Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Confessions of a Walking Disaster

It was one of those days. In fact, it was two of those days. On Tuesday morning, I got up early because I had to drop my car off at the garage before going to work. The other weekend when I took my dear little Clio out for a drive, she was struggling to accelerate even when going downhill, so I had decided it was time for a visit to the car doctor.

When I got in the car, the key wouldn't turn in the ignition. The manual told me that it must be a problem with the battery, so I opened the bonnet, poked around with the battery, realised it was highly unlikely that I was going to solve the problem, closed the boot, tried the ignition again and then gave up and did what every self-respecting adult does in a mechanical emergency and called my dad. He didn't answer the phone, so I walked to the garage to cancel the appointment, was very relieved when they didn't laugh in my face and told me to call the breakdown assistance number from my insurance company and walked up the road just in time for work.

My day at work involved two malfunctioning computers, editing photocopies in which I discovered mistakes after I had walked about a million miles to the only functioning photocopier in the building and produced forty pages of the wrong thing and cleaning up some sick which an unfortunate child decided to deposit on the floor.

The day did get better after that, I must admit, and ended with a very agreeable evening in front of the TV watching Desperate Housewives and collecting advice from my Facebook friends on how to jump start a car. It would appear that I'm some kind of techie groupie because I got thirteen replies in the space of a few hours, mostly from people with engineering degrees but one from an archaeologist. To the archaeologist, I'm impressed with your all-round general knowledge and life skills!

Unfortunately, none of my expert friends was available in the immediate vicinity with a car and a set of jump leads, so this morning I decided to follow the garage's advice and phone the insurance company. This turned out to be much less stressful than I thought, although I did question my understanding of the French language for a minute when the woman on the other end of the phoneline asked me if I knew how to read text messages. Um, yes. The breakdown guy turned up right on time, got in the car, and turned the key in the ignition. The engine started immediately. He clearly thought I was a bit nuts but he was sweet and he said he liked my accent so I forgave him for clearly not believing that twenty minutes before, as well as every other time I had tried, the ignition had been completely blocked.

I drove the car to the garage, where they kindly agreed to look at it that day and offered to undertake some "revisions" of dubious necessity that were going to cost rather a lot of money. Having lost all faith in my ability to make technical judgements, I agreed to most of them and left.

I spent most of the afternoon on tenterhooks and didn't really feel any better when I got a phone call from the garage telling me that the total cost of the repairs to my car would be in the region of 1500 euros. Somewhat gobsmacked by this, I didn't really follow what the mechanic said next and had to phone them back two minutes later to check that they weren't going ahead with the costly revisions that I had agreed to that morning on a car that might be fit only for the scrap heap.

I collected the car from the garage at the end of the afternoon along with three pages detailing what needs to be done and why it's going to cost me 1500 euros. I had to take it home and translate it to find out that the major problem is with the throttle body and its attendant parts.

This is a dilemma, oh readers. Acquiring the car (from a friend) has so far cost me approximately 500 euros, which I could probably get back if I sold it as scrap. Buying a car of the same age and mileage would cost me at least 3000 euros (second hand cars are expensive here), so if I pay for the repairs and everything is OK, I'm still on to a good thing, especially as one of these 3000 euro cars could end up having all the problems that my current one has and cost just as much to repair. At the same time, it seems like an awful lot of money to spend on a car that in the UK would only be worth about 1800 pounds and which might just develop another problem as soon as I get this one fixed.

So, advice in the comments box please, readers. And if you haven't got any advice, just write and tell me that I am not a total walking disaster. If enough people say it, I might start to believe it even if it isn't true!


  1. i say, save the car!! car prices vary according to location, so it's not entirely comparable, it does sounds like you've got a good deal in france.

  2. You're not a walking disaster! Same thing has happened to me with a repair man - my car stopped being able to change out of first gear but when he came it worked perfectly...luckily they believed enough to tow it back to Inverness from Glasgow for me!
    I'm so glad I'm not the only one who still calls my Dad when things like that happen...
    I'd probably pay (but having checked with my Dad what a throttle body is and would be expected to cost) - if the garage have said the rest of the car is OK then hopefully that means it'll last a while after this?