Apparently the best thing to do with problems is to sleep on them. Which I guess could work for wriggly girlfriends, but the myth of waking up with a perfect solution to a previously insoluble problem has always passed me by. Mainly because during a crisis of Al, I engage a furious single tasking mode that bypasses both sleep and food reflexes.
This has so far failed to provide a Eureka moment, but it has allowed me to take a slightly longer view of the problem. In fifteen years of car ownership, I have barely had a mechanical blip through a rambling pantheon of Marques and makes. Looking backwards at money travelling in wheeled form, we see Honda, VW, VW, Audi, Audi, Ford, Vauxhall and Ford. What we do not see are any expensive repairs or levels of unexpected explosions.
And then we get to the Renault. A car so unreliable it once broke down seven times in a single 24 hour period. And then six more the following day. I was on first name terms with the AA man, and we both agreed it was not only a Friday afternoon car, it had been built by seventeen pissed Frenchmen using only hammers, chisels and random engine parts scavenged off a WWII tank.
The Boot Spoiler – before it fell off – proudly proclaimed this was the 16V SPORT CHAMARDE variant of a fine historical marque. It quickly became known as the “Commode” when the electrics first flickered and then failed, the radio ate a succession of tapes*, the brake discs cracked, and various trim and panels flew off dangerously as speeds approached the legal limit.
During the few times it wasn’t broken or refusing to start, it was hellish fun to drive. You never knew whether you’d get to your destination, but what fun trying to get there. I refused to exchange it for another pool car and spent many happy hours marooned on backwater verges, bonnet up and confused expression in place.
And then a Salesman with an IQ of petfood nicked it while I was on holiday, and drove it through a ford**. Obviously – being French – it retreated to the far bank and then spectacularly exploded, never to be revived. Since then my car ownership has been boring, conventional and – important point this – reasonably affordable.
But now the French are back to finish the job. My leaky intercooler is sealed using some kind of large hair crimp rather than a proper weld. This saves about $20c on manufacturing costs, but does have the slight downside that a good percentage of these oily radiators begin leaking, with fairly catastrophic effects for the now non lubricated turbo.
Nissan go with the Plausible Deniability defence pretending to be Ostrich’s and refusing to accept that a 1000 people on the Internet know they are liars. “Not a know problem sir” they trill, and refer you back to a dealer who has the smile of a man coming to the end of his personal credit crunch.
I know I’ll have to fix it. I’ve no idea how much it’ll cost, whether it’s all down to me, how long it’ll take or even when it can start. I am confident thought it’s going to provide the kind of eye watering, vein throbbing experience that calls for a stiff drink at regular intervals through the day.
To take my mind off the horror of all this, I was lucky enough to be summoned to London on the 5:53 from Ledbury this morning. After 10 minutes or reading the paper, I’ve decided that was way too scary so started worrying about my car again. And in doing so have made a stunning realisation: 21,200 miles, 36 months old and no problems. 21, 600 miles, 37 months old and properly broken.
Is this some kind of built obsolescence that carries the warranty period, and then guarantees future revenue for the accredited dealers? Sounds possible – maybe those Frenchies are a bit cleverer than I thought.
* Mainly Genesis and Duran, Duran. The local garage wag diagnosed the problem as the stereo being a bit of a music critic.
** A water one. Not a crazed attack on a competitor in a Sierra. Although it wouldn’t have been the first time