Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Alfa Male or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Brakes, Part Two

I have volunteered to become an environmentalist at work. Y'know, save the planet n' shit. It's a massive character-shift for me, but I'm up for the challenge. 

But there's one tragic condition: I'm to use my car less. LESS! But I bloody love cars. I've always bloody loved cars. What would I do without one? Cars have been a staple of my adult life - so much so, I can't imagine my life without one. Could it be done? There are so many fond memories. So so many. 

Part Two: Pistoff
It was the perfect marriage. I had loved them for years and years. Other kids at school may look at Ferraris, Zondas and McLarens and lust after them as if they were metal supermodels. I had other, loftier ambitions. Driven by my adoration for Colin McRae, I wanted a Ford Focus. Nothing fancy, nothing garish, not even a rally-spec model. Just a humble, simple Focus. And I'd accept any model from any seller. 

The seller in question was just that; rather questionable. In we drove to somewhere "near Fulham", which certainly was not Fulham, and there he was on the corner of a street next to it. A man from Jerusalem who insisted we paid with cash sold it to us, and watched us drive away that very frosty morning. A quick clean sale. He couldn't have wished for a better start to his day. 

Two weeks later, sitting in the garage of a local Ford dealership, I learn that there is a problem with the cooling system, but it's sorted now. 

One a half week later, sitting in a garage just outside Newport, I learn that there is a problem with the cooling system, but it's sorted now. 

Then, two weeks later, while I am at my parents' home, nothing starts. At all. So I have to wait until one of them returns from home for a jump-start (though luckily, an old friend was able to help me out). 

A month after that and almost £400 later (which, in undergraduateland, where I was living at the time, is the equivalent of 400 million billion pounds), I'm told by another man from the RAC at Cardiff Gate services that there's a problem with the fan. 
"Oh, what makes you think it's the fan?"
"Well, it doesn't seem to be kicking at the right time, which means there's a problem with the cooling system."
"Oh. How can I fix it?"
"Just get the car drawing in air. Flick the air con on, and see if it makes a difference."

Fucking hell, the man's a genius. No cooling problem! Not only does the fan work when the car's running, it occasionally carries on cooling the car when I stop at my destination, as if it's making up for lost time! What a good little car! 

I bet he never had any problems with his Focus. 

Until one morning, and I'm driving to work. The heating sensor shoots up as if it were measuring a kettle. Then the engine light comes on. Then the battery light comes on. Then there's a severe loss of power.

"I've got power loss!" I shout, because I'm an idiot and thought there was a Formula 1 garage I could report to. As it is, I'm alone, on a cold October morning, in the middle of fucking nowhere. 

Once my tears had dried and the usually reputable company I work for had a good laugh at my expense as I informed them of my circumstances, I find myself in a familiar position: looking at an engine without a fucking clue what to do or say, while somebody else updates me on the situation. 

"So, this is your engine" (Alright mate, I'm not that bad) "and these are the pistons" (Yep, got that, 'suck, squeeze, bang, blow' - I did do GCSE Physics, you know, Sir!) "and there's the crack in the piston" (woah- what the fuck??)
"How did that happen?"
"Well, there's nothing in the pipes that could have cracked it, so it's been there a while. How long have you had the car?"
"A few months."
"Hmm, it could have been any time. Where did you get it? Do you still have a receipt or a copy of a sale?"
For a brief moment I imagine the man from Jerusalem starring in a P. Diddy music video, flicking notes at women as they all jump into a pool, drinking champagne and wearing neck chains the size of tank tracks. 
"No. I'm due to take it to Ford for a service next week, can they do something about it?"
"Well, we could do it here, but you're looking at (mechanics have a habit of saying to you that you're 'looking at things' that aren't there) a new engine, and a test and a service anyway, so it's probably worth more than the car."
"Right... and how much would I get for scrap?"
"Hm, you're probably looking at about... couple of hundred quid?"

Trudging out of the garage considerably later, a cheque for £138 in one trembling hand, and my phone in the other (also trembling), I make a call to Ford.
"Hi, I had a service booked for a 2002 Ford Focus, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to cancel it."
"Okay, is this Mr Brittain?"
"It is"
"Hi Mr Brittain, may I ask why you're cancelling your service? It does need to be done."
"I've just scrapped my car."
"Oh right, may I ask why?"
"There was a crack in the piston."
"I see... Yes, it's on your file that it was a problem."
"Hold on, so you knew?"
"Yes, I can see it on my screen about your car."
"I was never told about this."
"It passed the engine test, so it wasn't necessary to tell you."
"Right, well it blew while I was driving it this morning, and now I don't have a car."
"Oh... I'm sorry to hear that Mr Brittain... Would you be interested in hearing about our finance deals for a slightly newer Ford?"
"No thank you."

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