I have written about my frustration with technology a few times before on this blog. Things invented to make life easier often have a tendency to make it more frustrating instead. We get so used to unfailing reliability that we lose all concept of how to fix things, if and when they go wrong. Just to make sure we cannot even try to do this, manufacturers incorporate new devices to make it impossible to access parts, or to even open the thing that isn’t working properly, whatever it is. The fear of ‘invalidating your warranty’ hinders even the simplest attempts at repair, and sealed plug units often mean that we can’t even change a fuse.
So why am I writing about this subject again?
This summer, Julie bought a new car. It is full of modern technology, most designed with safety in mind, as well as to provide a high level of convenience when actually driving. There are handy beepers when reversing, to stop you hitting something, and even a warning alarm, should you inadvertently drift across lanes on a busy road. Much of the general operation of this car is still the same as you would expect however, proving the old adage, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Last weekend, an orange light illuminated on the instrument panel. It was a horseshoe-shape, with a worrying exclamation mark within. Looking in the owners’ manual, it seemed to refer to a ‘low tyre pressure warning.’ I say seemed to, as the manual covers every possible model available in this series, so is very confusing.
The next morning, in good light, I checked the tyre pressures, according to the recommendations. They all looked fine, and the use of a tyre compressor confirmed the settings were correct. The light remained on, so we contacted the manufacturer’s helpline. They went through some basic recommendations, sounding very much like they were reading from the same owners’ manual that was in front of us. The warning can be activated by many things, not just low tyre pressure. It can be effected by fluctuations of hot and cold, the road surfaces encountered, and even failure of the light itself. As a long-time driver, I can generally feel if the tyres are too soft, through the steering or cornering. Punctures are almost always immediately apparent too, and the noise from a flat tyre is sufficiently intrusive to act as a dire warning that something is wrong. In short, I can see little need for this additional warning device, and certainly have no idea of how it operates, and what technology is involved in transmitting information from the tyres to the instrument panel.
The dealer where we bought the car was very helpful. “Bring it in on Wednesday afternoon, and we will sort it out for you,” they told me. I left earlier today, and headed towards the north of Norwich city. Once on the busy A47, driving at speed, the light went out. What to do? Return home, and hope it doesn’t come on again, or carry on, and get it checked? I decided to carry on, hitting the early rush hour traffic, in a torrential rainstorm. It took over an hour to travel the twenty miles, and the mechanic immediately informed me that many other owners had been in with the same problem, which is caused by the recent drop in temperatures. Apparently, a drop of less that 2 psi in tyre pressure will activate the warning light, so it may well happen on numerous occasions in the future.
After a quick check of the tyres, I was on my way again, in less that ten minutes. I faced a return journey of almost an hour, in the heavier traffic that had built up by then. So, twenty miles each way, and the cost of the fuel, plus over two hours of my time. All for nothing.
Isn’t technology wonderful?