The Joys of Driving…

What a week this has been! I’ve been off road for a week. And by that, I mean not driving (not ‘driving off road’).

When you have an older car – mine becomes 25 years old in August – spare parts aren’t terribly easy to get. So one thing goes wrong, and you’re off the road for a week.

I was on the motorway last Saturday. I was driving down to London for the Country to Country music festival at the O2 in Greenwich. Having left home at 06:30, and after filling up with fuel, I left Gloucestershire.

By the time I experienced problems, I had passed my half-way stop in Bracknell, done all my shopping for the weekend and loaded the car with all the food I’d need.

Having then driven out of Bracknell on to the M3 and up to the M25, I was about half way round the extremely foggy M25 – within 40 miles of my destination – and things were going well. I’d gone straight past Cobham service, perfectly happy with the way the car was driving. Everything was normal.

Just short of junction 8, and while completing an overtake in lane 3 of 4, I became aware that something was not quite right. The accelleration had gone: maintaining a constant speed was a struggle. The engine had suddenly become all juddery. I quickly aborted the overtake and dropped back to pull in to lane 2 and then over to lane 1.

Out of the fog emerged a sign telling me I was a mile from the junction. I wasn’t sure what the problem was, and decided the best course of action would be, if possible, to pull off the motorway and get someone out to look at the car. It had crossed my mind that if the car didn’t make it to the junction then I’d need to pull on to the hard shoulder – but luckily this was not necessary.

I pulled over on a quiet side street (opposite a newsagent at the start of a 20mph zone) in Lower Kingswood, Surrey, and immediately called out Green Flag.

Eventually, after quite a wait, a mechanic reached me and diagnosed the problem. Then, another long wait for the recovery truck to arrive: this would need to be fixed by a garage.

It was still early in the day and I would have had time to accompany the car back to Gloucestershire, get a coach to London and still make it to the O2 Arena in time.

As things went, both drivers took a long time to get to me and it was not until 5 and a half hours after my original call out that a recovery vehicle was with me and loading my car up! So instead, I asked the driver to drop me at the nearest station so I could continue in to London and enjoy my weekend.

So… What was the problem?

Further investigation by the garage back in Fairford revealed that the main cause of the problem was a faulty distributor – and that this would need to be replaced. There was a catch: Because of the age of the car, the main suppliers don’t stock the part. I had to source it myself.

So… I sourced my distributor, got it delivered straight to the garage, and waited.

Finally – this afternoon: 6 days after the car broke down – my car made it back on to the roads. I am relieved, to say the least.

Having had the car for about a year, it won’t be more than a few months before the time comes for me to sell it on to someone else: someone who perhaps doesn’t mind it being off road for a few days while spare parts are sourced. As the car approaches its 25th birthday, things are going to start going wrong more often I think.

My aim is by September/October at the latest, to have a more modern VW – maybe an 05 or 06 plate VW with milage low enough it could last me 4 or 5 years.

Of course, this all depends on the little Golf getting through its MOT, which is due at the end of next month.

The events of the last week have cost me in the region of £200. I’ve borrowed money (OK, from myself, but not out of my regular income) to pay for the repairs. How much will I be willing to spend on the car before enough is enough?

But for the next few weeks at least, I still love my car, and am determined for it to last me until June/July at the earliest.

Touch wood, this and the exhaust falling off in December have been the only major issues I’ve had with it. Apart from that, its just been a couple of bulbs, a broken air intake pipe and some new tyres. Nothing too major at all: It’s just an older car.

And who wants something modern which doesn’t fall apart on every street corner as their first car anyway? You can’t call yourself a driver if you’ve not driven something which still has a choke and doesn’t have power steering!

I’d better get to bed – I’m driving my car, which now feels as good as new, to work early tomorrow. Stocktake weekend, and all of that.

Good night.


Fred Hart

Stock Controller and Radio Presenter/Producer

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