This Indian Car Has The Best Spare Tire Bolt-Tightening Instructions You've Ever Seen

Illustration for article titled This Indian Car Has The Best Spare Tire Bolt-Tightening Instructions You've Ever Seen
Image: Tata

As you may know, I’ve been a fan of Indian cars for a long time. India is a unique market with a lot of interesting demands, including low cost of purchase and ownership, efficiency, extreme durability and plenty of utility and flexibility. It’s not an easy market, and as a result, the cars developed for there tend to be rugged and clever. The same goes for maintenance, which is why I think the instructions I’m going to show you here really could only be from India.


When I visited India a few years back to drive a bunch of Mahindras (and one Hindustan) I remember being told by an engineer that for many vehicles designed for the Indian market, especially work and utility vehicles, you should always assume that the way the car or truck will be serviced will involve little more than a pit in the dirt and a hammer.

That may have been an exaggeration, but the vehicles I saw were certainly designed to be rugged and easy to maintain. You can’t expect fancy tools or equipment, and if you want something done a certain way, you better damn well make it obvious.

I think that’s the thinking behind this clever solution for making sure bolts are tightened to the proper specifications:

“Tighten the Bolt until ‘TAK’ noise is heard 3 times,” the sticker on the wrench reads, and I can’t think of a better, more obvious, or intuitive way to make sure bolts get tightened enough.

Image: Tata

This toolkit is from a Tata Harrier, Tata’s new flagship SUV. I checked out the Harrier’s owner’s manual, and it looks like their onomatopoeic approach to tire changing instructions shows up there, too:

Image: Tata

I’m sure it’s possible other carmakers have included onomatopoeias in instructions before, but I can’t seem to find any examples of SNIKs or PLOPs or SKNORKs anywhere, at least not yet.

It’s also interesting how the spelling TAK just seems to work better than TACK or TAC for this sound; it sounds sharper, more metallic, but in a very subtle way.



Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!:


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I remember being told by an engineer that for many vehicles designed for the Indian market, especially work and utility vehicles, you should always assume that the way the car or truck will be serviced will involve little more than a pit in the dirt and a hammer.

That may have been an exaggeration ...

This compels me to share a story.

Anyone that’s been to Bangalore will understand. Those who have not ... some background is required.

When you arrive in Bangalore, it is usually in the middle of the night. India, being late to the party of globalization, tends to get the shit-end of the stick when it comes to flight arrival and departure times, those being dominated by pretty much anyone else in the global logistics game.

It also takes about 7 years to get there. OK - 21 hours, via Frankfurt, from SFO. So when you show up, you’re slap-happy under the best of circumstances, all you want is a shower and a place to be horizontal. Even if you travel in biz class, it’s a long day.

Arriving outside (after customs and immigration) at 1am-ish @ BLR is like being at SFO, pre-pandemic, at noon. It’s a madhouse - people everywhere, coming and going (departing international flights are around the same time of night). So it’s lively, to say the least, which helps kind of jar your senses alert to be prepared for what’s to come.

The ride from BLR to where I worked was about 40 minutes that time of night. Up to 3 hours in the daytime, btw. You always pre-hire a driver, and you expect that ride to be without incident, relatively direct, quiet, and comfortable.

Unless, of course, your driver is new to the job. Which is why I will never again, in BLR, hire the hotel’s night-shift driver.

This driver picked me up without incident, got me to his car with a little more drama than I was comfortable with (how does a driver lose their own car in the car park on a pickup?), and we set off at a speed that was, shall we say, spirited, at least in the beginning.

Now, I’ve been to BLR a number of times, and always stayed at the same place (walking distance from the office), so I knew the route. So when I saw the hotel in the distance to the east, and we continued south, I got a little concerned. We turned around, heading north, and passed it, off in the semi-distant east again, but of course from the other window. One more time, we turned around, heading south, and after the 3rd passing of what I knew to be the exit, I tried to politely point out the location of the hotel in the distance.

Unfortunately, India’s infrastructure takes a more laissez-faire approach to public safety on public motorways. Being that the hotel was to the left, and there were no obvious barriers to going left, the driver, somewhat naturally, just ... turned left. Off the semi-motorway. In the dark. Off a small cliff.

I say “cliff” because his attempt at departing the roadway onto what looked like another road was interrupted by a 3’ drop over a curb, which, being a hotel-hire car, overwhelmed the ground clearance and high-centered the little thing. In his defense, it wasn’t marked. But not in his defense, nothing is marked in India. You need to be on the lookout for that shit like your life depends on it.

Remember: traveling (at this point) over 24 hours. Completely wiped out. Desperately wanting a shower.

All I could do was laugh hysterically. This, as you could imagine, Did Not Help the situation for said driver.

Thankfully, because India, there were shitloads of people out and about - some just walking (I swear the apocalypse is modeled after Indian cities at night), some clearly on their way, by themselves, to work of some sort, and, thankfully for me, a group of workers in the back of a truck who, as it turns out, found this situation as funny as I did, and were laughing uncontrollably at the poor driver.

THE POINT: The driver, being an industrious young lad with a jack that was both too short to fit in an area to get under a jack point where the car was hanging over the edge, and too long to do the same near the fulcrum, started fabbing a blocking/jack-extension mechanism from random shit he had in the trunk to give him extra jack length. Fearing for his life, because this was the jankiest fix I’d ever seen, I stopped laughing and requested he stop, and flagged down the amused spectators for assistance.

Thankfully, they responded to my break in laughing and request for help with the spirit of pretty much all good-hearted Indian people I’ve ever met, and no one even hesitated. Always found people in India to be that way - no one hesitates to jump in for a greater good.

We surrounded the car, lifted into the air, and gently set it on the other side of the not-cliff, then set off into the night in the vague direction of the hotel, liberated from the motorway’s lack of safety markings and, shortly thereafter, to a place where I could shower. I giggled myself to sleep.

TL;DR: In India, you make due with what you have, and repairing a car (or lifting one off) on the side of a motorway in the dirt with little else than a hammer or a cement block is just how it’s done there, so I’m not remotely surprised by what the engineers told you.