Friday, 7 January 2005


There are many ways in which a car can die while you're driving it. It can start to sputter in a run-out-of-petrol sort of way. The steering can go wonky, or stiff, or both. It can simply turn itself off and glide to a gentle halt. The oil light can come on, in which case you must stop immediately or destroy the engine. The engine can start revving itself, just for kicks.

Any of those would be preferable to what happened to my car yesterday.

I drove from work to the station to pick up Vic. The car was fine. Vic arrived, I turned on the engine, and.... You know the way that ten-year-old boys tape bits of cardboard to the rear forks of their bikes, sticking into the rear wheel's spokes, causing their bikes to sound "exactly like" Harley Davidsons? Well, the car made that noise. Worrying, but not too alarming: I've driven cars that make bad noises for many hundreds of miles. It was probably going to be OK to at least get us home to be looked at by my ubermechanical brother-in-law-to-be.

The noise got much worse very quickly. About a hundred yards later, there was a loud clunk and the car lurched slightly as it drove over quite a large part of its engine, which I then watched in the rear-view mirror as it spun towards the curb.

At least the noise stopped. Along with all the other noises the engine used to make.

Happily enough, there's a moral to all this. The car belonged, until recently, to my brother-in-law-to-be's cousin. A few months back, the cousin needed the head replaced. Brother-in-law-to-be, despite being amazingly cheap when it comes to mechanical work, was too expensive for his cousin at the time, so the cousin went to someone even cheaper. Who, we now discover, didn't tighten the screws when he'd finished the job. I know nothing about cars, and I would have tightened the screws. That's what screws are for, in my experience: you tighten them. Honestly, some people.

So the moral is: if you have a friend who will do work for you very cheaply indeed, and who is damn good at said work, don't go looking for even cheaper offers. Yeah, you all knew that. I didn't say it was a surprising moral.

I shall spend the next week destroying my garden. Expect little blogging.


David said...

I had exactly the same noise on a ford mondeo - I was doing 80 mph at the time. Then it suddenly stopped and I watched a large piece of metal fly down the dual carriageway behind me. Luckily for me the engine didn't stop though - it was the heat-shield that stops the exhaust overheating or something. If the road had been slightly busier it would've gone through someones windscreen.

Ian said...

My previous car kept losing oil, but not in a continuous kind of way. Having known that the clickity-clickity sound is lack of oil, I checked the level when it first happened and it needed a refill, which I did and the noise stopped.

Thinking there must be a leak, it got monitored, but the oil level stayed fine for months, even a year, then it happens again, and again, at random times.

By which time I am thinking of some "oil thieves" who, in the same way as petrol, siphon the oil out of your engine and sell for profit, as I moved house and it still happens they must be following me around, bastards.

I suppose oil theft sounds petty, especially as it is all cheap synthetic substitutes nowdays, but there are gangs of little kids who go around stealing the chrome replacement tyre valve caps, in a manner suggesting there is an underground market for them.