Cars are the bane of my life, although I love the Gary Numan song of the same name! Saturday yesterday was a good example of what I mean.
Eldest son Alex and his fiancée Emily had caught the National Express bus to Newport and so Debbie, Emma and myself left in the “trusty” Freelander in good time to pick them up for 1.20pm. They were here to collect our “old” Ford Focus (59 plate!) which we were giving them as part of their wedding present – more on that later!
All seemed to be going smoothly on the A4042 near the McDonalds service station roundabout near Pontypool, I was just thinking smugly the Freelander had done 10,000 trouble-free miles since I’d bought her, when a puff of what I thought was smoke passed in front of the windscreen.
I glanced quickly down to the temperature gauge and sure enough it was climbing into red, I still had power so drove into some undergrowth as quickly as I could in case the engine was on fire or about to catch. Fortunately it was a lovely sunny day, unfortunately we were on a very busy dual carriage way but we all got out safely and apart from the automatic cooling fan cutting in strongly after I switched the engine off things seem to be calming down.
After receiving helpful advice from “she who must be obeyed” on why I hadn’t taken the Galaxy, I hung my head in shame and rang rescuemycar.com for assistance. Now the noise of the traffic racing past made it really difficult to hear the operator but together spelling phonetically we managed to exchange the necessary information and barely 40 minutes later our breakdown truck from Chris Spiteri and Son arrived to rescue us!
First thing he did was attach a fixed tow bar to the front and tell me to take the handbrake off and put the gear into neutral (the Freelander is automatic) and slowly we pulled into the path of the traffic and made our way to a lay-by only a hundred or so yards away & safety. After stopping we all got out and opened the bonnet for a look to see what the problem was. Next the mechanic & poured a lot of water into the now empty coolant reservoir who told me after a quick examination that it was a blown hose to the radiator.
This meant one of three increasingly expensive things had gone wrong:
- the rubber hose had perished/spilt for some reason (unlikely)
- the radiator was u/s and the build up of pressure had caused the coolant pipe to break (probably)
- the head gasket had blown (unlikely, no water in exhaust)
My normal Land Rover garage had shut an hour before, but the mechanic offered to have it towed to his workshop in Caerleon for a proper check out on Monday, while he would drive the three of us back home. We could then pick up Alex & Emily in the Galaxy who’d caught a train to Abergavenny from Newport.
So off we headed to the train station and after a short wait we picked up the happy couple & headed off home so they could check out their new vehicle. Now the Focus had spent much of the last six months gathering dust in our large double garage & on a SORN. When the decision was made to gift it I discovered that the battery was completely dead and no amount of boosting with a battery starter would get the engine going. It needed a new MOT and service so the week before I’d explained the situation to my local Ford garage who arranged to pick it up and return it after all necessary work was done.
Alas, on pickup no one had told the chap about the dead battery and they too couldn’t get it started in the garage so we pushed it out into the road for a jump start from their collection vehicle. After purchasing a new battery and fixing the odds and ends highlighted in the MOT it was ready for collection. But oh no, dear readers, the car curse struck again as Alex and I tried and failed to tax the car on-line with the wonderful DVLA digital transaction web site. No idea why, it had never failed before, so now Alex & I were convinced there was a conspiracy against us.
DVLA was shut at weekends, the main Abergavenny Post Office had shut at lunchtime but by some miracle the Gilwern local post office was open until 9pm on Saturdays much to my amazement and apparently issued car tax too! A short journey there by Galaxy later, Alex & I popped into the small Indian run PO and we almost kissed her in relief and she said no problem and issued the necessary tax for his Focus! 🙂
Once home, we all de-camped off to the Bridge Inn to celebrate with Hamish in tow (pun intended) which incidentally was advertising Elton John as a singer (no – not me) in July!
After ordering drinks we sat outside in the blazing sunshine. Hamish made friends with the bearded owner of a Westie called Diesel – the dog! The owner appeared to be a Harley- Davidson rider to boot judging by his leather biker’s jacket. Eventually the clock moved closer to 5pm and as James had asked Alex to pick him up from work in town we headed back home, then Debbie and I shopped for tea over the road in Waitrose.
After ploughing through crusty bread, camembert cheese, pork pies, salad, turkey, coleslaw & baked potato we polished those off with some cup cakes and then said goodbye to the Focus newly filled with Alex,Emily, unwanted spare ironing board, blue cornish-ware & lamp.