cheap Cars Again


Read these first:-

the-impact-of-the-electric-car_5033a828f37ca

(The hard cold facts of EEVs – have we considered the pros and cons of using EEVs? After all, the buzz word of NAP 2014 is EEV which is not a bad thing if you ask me and holds many benefits, both for the industry, consumer and the environment. But the thing is, will we put the right effort on implementing what we have planned and deliver cheaper car in the end? Image source: http://visual.ly)

If you can recall before the elections, reducing price of the car was something that both side of the fence promised to entice the voters. Err, sorry that was not case really – what actually happened was this, it was something that Pakatan had initiated (it was a good proposal too) and when people had warmed to the idea, BN found themselves pushed to a corner and promised the same thing (some how, strangely earlier they were against cheaper cars). They said they were wiser and promised price reduction for many other things – toll being one of it. But in the end, all those items that should have cost cheaper, ended up costing more (although the toll increase seems to be on hold at the moment but it may not be for long). They were indeed wiser and the voters who voted for them were made to look like fools.

Then recently in 2014, we got this:-

The National Automotive Policy (NAP) announced today that it is committed to a gradual reduction of prices ranging between 20% and 30% over the next five years. However, Inter¬national Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, who announced it, stopped short of giving details on how the reduction would come about.

“We are constantly reviewing our fiscal position. Our deficit level is now 4%. In the event our revenue improves, we may review the excise duty. “We will reduce excise duty gradually over a period of time,” he told reporters after announcing NAP 2014 here today.

NAP 2014’s key objective is to make Malaysia a regional automotive hub for energy-efficient vehicles (EEVs), to be achieved by issuing manufacturing licences (ML) to all car companies without any engine capacity restrictions. This will be followed with customised incentives for each investor coming into the country, which will eventually contribute towards a lowering of EEV car prices in the country.

On Approved Permits (APs), Mustapa said the government will conduct an in-depth study on the issue to assess the impact of the termination on bumiputera participation in the automotive industry. “We are not backtracking. We will be doing a thorough study which will start after Chinese New Year,” he said, adding that NAP 2009 had specified the termination of open APs by Dec 31, 2015 and Franchise APs by Dec 31, 2020.

(Source)

Now where did we saw that very similar looking promise to reduce the price of cars? So what does this really means to all of us?

One, it looks like price of cars will NOT be coming down anytime soon (soon means in the coming months instead of the coming years) BUT they have promise to bring it down in the next 5 years, interestingly just before the next general elections. Don’t you feel a sense of déjà vu? So, you guys want to trust them again with the so-called promise of gradual reduction in the next 5 years? What stopping them from postponing this plan to reduce the price after the elections?

One thing that NAP 2014 seemed to have missed in making vehicles more affordable is the structure of car financing in this country (if it is there and I have missed it, please let me know). The current method of installment computation using flat rest (upfront interest) should be abolished. They should instead apply the same monthly rest method used for housing loans (month end interest computation). If a car cost RM100,000 (let’s assume 100% financing) with an interest rate of 5% and the financing period of 5 years, the monthly installment from the 2 methods would be as follows:-

Upfront interest method – ((RM100,000 x 5% x 5) + RM100,000)/60 = RM2,084
Month end interest computation – using the PMT formula = RM1,887

There is a difference of almost RM200 per month. Yes, the banks earns less every month but this also means the consumer is paying less. In total (for that 5 years), the financing cost is lower by almost RM12,000 and that is a lot of money, if you ask me. Money can be offset against higher petrol, toll and maintenance cost. There is no need for a very long financing period too if the monthly installment is lower. Some of us are forced to take 7 – 9 years of hire purchase just to own a decent safe car. And for those may opt to pay higher installment, the settlement of the loan would be faster. Further by using upfront interest method, the consumer loses more if he settles earlier towards the end of the loan cycle. Those who is familiar with the Rule 78 will understand this and in 2001, a Bill was even introduced in US that would eliminate the use of the Rule of 78s formula in credit transactions, for obvious reason:-

But your payout amount won’t be what you deserve. The reason? Using the “Rule of 78s” method, your lender applies more of your previous payments toward interest and less of your previous payments toward principal.

Since less is applied toward principal, the amount you owe will be higher than expected. The earlier you try to pay off one of these loans the more you’ll have to pay. The higher the interest rate, the more that payoff amount is going to hurt.

“If it had overcharged the lender and undercharged the consumer, it would have disappeared decades ago,” says Jean Ann Fox, director of consumer protection for Consumer Federation of America. “It’s a dirty little secret.”

(Source)

In Malaysia, we are still stuck to the upfront interest computation and the use of Rule 78 and so far, the Government have not introduced any restrictions on this. At the end, the consumer do pay more to own a car. Add this with the overpriced car (no thanks to AP and excise duties), the cost of owning a car is very expensive indeed in Malaysia. This somehow is missing from NAP 2014 although this has a direct implications on the industry.

Two, there is no clear decision on abolishing the APs although the Minister did mention “something” will happen on Open APs in December 2015 (that’s about 2 years from now). So let’s see if something do happens next year or as usual, it gets swept under the carpet. After all, if the Minister comes back and say “We need to do this study. We have to take the views of automotive industry stakeholders including bumiputera participants and the impact of the AP termination”, you probably want to hold back your celebrations. We all know who the stakeholders are and there is only a handful of them (we even had AP Queen once) but somehow this takes precedent over the many Malaysians who owns a car (with a ratio of 200 cars for every one thousand people, Malaysia ranks among countries with high car ownership ratio in the region. We have more than 22 million vehicles)

Back in 2005, Paul Tan wrote about this and nothing much have changed since then:-

Let’s use Honda cars for example. In Malaysia, Hondas are marketed and distributed by Honda Malaysia Sdn Bhd, a joint venture company between Honda Motor Co., Ltd. of Japan, DRB HICOM Berhad and Oriental Holdings Berhad. I do not see Honda Malaysia Sdn. Bhd. in the AP recipients list.

But I do see an AP king trio of Syed Azman, Mohd Haniff and Azzuddin holding the most APs. And one of their companies is Weststar Motorsport, which is said to be the franchise AP holder for Honda cars in Malaysia. Weststar Motorsport received 7603 APs in 2005 so far. It’s only half a year now. With a market rate of RM30,000 per AP, that’s a nice amount of roughly RM228 million ringgit worth of APs. However, I do not see Weststar Motorsport having any distributor chain of Honda cars anywhere.

Perhaps a distribution chain is not needed. Maybe all they need is a small office to process AP purchase orders. Could it be Honda Malaysia has to buy APs from Weststar Motorsport in order to import their own vehicles into Malaysia? In Honda’s case, Weststar Motorsport brings the cars in and hands over the car and responsibilities of how the car is going to reach the consumer’s hands to Honda Malaysia. And I reckon they only import as much as what’s requested.

(Source)

Speaking of APs, NAP 2014 also states that the government is open to possibilities to reduce excise duties gradually BUT ha ha, when the fiscal situation permits. And you know by the way the Government spends like they are high on drugs, the fiscal situation is not going to improve anytime soon. So forget about all these talk of reducing the excise duties gradually.

Three, EEV (energy-efficient vehicles) seems to be the “in” thing for the latest NAP. Considering that the price of petrol have been going up in the last few years, this is indeed good news. It is also good news for the environment too. But are we prepared for it in terms of infrastructure and cheaper EEV? Forget about getting a cheaper Prius – even after you have take into consideration the high cost of the battery, it still cost almost RM140,000 right now (in US, it cost only RM80,000 so we must paying an extra RM60,000 for taxes and AP). It may be cheaper in the future but that is not certain. And if we also include electric cars, do we have plans to set up the infrastructures needed to compliment a greater use of EEVs?

Electric cars often have less maximum range on one charge than cars powered by fossil fuels, and they can take considerable time to recharge. This is a reason that many automakers marketed EVs as “daily drivers” suitable for city trips and other short hauls.

Nevertheless, people can be concerned that they would run out of energy from their battery before reaching their destination, a worry known as range anxiety. As of December 2013, Estonia is the first and only country that had deployed an EV charging network with nationwide coverage, with fast chargers available along highways at a minimum distance of between 40 to 60 km (25 to 37 mi), and a higher density in urban areas

(Source)

Four, there is something called “voluntary annual vehicle check” which seems to be more of a mystery. How effective is this voluntary annual vehicle check when there is also scheduled car service in place for all cars? For example if I am taking my car to the authorized car service center every 5,000 km for a change of oil and car inspection, will I volunteer for another vehicle check in another center who may or may not be familiar with the workings of the car?

And what happens if during the voluntary annual vehicle check, the car is found to be unsafe for one reason or another? Will be the owner be advised to go back to their authorized service centers to get it rectified or their car is impounded right there? Don’t the authorized service centers suppose to do this in the first place? One just hopes that this will not be part of the earlier proposed end-of-life vehicle policy wrapped in new clothes. It may be voluntary checking now but once the inspection issues ironed out, what’s stopping them from making it mandatory (where consumer ends up paying more for the same thing) and thereafter impose the 12 years end-of-life vehicle policy?

To be fair, NAP 2014 has just been announced – it may be tweaked in the coming months but one would hope that the execution of the key features of the NAP 2014 is effectively done. No point talking about reducing the price of the car or give higher incentives for EEVs if at the end of the day, we don’t actually see overall reduction of the price for better equipped in terms of performance and safety cars and other related factors like car financing is not taken into consideration.

As I have said, don’t you feel a sense of déjà vu?

Washing Sport Rims


Read these first:-

sports_rim

(There are plenty of sport rims out there with different designs and size but which one of it makes it easier for the owner to clean & wash the rims. The sport rim designer may have missed this critical aspect when designing the sport rims. I have no complains about the sport rims that came with the car – it looks great but too many curves & lines makes it difficult for a good wash. http://kereta.info)

It has been months since I last visited a car wash by the road side – not that I don’t have the time for it but rather my heart sinks thousand feet down whenever the guys at the car wash put an ample amount of the “snow wash” on my car. That is because I know for a fact that the guys uses the normal household detergents for their snow wash and normal household detergents causes rust if it is not washed properly (which is why they often wash down quickly after their snow wash). These days, I wash my car (and sometimes my wife’s car when it becomes too dirty) myself once every 2 weeks. P.s. I have never been into a professional car wash that cost a bomb for obvious reasons.

Further no matter how close you know the guys at the car wash, they do tend to leave out a spot here and there especially on the sport rims. For me, sport rim on the car is the main thing in the car that will indicate how clean the car really is and thus I am very particular about it. For me, it must be spotlessly clean. The guys at the car wash only come back to clean after I had pointed that to them but still, the job is done on a half-past six basis. Well,, I don’t blame the guys – there are too many cars waiting to be washed and we are not paying a lot for the service (what do you expect for RM8?).

Further, although nothing beats a good jog around the taman (ha ha, it is rather a walk than jog) or a rigorous badminton session with my son (where I pick the shuttlecock from the ground more often), washing the car myself has become another good way to sweat it out. I also know that I use much less water than those jet-sprayed water cannon at the car wash – so I consider it as another “environmental saving” in my books.

Learning the lessons from the car wash, I make sure to use a proper car shampoo that is anti-rust and combines washing and waxing in one solution. And that takes care of the wash and shine on the main body and no matter how much shampoo I use (I don’t use much, just one cap full usually do for one time washing), I know that it will not cause rust in hidden places. I tackle the sport rims last since I need to spent plenty of time on it. And I have seen some beauty on the road with really “sparkling” sport rims in morning when I head to office and I know the owner must spent considerable time and money taking care of the car. That is why I had kept pushing for the guys at the car wash to ensure the sport rims to be spotlessly clean but to no avail.

But now I decided to handle that myself – for washing and cleaning the sport rims, over the months, I have developed a special tactics to ensure that the sport rims is spotless and shiny like brand new. First thing is a soft brush to clean the edges and then I used my old used tooth brush for the hard to reach spots. This is hard work and by the time I finished with all 4 rims, I am sweating like hell. Once this is done, I use soft cloth to clean the whole rim and plenty of water to clean off the shampoo & the dirt off and ensure the rim is clean and shiny. The last piece of “equipment” that I used to ensure no bad spot left is my fingers. I wet my fingers and run through the rim one last round. You cannot get these kind of detailed work from the guys at the car wash for RM8. Once all these done, only then I am confident that the sport rims is indeed clean and looks brand new and this “clean, new” look will last for 2 weeks until the next car wash.

Oh, and there is another reason why I rather wash the car myself, if I have a choice. It gives me the opportunity to check on the condition of the bodywork especially if there has been rocks flying when I had drive past an overladen construction truck and the condition of the tires & sport rims (this is how I found a small crack on my wife’s car sport rims). If I had left it to the car wash guys to take of washing, I would not have taken the time to check on these places – I know most of us don’t check either.