“What’s new in Duster? A lot of people did it. Complete the trip with the 13-year-old Wagon R and you would have done something different. That’s the real challenge,” said my cousin Sunit.
Although my Wagon R has never let me down so far, she still needed to get the medical certificate to prove she is fit and well to make a trip to the high pass land. She was then taken to the hospital for a full body exam.
Before proceeding, I would like to clarify that my car is registered in Delhi, but I am from Dharamshala and that is where the journey began.
Preparation for car trip in Leh Ladakh
Below is a long list of checks performed. I am sharing the full list so it may also be useful for readers in the future. The list below is according to the requirements for a 13 year old car. May not apply to all vehicles depending on condition; but you should check all of the items below to make sure your trip remains hassle free and faces no problems on the way.
If you have exceeded 6,000 kilometers or nearly a year since your last service, it would be best to do a full service of your vehicle. If not, have at least one complete health check. Make sure all nuts and bolts are tight; also check fan belts, weather, etc. On my Wagon R, I fixed it and inspected it carefully. Make sure nothing is lost and there are no rattle noises anywhere.
Check engine oil, brake and gear. If the last change was more than 5000 kilometers away, you will need another change. If it is less than 5000, have them all reload. To be on a safer side, my recommendation would be that you change it completely to get the best engine performance from your car.
Check your vehicle’s oil filter, air and fuel for replacement. I changed them all. Ladakh has a very dusty environment and an old air filter can get clogged. I planned to clean the air filter again after we got to Leh. My car’s fuel filter has also been changed.
Tire and wheel alignment
I had changed the tires about 5,000 kilometers before this trip, so I didn’t need another change. But you should look closely at the tread left on your tires, including the spare one. If the tires are nearing the end of their lives or have cuts and cracks, it would be better to purchase a new set. In addition to the tread, also check the wheel alignment and, if necessary, correct it.
I changed all the shock absorbers of my Wagon R because it was an old car. You may not need to change, but you should check the shock absorbers and tighten the springs.
Clutch plate assembly changed
I changed the clutch plates as well. This is extremely important and you should check this regardless of the age of your car. You’ll be crossing several passes and steep climbs along the way, and it’s best to make sure your car’s clutch plates are long enough to see you comfortably while traveling.
I had to totally change the brakes to be on a safer side. You should also check the brake pads and shoes for remaining life on them. When driving in Ladakh, you will be constantly using the brakes; therefore, if necessary, replace them completely. Also check the brake fluid level before starting. A good practice before starting the trip would be to bleed the brakes to ensure they are working as well as possible.
Wiper Assembly New
I also changed the wiper and kept a new one as a spare to be on a safer side. As I realized later on this trip, this proved to be a great decision. The wiper motor has also been checked.
I changed the coolant and did an inspection of the entire cooling system. All hoses, hose clips have been checked and properly tightened. You should also check it and replace it if there is any wear. In addition, I washed and cleaned the radiator tubes and fins with a high pressure water jet.
All wires and connections have been checked to ensure that the electrical system is working well, with no frayed wires anywhere. The lamps have been changed. The alternator and starter have been carefully inspected and the connectors have been cleaned.
I didn’t need to change the battery, but you should check yours. It should be in good condition and if you are older than two years, check that the terminals are free of corrosion. Fill the battery water.
Necessary Spares to Carry for Ladakh
Below is a list of some spares that we carried to complete our car preparation for Leh Trip.
- 2 Jacks
- Towing Rod – 2
- Head light bulbs extra were kept
- Engine Oil – 2 Ltrs extra kept
- Gear Oil – 1 Ltrs extra kept
- Brake Oil – – 1 bottle extra kept
- Fuses – Kept 10 extra fuses
- Set of wrenches
- Wheel spanner
- M-Seal – 3
- Cello Tape
- Small Hammer
- Elfy – 3
- Plier + Screwdriver with some nut bolts
- Petrol Jerry Can 10 liters + Bottles 3-5 (2 Liters Each)
- Some rope
- Tyre puncture kit
Other Items to Carry for Ladakh
Below is the list of some other items that we took care of as a part of the preparations
- Water bottles 2-3
- Power Banks – 2 Nos
- Dry Fruits
- Leather gloves
- Deo – VERY IMP
- 2-3 blankets
- 3 Sleeping bags
- 1 Foldable Tent for emergency
- Medicine and first aid kit including Diamox
Once the complete list was checked, the wait for the D – Day started (16th Sep 2018). Although I got a lot of help from online Blogs but still had butterflies in my stomach. This article by Vargis Khan How to Prepare your Car for Ladakh Trip talks in details about getting your vehicle ready. But due to my excitement, a lot of questions were still in my mind.
Hope we Have not left out anything.
- My Wagon R will be jam-packed with the list above. Will she be able to take it?
- Hope She performs well.
- Hope there will be no underbelly hits.
- As per recommendations did not book any accommodations in advance. Hope that will not be a problem.
- Hope will not face any tire problems.
- All I could do at that time was to HOPE. Yes it is a big word that makes ordinary people do extraordinary feats.
11 Days Itinerary for Ladakh
With this hope, we were off to sleep as we had fixed 6 AM as the departure time. I leave you with the below-finalized itinerary for our trip.
- 16 Sep – Dharamshala – Srinagar – Day 1
- 17 Sep – Srinagar – Kargil/Lamayuru – Day 2
- 18 Sep – Kargil/Lamayuru – Leh – Day 3
- 19 Sep – Leh Local with Permits – Day 4
- 20 Sep – Leh – Hunder Via Khardung La – Day 5
- 21 Sep – Hunder – Pangong (Via Agham – Shyok) – Merak – Day 6
- 22 Sep – Merak – Tso Moriri/ Hanle via Chushul, Rezang La – Day 7
- 23 Sep – Tso Moriri/ Hanle – Pang – Day 8
- 24 Sep – Pang – Jispa – Day 9
- 25 Sep – Jispa – Manali – Day 10
- 26 Sep – Manali – Dharamshala – Day 11
Hmm, well that sounds pretty simple. Not exactly. As it turned out, this was just the initial plan, a rough draft of what our journey would be like. But trips like this sometimes have a way of their own, and that’s exactly what happened to us. We were expecting a quiet trip with no surprises, but did it happen? I covered this in the next part of this travel journal, Dharamshala to Srinagar – the journey begins.
Car Ladakh – Cost of Preparation
In total, all repairs and replacements on the Wagon R were slightly above Rs. 15,000. This includes regular service + shock absorbers + brake disc + wiper assembly + clutch assembly. The suspension was considered good. Rest, I took oil and other things with me for an emergency, but all parts were returned later. We returned without a problem. Not even a puncture in the tire.
Below are some other tips on how to prepare your car for Ladakh.
- If you were wondering which car is best for a trip to Leh Ladakh, a standard answer would be one with good GC. But as you can see, I completed the trip in a Wagon R, so yes, you can also do that in a low GC car. All that is required is that you prepare well and drive carefully. Any car can act as the best car for the Leh Ladakh trip as long as you know what you are doing.
- Keep a regular guide on tire pressure. When you drive at high altitudes, tire air pressure may increase due to low air pressure.
- It would be nice if you knew or learned some minor repairs. This would include repairing punctures, changing tires and tubes, replacing lamps and fuses, and checking and supplying battery water, coolant, engine oil, and so on.
- Make sure you also pack the necessary documents; such as your driver’s license, your car registration documents, insurance certificate, and pollution control certificate.