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Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The car that cried wolf! A modern cautionary tale...

'Tis a sad day today. Forever shall it be marked by a black spot on the family calendar, next to the reminders to buy more cereal and crisps, and the menu from the curry house.

On Saturday, Phil collected me from work in his car, but as we drove down the A3 towards home, it quickly became apparent that All Was Not Well...

My dear husband began making gentle comments like 'We're losing power, what the bloody hell is wrong with this thing now!' whilst I made soothing noises... We pulled into a lay-by at which point the Depollution filter light blinked on, to warn us in its' cheery way that we might have a problem.

I say might, because in the two years we have owned this car, it has flashed a whole series of cheery little lights at us...mostly in error.

I think my favourites were the series relating to tyre pressure. It would start off gently by warning us that it was unable to monitor pressure, then move up to telling us that we had a puncture and should pull over. It had a pretty picture of a tyre with a nail in it in case we couldn't read. Our failure to pull over was followed by a further message shouting at us to STOP!

It shouted in vain as we knew we had no puncture, or Depollution error, or any of the other cheery little warnings...what we did have was a car with a serious early onset dementia problem, which cost us a small fortune in continually being connected to command central. Command central would give it a good talking to and for a short while all would be well...

Sometimes the shirt while while was very short indeed, and a new message would flash up on the drive home. The drive home is precisely 7/10ths of a mile!

So you can see, I was failing to take this latest episode at all seriously as in my mind it was just crying wolf again.

How wrong can you be.

Anyway, we pulled into the lay-by, got the message, and did the only thing that seemed sensible, we carried on to about 30 miles an hour on the A3, when everyone else is doing 70+. I did suggest that Phil should wear a flat cap and shrink down so that his head did not appear above the headrests, but to no avail. I know how much he hates travelling significantly below the speed limit, many is the time he has cried 'If you are incapable of driving below the speed limit, you shouldn't be on the road!' and I thought it might help other drivers to think he was somewhat more stricken in years and therefore give him an excuse.

When we reached Morissons, it was clear that there was something actually wrong, not just because of the lack of power thing, but also the strong smell of diesel that was following us, along with the increasingly dense pall of smoke.

So we did the only thing we could do, in the circumstances...

We bought some beer and carried on fifteen miles an hour, which is a bit on the tardy side, even for me!

By the time we had limped that last mile and a half, the car was clearly sick; black smoke pouring out from the back...and white smoke/steam emanating from under the bonnet. It could not manage the final push onto the drive, so we had to enlist the help of Matt to help us push it up there...

...and there it stayed until yesterday, when the man-from-the-garage came with a trailer to take it away.

The practicalities of taking it away were most entertaining; it was facing the wrong way for a start, and although it spluttered briefly into life...enough to get it off the drive...that was it. We had to manhandle it into facing the right way and in line with the trailer.

I say 'we', I just stood out of the way whilst Phil, James, Matt and the man-from-the-garage huffed and puffed as they tried to manoeuvre half a ton of metal without power steering on an upward slope making helpful comments like 'Don't you think you should put your foot in the car darling, we don't want the door closing on it!' You get the picture.

After a couple of lifetimes in the blazing sun, it was ready to be pushed up and onto the ramp; except we very rapidly realised that it was far too low, and the slope too steep to get it up there without ripping the front skirt off!

The man-from-the-garage was not dismayed though, he had clearly dealt with this particular hazard before and before long we were too, with the aid of some bricks and sawn off skirting from the kitchen leftovers.

The skirting had been lurking in the garage for more than 3 years just waiting for the day when it would finally come in useful. Michael MacKintyre would have been proud.

We waved goodbye to the car and set to dreading the call-from-the-garage with the damage report...

It came today and was worse than our wildest dreams. No, really, it was!
None of us could have known that the cheery little lights had been building up to such a catastrophe...the car had finally been telling the truth.

The EGC thing had failed; this is a thingy to control the emissions, it sounds quite vital. The flywheel? Or at least something in the gearbox had gone too, causing the engine to lock up...which doesn't sound awfully healthy...and the starter motor had started to disintegrate, with bits of it potentially now rattling around the engine like raspberry seeds under your bridge that you can never fish out and are bloody uncomfortable!

The man-from-the-garage said he'd never known anything like it, all these things to fail at the same time! He then went on to say that just to take it apart to the extent that they could properly assess the damage and work out a quote for repairs would cost about a £1000 in labour!

This is garage-speak for 'Your car is f***ked'.

So now we are a one car family, at least for the moment. Somehow I think the delights of the Peugeot estate have been too exciting for Phil and we may take the advice of Mr. Clarkson and co and go for a Merc estate next time. We've had one of those before, and they didn't have annoyingly cheery lights that lied for a start!

Would anyone like to buy a large silver blue garden feature?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Yep. In bed.

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