Countryside car woes

I recently told a story about having to postpone buying a camera, due to problems with my car. I got the car fixed, at least some of the repairs required, and retained a list of outstanding jobs, to await the time when I could afford them. Heading off to my windmill shift yesterday, the car suddenly stopped dead, in a very inconvenient spot, right in the centre of Dereham. This caused some consternation for the local shoppers, who could neither enter the nearby car park, nor exit it. I eventually managed to get the car into a place where I could try to establish what was wrong. Initially, I feared the worst, failure of the automatic gearbox. The eye-watering cost of a possible replacement would exceed the value of the vehicle, and make it worth little more than scrap.

After a bit of fiddling with the ignition key and the gear selector, I managed to restore drive and power, but noticed that an ominous warning light had appeared on the main dial. I carried on to the windmill, so as not to let them down, and once there, I perused my owners’ manual. The light warned of problems with the engine management system. The information was vague, as it could refer to anything from the exhaust system, to the catalyctic converter, and any of the electronic signal systems involved. I had no choice but to book it into my local dealer, for computerised diagnostics.

There was a time when cars where a lot less reliable. During the 1960s and 70s, when I had my first cars, they broke down all the time. The big difference was that they were easy to fix back then. Everyone carried a hammer, a screwdriver, and a set of jump leads. Add a tin of easy-start, some WD-40, and a lot of blowing into crevices, and most problems were generally solved in a few minutes. Cars today are far more reliable, with the result that a breakdown is always unexpected. The downside to this is that they are also far more complex, and it is near-impossible to fix anything yourself, without extensive electrical knowledge, and specialist tools. The other main consideration for me, is that we now live in the countryside. No chance of just hopping onto a bus or tube train, when the car leaves you stranded. Mobile phone signals tend to be intermittent, or completely absent, and there are almost no public phone boxes left. With all this to consider, you soon become aware just how dependent you become on a vehicle, and how important it is that it doesn’t let you down.

So, in it went this morning, to be plugged into the General Motors computer, which will tell them what is to be done. After an hour, it had settled on a stuck valve in the manifold inlet. This was freed, cleaned, and tested. The warning light went out, and I was back on the road, for a reasonable fee of £48. I received a warning from the staff though. Should this happen again, and it might, I could be facing bills of many hundreds of pounds, for new parts throughout the inlet system. These are small parts, and rather insignificant in themselves. The trouble is, the engine has to be almost completely dismantled to fit them. That takes time, and it is that time that costs money.

When a car reaches the age when many things need replacing, and parts fail like falling dominoes, you start to think it might be sensible to just cut your losses, and replace it with a newer model. A few years ago, I would have done just that, without a second thought. But I am retired now, and have to think very carefully about what I spend, as I am using the income from a pension, not a substantial salary. So it looks as if the car will have to be repaired piece by piece, the most important things first; as the cost of new, or nearly-new cars in this country has to be seen to be believed.

On Saturday, Julie picks up her brand new car. She is very pleased to have her first ever new model, and has chosen a Hyundai, with a five-year guarantee, and lots of modern extras. At least we will have one reliable car between us. For five years anyway.

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25 thoughts on “Countryside car woes

  1. A mate recently needed to replace a small rubber thingy (thats as technical as I get). The part cost something like £1.20 but as you said the garage wanted a couple of hundred pounds because of the time to strip the bike and put it all back together. Fortunately he is mechanically minded and had the space to carry out the work.
    I love the country side and sometimes find London frustrating but public transport is for the most part reliable and convenient.
    Fingers crossed you have no more issues.

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  2. Pete, I bought my truck on July 9, 2001, and now have nearly 170,000 miles on it. Recently, I replaced the clutch, but most repairs have been of a routine nature. Up until fairly recently, I abused the truck on desert and mountain 4×4 roads, but now I’m trying to be kinder and gentler to my truck. The only issue right now is that the A/C needs to be recharged. With temperatures this week in the 108 to 112 F (42.2 to 44.4 C) range, warm air blasting out of the dash is not exactly a pleasurable experience, even if it’s slightly cooler than the outside temperature. The cost to recharge the A/C is just too high for my pocketbook right now. I simply cannot afford to buy a new vehicle, so I’m making do with my truck. We’re sweating it out together. Till death do us part….

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    1. There are many of us in the same situation I suspect David. When you get to a certain age (my age) you start to think, will the car die before I do? Once the parts are worth more than the car, the only option seems to be to keep it running, at all costs!
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  3. Pete, great post to enlighten us all. I know the feeling all too well when you’re an owner of an older model of car. Mine is 17 years old, and still running very well with very little mileage on it. But, there is also a growing list of things that need to be done like yours,,, same as you ~ I’ve had to make certain items a priority, while others must wait, until the needed funds. When I bought my car all those years ago, I knew I would have to drive it into the ground, before I could ever get another one. They are ridiculously costly up here too. So, between our two cars I wish them both the best of luck and run for us for many more years to come….

    Take care and happy blogging to ya, from Laura ~ (it is a Honda C.R.V.) I thought you might be wondering the make….

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      1. Pete, that was the reason for getting that type of car after my husband passed. Since, both young children at the time wanted to remain in Canada and not move to Florida, I knew I needed a good car that can drive through the winters up here.. Thanking you kindly for your comments..

        Laura~

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  4. Ohh, how stressful to break down in the middle of somewhere! It’s one of my worst fears. You bring up a good point, Pete, about the difference between cars then and now. Back then, how many times did I jump start my car by shifting to second and popping the clutch? Those were good friends back then, the ones who pushed so you could pop it to life. HA!

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  5. Ah, the cost of owning wheels….I’m wondering how long my car, now 5, will last – I want 10 years, but who knows? It goes in for a service soon, and there are a few preventative jobs that need doing, one being sprucing up the aircon (can’t recall the correct terminology!) and the brake fluid needs replacing (most important) those’ll set me back well over £100 in addition to the service cost. When I planned where to move to, I made sure I would be on a good train line and well served by buses too.

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    1. That was a good plan Sue. We maybe should have done the same, but we were swayed by the peace and quiet, and not least the cheap house prices! I don’t even use my aircon, so I suspect if I ever switch it on, it is likely to fail from lack of use!
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  6. Our old car is due for registration again next month. the air con is not functioning well so I asked Josef to have it checked by a technician before we bring it to the Land Transportation Office.You’re right, sometimes things go wrong when you don’t expect them to happen. Congrats on the new car.

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  7. Always a worry when things start to need replacing on a regular basis. My theory was that when maintenance begins to cost as much as repaying a loan it is time to find a new car. Of course that was when I was earning. My newest car was bought from the dealer at only 6 months old, so nearly new, but with a substantial discount from the new price. Now seven years old I hope to have many more years out of her as a replacement at the price I paid then is no longer feasible. And I do enjoy my car and the freedom she brings. Hyundai seem very popular at the moment. What model has Julie gone for?

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    1. My car is 8 years old in July, and only clocked 55,000 miles. I hope that your one goes on a lot longer for you, without needing too much work. One of the things about living on a pension is having to think long and hard about cost vs longevity of products. I bought my car three years ago, just under five years old, and thought it might last me ten years. Now I’m not so sure…

      Julie bought a Hyundai i20 SE. It has a 1200cc engine, bluetooth phone kit, reversing warning beepers, metallic blue paint, air conditioning, CD/Radio, split rear seats, alloy wheels, and is supposedly good for around 50mpg. It isn’t very speedy, but she doesn’t go long distances. There are four doors, a biggish hatchback-boot, and it even has a spare wheel, something rare these days. We went to look at a nearly-new demonstrator, but it actually worked out cheaper to buy a new one, as they had a new car incentive, and a cheap finance deal too. The demo car was about £10 more expensive overall! Crazy.Here is a picture of a similar car to hers.
      http://www.hyundai.co.uk/new-cars/i20

      Regards as always, Pete. x

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      1. Looks nice. I used to have a hatchback, 1.6 engine, as I drove 60 miles a day to work and back on motorways, but it wasn’t the most comfortable on a long drive. Nice and easy to park though, unlike my current car which is a VW Jetta with a boot and no park assist!

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