Week three car repairs

August 8, 2015

Since I took my car to my friends’, there has been a lot of real work (i.e. my job) to deal with, meaning I’ve only had two Saturdays so far. But today was aborted early as there was something clearly wrong. When a new (brake) disc was put on the car, and the bolts tightened up, you could no longer spin the wheel. Subsequent to this, I have checked, and they are the right parts, and fit another car, so why the problem I don’t know. Shims appear to be the only answer.

But I am finding this more and more often, that is parts that just are rubbish – and these are supplied directly from Mercedes-Benz. One brand new (front brake) disk sheered at a flange causing the disc to fall off – at least I got that replaced Free-of-Charge. The metal exposed around the flange was very crystalline. Also the flange was too thin, say compared to the disk I was taking off.

Next week I should have more spare time. Everyone wants the car back on the road asap, which means getting it past the MOT test. Apart from the brakes, there are three other jobs I am aware of, but at least job 1 is under control, job two is possible, job 3 is the one I’m not confident about yet.

Car loaded up, ready to go

Car loaded up, ready to go

I have had a car on SORN (Statutary Off Road Notification) for a few months. Although on a shared driveway, it didn’t block it. But I couldn’t do work on the car without moving it to block the driveway, potentially for a week, which was not acceptible.

But the neighbour is about to have major building works done. I agreed to move the car. Another neighbour offered, but then withdrew his offer on a flimsy excuse. Then came the Ultimatum. Move the car, and it mustn’t return. So clearly some bullying had been going on. I’m looking forward to the revenge, of sticking the car back there, but taxed and MOT’ed (it’s always been insured), but this time due to lack of roadside space. Who is he to tell me to scrap a car (or anything else)?

Apart from removing neighbour from my christmas card list, I had to act. Fortunately through a network, I found an understanding car fanatic (who I already knew in a friendly way) who had spare concrete space and willing to let me use it. He apologised it wasn’t under cover (as if mine were!). Only I had to get the car there, with no MOT or tax, and it was 25 miles. Only one solution, a car transporter.

There are websites where you can plug in details, and see if any “passing trade” will offer. I did get a couple of offers at price x, but none responded when I tried to contact them to take it up. The other option was to hire. And I found a place that would hire. Price 1.6x. But it was the only viable option, so I walked to the depot (I didn’t know where I would park my car had I driven). I rather think he didn’t expect me to take him up on the offer. As I arrived, some kid came storming into the office shouting, all sorts of things. It seems he was so late in returning a car, he still hadn’t. And there was a lost key. So he was going on the attack as his defence. After half an hour, the owner was able to come back to me. I pointed out I had not heard one apology in the whole guy’s rant.

The deal signed, the owner showed me, and let me run the slide/tilt mechanism of these car transporters. As my car runs, there was no need to use the hoist. Then a quick trip just to help me get used to it, and it was mine for a few hours. A Mercedes-Benz Actio 7.5ton lorry with modified bodywork.

The first trip was interesting through the centre of Tescoville, with roadworks and narrow lanes because of road works. This being the largest thing I have ever driven, including a 16 seat mini-bus while at Uni.

So I got close to base, but found a level road with suitable space for the transporter to park (I was told makes loading so much easier on the level). Then I fetched the car (I was prepared to drive half a mile, but not 25 miles on main roads etc), and doing as I had been taught, loaded her up. It was quite fun. And I put the restraints around the two opposing wheels. (Photo). Then off we went.

I had to choose the route carefully, both for my unfamiliarity with the lorry, and speedbumps. I found that first gear was unnecessary (it was also difficult to select), just like a Ford, in fact. I drove on A roads to my friend’s place, partly as it would be slower (but I realised, many more potholes!). But I soon realised I was rather enjoying the whole adventure.

I mean, I had been in these trucks before, when a car had broken down, and I had to be rescued, but this time I was doing it all for and by myself. Having offloaded the car at my friend’s place, and a few minutes chat, it was return to base. For they may need it for the Friday night rescue service.

Because the current Tescoville roadworks closes the main A road through town every night, I decided to take the motorway, and then back down to the A road the far side of the roadworks. With no car on the back, I was able to take the old girl to her speed restricted limit of 56mph. I was having fun!

Just before I returned, I added fuel, at a rate I calculated plus a little bit more (and I was about right, it was just a little more), and dropped the lorry off at the depot, whose gates had been left open for me. So I phoned the owner, to say lorry returned, keys through the door, and if it wasn’t so expensive I’d do it again!

Mind you, 1.9x (with fuel etc) the poorer.

Note added later.

I didn’t mention, but the last time I had driven a manual gearbox vehicle was three years ago. So I was pleased how easy I found the gearbox (other than 1st gear, which I soon found wasn’t needed on the level) and clutch control was still pretty good. The one stall I made wasn’t clutch, it was the operation of the handbrake, being slower to come off than the level suggested.

Parking cars

October 22, 2014


Car parking is a topic that gets people hot under the collar. Where I live in London there was huge opposition to the introduction of a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) in the area. I was involved in the fight, won a few concessions around the issues – not enough spaces for the cars there then, let alone when they zoned the place, for example. Some of us are able to access the neighbouring CPZ (just across the road), which was very underused even at night, so I’m glad I got involved and won the concession of “dual zone” permits for the like of myself. Though I note it’s slowly disappearing as new people, unaware of the concession, apply for their permits.

I was talking to another anti-CPZ person a few days ago, and he said he was utterly converted – it was so nice to see the road so empty. during the day Now, unlike me, he has off-street parking in London (a driveway), so he didn’t have the problem I have.

I have the same problem of parking spaces “in Spades” at Mother’s, where on street car parking spaces are reduced by rather inconsiderate off-street parking arrangements. Yes, they park on their own front garden, paved over – but they assume access across the full frontage to the road, rather than just by the driveway. So in the past couple of years, the number of street parked cars appears to have doubled, while the number of spaces have actually decreased.

There has not been, to my knowledge, people coming to blows over parking spaces, but it’s getting close. Recently, someone with off-street parking was blocked in by an inconsiderate car-parker blocking his (driveway) access. A couple of cars are now parked crossing the pavement (not parallel, but across the pavement) due to lack of space, and one appears to be parked in the middle of the road simply for somewhere to put it (cars can get by either side)

A drive in the country

August 24, 2013

I made a visit to my favourate place today, but met with a major disappointment. Someone had decided that the hedgerows alongside some of the single-track roads were overgrown, and took the modern tractor mounted gear to it.

Not the worst section, but where I could stop without blocking traffic to take this picture...

Not the worst section, but where I could stop without blocking traffic to take this picture…

It was difficult to stop, without blocking the road to traffic either behind or oncoming. I’m more used to the game in London, where couriers and delivery vans hold sway, otherwise it’s a game of ‘chicken’, who will give in first and reverse back, or pull over to allow the other to pass. Here in the country, the rules are different. In one case I had to reverse a quarter of a mile…

This was not the worst part – the road was relatively clear of debris here, elsewhere there were still branches, leaves, and loads of hay for some reason strewen across the road. This hadn’t been done today, either, so it’s not a case that someone hadn’t yet got to clear up – they’ve just left it like this. I hoped there wasn’t broken metal mixed in with all the debris to give me a flat tyre.

Now I know the hedgerows have to be kept in order, else they’d block the road, but it seems to me the wrong time of year and very viscous cutters were applied here.

One reason for the drive out was to see if the blackberries in the hedgerows were starting to ripen – I didn’t even stop to search.

In the film ‘The Blues Brothers (1980)’, one of the many chase scenes involves the by now crippled ex-police car of the brothers being chased by Illinois Nazis. They run through road-works, and end up at at the end of a partially constructed roadway – they literally run out of road, and the car hangs over the edge.

(Screensave from DVD of ‘The Blues Brothers (1980)’. I know how they felt at this moment…

I know how they felt. I’ve been in that position of hovering over the edge. They had an easy way back (‘Movie magic’). The other really famous situation of this kind was the (almost literally) cliff-hanger ending to the original ‘The Italian Job (1969)’, with Michael Caine’s famous last words
“Hang on lads, I’ve got a great idea,”

Many years ago, in Germany on business, in a ‘company car’ (in fact one of the directors, loaned to me). I was not in my car, on the grounds that my then 20-year-old Volvo wasn’t up to the job (sic). Never had power steering, the servo for the brakes had failed (but still passed the MOT, the brakes worked). Anyhow, due to the Bayreuth festival, hotels in that town were sold out months in advance, so we found ourselves out, literally, in the middle of nowhere. My companion was a younger man of dubious sexuality – such that I slept on the floor on the first night out, in Heidelberg, he had the bed in the only room we could find that day.

This was despite his attempts earlier in the day – although he had had plenty of offers of a bed from [or more probably with] various women (sometimes plural) he approached in the attempt to find somewhere (only I was in tow…) He certainly was a ‘Buon Uomo’ (if I’ve got that right), and would top up his sun-tan at every possible moment. But these offers were further complcated by the fact that we needed secure parking for the car at that time, because of the goods we were carrying.

His navigational skills were notible by their absence. At one point, earlier in the day in question, we found ourselves in the then still existing East Germany. Since the car was travelling TIR, and we were now in a country not listed on the forms, we’d be in trouble if anything when wrong.

So late this night, with his at best iffy navigational skills, I found that I had to do a 3 point turn. Only I didn’t succeed – there was a ditch rather close to the road, and the car ended up askew nose down in the ditch, at 2 O’Clock in the morning.

It is not hard to imagine my feelings at this point. After a lot of swearing, I don’t recall that I used Michael Caine’s exact words, but certainly a precis of them…

As I looked at the situation, I thought I found a way out. By jacking the car up on one side, enough to put the spare wheel under the chassis, would equalise the problem (so long as it didn’t slide down further). That worked. So getting my colleague to stand on the rear bumper, and jump up and down, while I, in the driver’s seat, tried to reverse – it worked – the car pulled itself out, scraping along the spare wheel.

The alternative would have been walking to a farm, getting the farmer up, to get his tractor out and pull the car out of the ditch. Fortunately my colleague spoke good German, so there was not that hurdle to overcome, but I didn’t look forward to the prospect.

This ‘getting a car out of a ditch at two am with a spare wheel and physics’ is one of my my better stories, it is also one I cannot tell to friends and family – for getting the car in the ditch in the first place, to the owner of the car, or to my family who’d worry what I’d do next.

So ‘back to work’ tomorrow. Well, I was working for a few hours today, and ruing the fact that I’d promised a despatch tomorrow, the first true working day of the year.

There has not that much been done over the holiday period, and it’s hard to know where the time has gone. Certainly some work, although never as much as I’d hope for at the start of the holiday season. Replacing a tap mechanism, and finding out that the old was leaking for the same reason the new one immediately started leaking was not good news, but was fixed by putting two washers in, one on top of the other. A better solution to be made soon (and replacing the whole tap is currently out of the question).

As well as the remote sensor system in the greenhouse, there is currently a power monitor on the circuit, I see from which the blower consumes about 20W,and when the heater comes in, the combined total is about 1080W. It’s used about 10kWh in a week, a significant amount, and it has been mild. It is worth noting that the background 20W usage equates to about 3.3kWh a week, or a cost of just under £7 a calendar quarter, but I’m sure it saves much more in that keeping the air circulating means less heat is required from the heater.

The Mercedes proved harder to get into the back yard driven forward than expected, being rather longer than Mother’s car that was the last one to be parked there. I’ve moved things around to get it in because the road is about to be dug up for utility pipe renewal, so roadside parking spaces will be at a premium for the month of January.

Preparing for Winter

November 26, 2011

Not for the first time in recent years, has there been a mild October and November – although I believe this year was record breaking.  A few years ago, when we were having a new roof put on the block of flats, the roofer disappeared for weeks, during that fine, mild autumn, and when he then complained about trying to finish the work in a cold wet December – he finished on 24th(!) – I pointed out the weeks of one of the best Autumns for years when he was away [doing other jobs, no doubt] – he pretended not to hear me.

Preparations this year are different and it is probably worth giving some detail as it gives an idea of the current situation chezes (sic) moi.  For I have three places to look after, still.

The Greenhouse is tricky, for the second heater appears to have developed an erratic thermostat.  Not that I thought much of the thermostat, or indeed the heater as a whole, to start with.  Using the remote sensor system, as previously blogged about, I’ve gone out late at night on more than one occasion to try and adjust the heater down, for it was holding the temperature too high.  It’s not that it really needs the heat yet (even this late in the year), but I want it working correctly for when the frost/snow does finally arrive, especially if I’m not around to fine-tune (or even, coarsely adjust) the heater.  Or get yet another heater.

As for the last two years, the old heater, just acting as a blower, is on all the time, to keep the air circulating.

If necessary, I do have a lot of bubble-wrap that I could use to make a smaller ‘greenhouse’ within the main one, and put all the valuable plants into that.

As well as moving the summer pelargoniums in last week, the Cymbidium again is in bud.  I fear that neighbours 60′ trees now overshadow the garden so much as to limit summer growth.  Unfortunately the Pleonies were killed off by the cold last winter.

This year's Cymbidium flower bud - only one so far.

One new problem is that I find I cannot reverse the Mercedes into the ‘back yard’ at Mother’s – it just will not go, and how I’ve tried.  I could get it into the garage, poking its nose out, but I’d have to clear the garage (again, it gets cleared and filled with monotonous regularity), take the doors off, and while the car’s there, not have access to anything in the car or the garage.  The reason for this is that the car needs some work to stop the rust now, before it gets serious, but it is the sort of job that could take more than a week (especially at this time of the year), as paint dried, and I cannot block neighbour’s access to his hardstanding for that long.

For the second year, I face winter with no gas central heating – a long running legal battle.  The tenants in the flat below used to be profilgate in keeping their heating on (which helped keep me warm), but I guess they’ve either moved out without telling their landlord, or else the fuel price has finally forced some economy in their living standards.  I’m really not sure which of the two it is!