Monday, 24 November 2008

In which I am, once more, outwitted by my car...

As those who know me will know, I am not mechanically gifted. I can drive my car. I can put petrol and oil and water and air into the correct parts of it, I can (and, perhaps more importantly, I do) check the tyre pressure, and since the whole issue with blowing up the engine that one time, I check the oil, too. I have even, on one occasion and on principal, changed a wheel.

However, that’s the limit. And (confession time) I don’t actually understand it. I believe that at some point the petrol explodes, which when you stop to think about it does not seem a terribly safe or sensible way to get around, but most of the time, it works, and I don’t question it. (It’s like plane travel – it’s important not to start wondering how it works while you’re in flight, in case it notices you doing and stops working)

So, when I was driving to work and an exciting orange light came on on the dashboard, I didn’t hesitate. No. I panicked. Then I pulled over to investigate. The light said ‘ABS’, which, to my powerful intellect suggested that (a) My car has ABS and (b) something was wrong with ABS. The manual helpfully suggested calling my garage (which I would, of course, NEVER have thought of on my own) Slightly more helpfully, it referred to ‘limp home mode’, which implies that one can drive it as far as the garage at least, without blowing up the engine, which, as I learned the hard way, is not true every time you try to drive to the garage with a light on on the dashboard. . . .

So, I drove, cautiously, the rest of the way to work, waited until the garage opened and gave them a ring. They know me, and my car. They service it regularly, repair it when it gets broken, and forbore from laughing at me and rebuilt the engine after the regrettable incident with the last light…

So, the plan was that I would take my car over to the garage, they would give me another one in exchange for the day, fix mine, and everything would be OK.

That was the plan.

When I got to the garage, my little car was hooked up to a diagnostic thingy.
It turns out that the ABS includes sensors. These, I am led to believe, allow the car to know if it is falling over, and to slow it down if it is. (Good to know, as if I’m going to fall over in my car, I want to be sure I do it slowly.)

Replacing the sensors apparently takes about an hour , and there was a queue, which of course is not a problem if you’re having a courtesy car.

Which was the plan.

The plan, sadly, did not take account of the fact that the previous driver of the courtesy car, due to return it ½ an hour before I arrived, had driven it into a ditch.

So I had to go away, still driving cautiously. On the way home, we had fun, with the car deciding at perilous moments (Such as while driving slowly along a flat, straight bit of road, for instance!) that we were falling over and therefore it should put the brakes on.. This makes for interesting driving.

Happily, I was able to take the car back the following day, I got to borrow a shiny pink Smart car for the day and now I have new sensors, and a car which no longer thinks that it is falling over.

Of course, there are also at least 6 other lights on the dashboard which have not had their day in the limelight yet . . .


Arwenn said...

THIS is why I don't own a car!!! At least when something goes wrong on a bus it is not my problem.

How was the smart car? I've seen a few around town here and I know there is a long waiting list for them.

Marjorie said...

Hi Arwenn, My own car is a Smart, too -I've had it for 6 years, from new, and really like it (well, except whe it misbehaves)

I know with the automatics (mine is a semi-automatic) the gear change can be very slow, and because the engine is so tiny it can be a bit slow accelerating up hills, but on the other hand, because it's so small, it's very economical to run (and cheap to tax, here - I pay £36 per year as against most cars for which you pay £160 or so) and, (one of my favourite bits) you can park it sideways.

I never get tired of watching people in huge SUVs trying to get into spaces, giving up and watching as I sail in with miles to spare. Does this make me shallow?

Arwenn said...

Nope, no shallower than it makes me to look smugly at people stressed and exasperated at the airport trying to get through security when I've shown up two hours before my flight like I'm supposed to :)

Very cool about the car - they have the same aura of friendliness and intuition that I associate with my ipod.

Ticia said...

Well, I've come at your invitation and I find nothing to laugh at... Well, except your entertaining prose.

I'm glad it all worked out!

And, your story proves that you may not be "shallow", but your car is.
(Jealous of the cute little smart car - perhaps!)


Dragonsally said...

Well, lets hope those other lights stay quiescent. I'm very glad that you were able to get around safely before the car was fixed. I don't know which excited me more - a smart car or a PINK smart car.

Marjorie said...

The pink one was fun, but I missed my own (Who is black) Arwenn, you're spoy on about the friendliness- they have smily faces, if you look at them head on!

I'm hoing the other lights don't light up, but to be fair, this is only the second time anything mechanical has gone wrong in the 6 years I've had it, and the other time may have been at least tangenitally related to me having forgotten to but any oil in it . I know now, that oil is quite important.

EmilyLady said...

People ask me all the time when I plan to get my driver's license. My answer, upon reading this blog entry, suddenly became "never".


Marjorie said...

Emily, in defence of my car (and I am really very fond of it most of the time) it truly doesn't make a habit of it !

Having said that, I didn't get around to passing my diriving test until I was 21 (you can start learing at 17, here) - but where I live public transport is very patchy - I couldn't get to work or do my job, or visit my family, if I didn't have a car.