So it’s probably time I gave you all an update on my fallen friend.
Those reading my blog recently will have no doubt read (with growing horror I’m sure) about my elderly Passat’s near death experience when it died on me 120 miles away from home in Weston Super-mare at the weekend.
After a tense drive home with several misfires I was convinced that the RAC’s suggestion that this was caused by a faulty crank sensor rather than something more serious was off the mark.
Surely it couldn’t be that simple?
It never is.
This was a delicate time for my ageing chariot too – and although it’s never polite to discuss a lady’s age I feel in this case it’s appropriate.
Ms Passat was born in 2003.
I purchased her after she’d travelled 14,000 miles.
I didn’t particularly WANT a VW if I’m honest – because it was more expensive than the Mondeo at the time – which was getting really good reviews.
I’d visited the Ford garage and climbed into a really nice ‘Titanium’ variant of the line and was marvelling at how nice it was inside.
It was just what I wanted.
Until I tried to put the seatbelt on and it wouldn’t stretch around my waist to the clip.
The salesman at the time seemed to think this was completely irrelevant – or thought I was joking – and wanted to go in for the hard sell.
After giving up trying to make him understand how pointless it was buying a car in which I couldn’t drive legally I left the dealership feeling quite forlorn.
Half a mile down the road however was a VW garage selling a Passat that was only a few months old.
I knew nothing about the car or the brand, but when the seatbelt easily clicked into place I was practically ready to hand over my wallet there and then.
When the salesman reached over me and turned on the blue dashboard lights I couldn’t sign quick enough.
I bought it immediately based solely on my ability to do up the seatbelt and the blue lights on the dash.
It’s no joke.
That’s as in depth as I got.
To me buying a car had become like buying trousers, because it didn’t matter how much they cost or what they looked like as long as they fitted and I didn’t feel a complete fool.
Back in 2003 when my car rolled off the production line I’m sure she had little understanding of the burden she’d have to bear as her life wore on – but stoically carry it she did.
All 34.5 stone of it – and it wasn’t easy for her.
The first signs of unusual wear and tear came when I wore out the upholstery on the driver’s seat from the constant pressurised movement of me trying to drag myself in and out of the car.
Initially this was replaced under warranty – but then it returned outside of warranty and became a ‘feature’.
It’s still there now.
Then I broke the mounting underneath the driver’s seat, which scarily and unceremoniously snapped whilst I was on the M40.
It had to be tig welded by a friendly mechanic who strengthened it for me – and assured me that a baby elephant couldn’t break it – even if it did manage to pass its test and steal my automobile.
Then some years later I snapped my steering wheel in half – which I can only guess was slowly breaking in two as I steadied my bulk on it over and over again as I tried to fit into the driver’s seat and get comfortable.
I barely had 1cm of metal holding it together when the incredulous mechanic showed me how bad it was.
I drove from Warwick to Redditch to go to work with it like that – too embarrassed to call in with the truth that I’d snapped my steering wheel and that I could fit the whole of my hand into the steering column.
So – I have some rather emotional attachments to my car.
It helped me when I needed it most – but honestly also it became something of an enabler.
With a car I didn’t have to walk and my lack of exercise compounded my problems.
Now however the opposite is true because if I can keep her alive she enables me to go further afield than I otherwise would and prompts exploration rather than isolation.
When I delivered my car to the mechanic’s tender mercies yesterday I’d not had anything done to it for almost exactly a year, and it was also due an MOT and a service – as well as the crank sensor replacement.
The sensor alone (with fitting) was £144.
Would it be worth it?
They wouldn’t know until they’d replaced it whether another engine code would come back and there would still be another issue to fix – but then there was also the added cost of the MOT and the unknown cause of the misfiring during Saturday’s journey home that was yet to be diagnosed.
Would it pass? if not what would it fail on if not and how much would that cost?
How much was too much?
Well it seems that the cost (for the moment) was £653 – which (whilst it may sound a lot) I consider very reasonable.
The MOT required (ironically) the crank sensor, two new front discs, a brake calliper and a pad – whilst the service was basically oil and spark plugs.
The stuttering appeared to be a cracked breather hose in the engine – which is now temporarily taped to see if it cures the stutter.
If it does then that’s a mere £46 to replace!
In essence a year’s motoring has cost me £700 in mechanic’s fees, £200 in car insurance, £240 car tax £30 RAC membership – and between £30-£40 per month (let’s say £480 per year per in a rough worst case scenario) in petrol.
My MOT pass certificate (yes it DID PASS!!!) shows my cumulative mileage.
In just under a year my car has driven 3,032 miles.
That’s much less than the 10-12,000 it used to do.
I work that out to be about 55p a mile – which oddly (from memory) is the exact amount my old employer used to give as a mileage allowance before I was made redundant.
If I got rid of my car and took an Uber in order to get my shopping back from Aldi (a four mile round trip to get my weekly shop – for which I always use my car because of the frozen food I buy) it would cost me between £5-7.
The last time I took a return bus to Leamington from my house (also a four mile round trip) I believe it was around the £3.50 mark.
In contrast (I checked today) in the exact same period I walked 3,605 miles.
That didn’t cost me a penny.
How life has changed! The balance is finally right.
So – my car – once a victim of my worst excesses now lives a life of privilege and relaxation.
This elder stateswoman of the highways rests in the sunshine most of the time whilst I wear out my shoe leather instead.
It deserves to be pampered – and whilst I love it – I no longer need it to live.
All I need is a walk around the park with friends and a beautiful sunset.
That’s enough internet.
The day wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t also mention that I’ve still felt down this week.
Honestly I’ve been struggling.
Quite a bit if I’m honest.
However I have good friends.
REALLY good ones.
Today I came home and inside my door was a little parcel, wrapped in paper with pictures of puppies on it.
Taped to the back of it were these words.
Wondering what it was and who had sent it I opened it up.
Inside there was something that instantly made me smile, because it’s the little things that mean everything.
I don’t want a lot from life.
I try not to waste money and get pleasure from the world around me – not from expensive possessions.
So my friend had bought me a colourful and thoughtfully themed present that I could use and re-use again and again – and every time I do I’ll be thinking about her kindness, thoughtfulness and the fact that she went out of her way to buy something little that she know I’d love to make me smile again.
Sometimes all a boy needs to feel special is a super hero carrier bag.