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As an aside, here's a grumpy mechanic's advice on how to not set fire to your rickshaw...
Mr. Rich's advice for Rickshaw electrical additions
Many of you wonder what kind of fancy western equipment to install in your Rickshaw. I personally recommend the old ways - kerosene lanterns and tin cans with string etc. If you plan to get technological though then it's necessary to understand what the Rickshaw engine is capable of and why. With this information fresh in your minds you can potentially understand that any increased load on the engine and its charging system will likely result in doom. Then you can promptly ignore my advice, install your GPS and missile tracking systems and be on your merry way until it all falls to shit and you realize that I was right in the first place.
Reasoning and information
The design of these vehicles is very, very cheap and very, very simple and thus the engine is also extremely basic. Its built-in charging system is primarily used to create a spark. This ignites petrol flowing into the engine, releasing power through combustion and rotating the engine which through the use of cogs (the gearbox) results in drive and gives rise to movement.
At Bajaj HQ they decided that they would include such luxuries as lights, a horn and even an electric windscreen wiper - which is lovely except that the power used by even one of the aforementioned luxuries has a greater consumption rate than the charging system in the rickshaw can take.
To accommodate this problem they are fitted with a battery which acts as a buffer of power (or capacitor), allowing electricity to be sent to various non-engine related components at a moment’s notice. The battery is topped up by the charging system but it struggles to keep the engine running on its own so any additional drain is likely to cause problems.
These have various ways of presenting themselves but put simply - if when driving along the engine dies every time you use the horn or operate the lights it may be because the power is now being divided too much to maintain a decent spark in the engine. Weak spark means no combustion, no engine rotation, no drive, no movement and a fuck up.
My SolutionsIf you want music in your rickshaw it doesn't have to be electrical… whatever instrument you can carry with you will bring bigger smiles than you can imagine. Triple points to anyone bringing a tuba. If you are not musically gifted you should use a mobile music device and stand-alone speaker system. It's portable so you can keep the party going back at your hotel/guest house/tent/gutter and if you do break down the music will continue, keeping spirits up (playlist dictating). You can also bring it with you from home and therefore know it works.
Taking a spare air horn or hand operated horn/hooter is better than an electric horn. It’s not a necessity but helpful if your primary horn fails. If you wish to have lighting in your rickshaw at night my advice is bring a torch - something you can tape to the front of the rickshaw when your lights fail. If you are looking for GPS advice then perhaps you are on the wrong adventure. Even maps are a bit cheeky but at least you can set them on fire.
It is my recommendation that you charge any devices each night at your place of lodging. Alternatively, you could choose to charge off of the rickshaw itself, but we’ll cover that in the next part.
My not preferred but at your loss and better judgment solutions
If you cannot resist charging from the rickshaw, you can use a cigarette lighter style output and USB converter (better to bring your own USB converter, the 12v cigarette sockets are available from local shops).
The standard power of the rickshaw charging system and battery is 12v DC negative earth but is subject to the voltage regulator working correctly. These do malfunction and can send high spikes of voltage to your devices. Just having a fuse in line will not prevent possible damage to your devices in this event as it only stops larger abnormal amperage spikes, not voltage spikes. So if you ignore my advice and fry your smartphone - tough shit.
You can if you insist wire in a 12v car stereo or amp with aux input along with speakers. You can buy locally at low cost so no need to bring with you from home (unless you really want to). A basic system should probably cost around Rs.3500/- without fitting from local shops for non-branded equipment. Buying branded or from a local tout will also increase price and quality may vary. Remember bigger is not better. I suggest no more than a 2 speaker system and always check inside the box when you are buying as often the thing inside the fancy packaging will be shit.
Despite popular local belief, it is actually possible to drive a vehicle successfully without the use of the horn every two seconds. If however, you wish to get amongst it and massage your small ego by shouting ‘La Coo Ca Ra Cha’ out loud with an electronic horn you can buy and wire in locally.
To wire in your charging device, stereos or horn connect directly to the battery and not through the original wiring in the rickshaw. This will prevent cock-ups when the original wiring loom melts due to over-use from unexpected western needs. Batteries are either located in the left side of the rear engine compartment or underneath the front seat. Full disconnection by a switch or un-attaching of your system overnight is advisable to stop the battery draining.
I recommend any wiring is done by someone that actually knows what they are doing rather than a local looking to make a few extra pennies. In the past, this has caused fires. Expect to pay no more than Rs.500/- for local stereo fitting (speaker cable and power cable are available from local shops) and always check what has been wired in and its location before waving goodbye.
My strongly not advised areasAnything that draws extra voltage and current from the standard rickshaw system is a no no. 110v or 240v inverters are a massive no no. You simply don’t need them. Microwaves, TV’s, fridges and any other white goods should be left at home along with the idea of running inverters.
You might also think you are clever and try and get around the lack of power situation by installing multiple or bigger batteries, but all you are really doing is forcing the engine to charge more, increasing your chance of parts failing. This is often worse than wiring extra components into one battery in the first place.
By all means, buy a 'spare' battery to use if your one fails through the ever-present vibration of Indian roads. Internal damage to battery cells from vibration or simple battery ejection from rickshaw are commonplace and although the rickshaw will run without a battery for a time, it will not last.
So that’s that. If you made it this far then well done - you shall (probably) have fewer problems than those too busy or important to read this, and what's more, you'll have music.