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Thursday, 16 September 2010

Driving along in my automobile

I came across this article in the New York Times: "The 3,000-Mile Oil Change Is Pretty Much History." 

I am not very good at changing oil. In fact I never do it. I know why. It all began a long, long time ago......

When I passed my test I was given a car, a 1952 Ford Anglia. A fun car if ever there was one. It had a unique safety feature: if it was raining you couldn't travel more than 15 mph. Its windscreen wipers were air/vacuum operated and for some reason the faster you went the slower they wiped. If you wanted to see where you were going you had to drive slowly. 

The heater was simplicity itself. There was a vent directly behind the engine. Open it and hot air gushed in. It was rather crude: in the winter you either froze or baked.

To the oil. The car ate oil. I had no idea why. Put in a couple of pints and within a week or so it would be gone. I'd lift up the bonnet, pull out the dip stick and there would be a slight smudge where a bucket load should be. I'm afraid this freaked me out to such an extent that I grew frightened to check the stuff and stopped. 

The consequence of my neglect happened on a journey to Manchester. Hammering along the road, smoke was pouring out of the exhaust and, because nothing fitted, into the cockpit. Extremely invigorating  having to have the window open all weathers.

And then a clunk, crunch and whining sound as the car ground to a halt. We'd left a trail of car innards for a hundred yards. The big ends had seized up, and then fractured sending the piston head slamming into the top of the car's cylinder block before rapidly reversing and punching its way through the car's oil sump. A phone call to Stoke, to Malcolm's dad, a breakdown vehicle and we finished our journey in the Potteries. I left what remained of the car there. 

To this day I cannot recall how I explained the car's loss to my parents.

You would have thought that that would have taught me a lesson. No, I blissfully ignored checking the oil. And I put my trust in the blinking oil light on the instrument panel  - if it went off soon after the car started that was OK by me. 

I have only once opened the bonnet to our car and shut it immediately. I might as well have been looking at the innards of the impulse drive of the Starship "Enterprise". There was nothing  that looked remotely like an engine. The whole thing was hermetically sealed and you needed one of Dr Who's sonic screwdrivers to open it up. 

I couldn't see the battery: this I believed was a quite distinctive piece of kit sitting just down from the windscreen with a couple pieces of wire coming out of it. Nothing. If there was a dip stick, I couldn't find it: although there was something which blinked regularly. That might have been it. Where the engine should be is a piece of art work. Emblazoned across its width you find "1.7 tdci" (or is it tcdi or cidt?). 

This means something to the priests of the workshop. They connect it a computer and following an exchange of bodily fluids or oil the priests read the runes and replace half the car. No point in repairing it. 

Oh, I forgot to mention that my car doesn't trust me to look after it so every time I start it up it feels itself all over to check that everything is in order. If not it flashes up rude messages and refuses to release the brake (OK, that's going a bit too far). 

This can be confusing. I get a message "Service due", but it was serviced 6 months ago - why another one? I forgot, the little darling's pre-programmed to be serviced when it hits 24,000 miles. However, the little love wasn't told that when I bought it it was given a full check up and service. Sorry!

Who am I to question the on board dictator? So in it goes for a service; which now means it is out of sequence with the annual safety test (MoT). So between my inability to open the bonnet and total fear of anything automobile and the on board computer; what was meant to simplify and improve my car ownership experience has turned into a scheduling nightmare.

Finally, walking out of my front door this afternoon I had the pleasure of seeing my offside rear tyre slowly deflate. Quite artistic it was. Now, what was a stunning pearl black car with privacy glass and snazzy alloys looks like a escapee from a show ground sporting as it does one of those emergency wheels. Tomorrow it's off to the tyre surgery for a radial reface. I'm so embarrassed! 

Oh, I had the car washed and cleaned yesterday - stunning it looked. Wheel changing has managed to smear my mucky prints all over pristine paint work!!!

1 comment:

Pie Man 70 said...

My wife jokes that I seem to be roaming death for all our cars. In fairness the little clio we had merely failed an MOT but at this point the chassias needed some welding and the only way to get in was through the boot since both door locks were jammed.

I also had a car fail in teh opposite way, the throttle jammed open. Once I'd taken the key out of the ignition and the engine was still revving away I realised how little I know about fixing engines.