Saturday, May 29, 2010


I'm starting to hate cars, not because I hate driving or other drivers, I hate cars because they are now a money trap. When I was young, I used to do all my own servicing, even down to stripping an engine out of the car and doing a total rebuild. Such matters as changing a starter motor or alternator were childsplay. Modern cars though, the first thing you notice is that the modern car engine fits almost precisely into the engine compartment, no wasted space at all (and no way to get at anything either, not without stripping something like the radiator. Even on a Mondeo like mine changing the passenger side headlamp bulb requires pulling the light housing out as you can't get at the bulb holder due to lack of space. Try to look at anything underneath and there's a drip tray in the way and again not a lot of room to get at anything once that's removed. No wonder garages use ramps, it's the only way to get at anything. As for the engine management system, it makes the car go great, until it goes wrong and then you have no chance. You require a laptop, a connector and propriety software to diagnose any issues (yes I can get a pirate version of the software but that's not the point) Modern cars have been designed to take servicing out of the hands of the amateur and into the clutches of the professional, and not all professionals either.
The other day my starter motor started acting up, sounded occasionally like a grinder on metal, other times fine, but disturbing as hell when it happened. Easy enough job I thought until I found where it was mounted, front of the engine, underneath the power steering pipes and out of view unless you strip out the cooling system, even then the bolts holding it on are a sod to get at and I wasn't able to do it. So, a few phone calls to local garages later, I found out that most wont touch diesels and or didn't want to get involved at short notice. Still my usual service place took it in. Later I gets a call, "It's the starting motor" My reply, "yes I know" back to them "It needs replacing, £272 cos we need to strip out the cooling system to do it and it'll take a while" Me, "OK" The garage, "But" Me, my wallet smarting already "Oh?" Them, "We need also to check that the double helix flywheel hasn't been damaged, if it is, it's an engine out job, cost you over £1000" Me, "Just change the starter, if it's the flywheel I'll sell the car part ex and get a new one." Garage, "Don't blame you."
It's not the garage's fault either, modern cars are more efficient, better designed, but definitely not designed to be worked on easily or cheaply, part of the £272 is the cost of a new starter (£120).

But I hate cars now, this year mine has cost me a fortune, it's probably going to go as soon as I can persuade my good lady that we need to. It'll be a 4x4 as I know global warming is a myth and I need the 4x4 to get out of my street in snow. It'll also be low mileage and reliable.
It'll still be expensive as hell to fix and run though.

I really hate cars now.

10 annotations:

JuliaM said...

Modern cars cater mostly for people like me. People who'd never dream of touching anything under the bonnet.

Quiet_Man said...

Yes, Julia, I know, but it's just hurting my pocket at the minute, I probably should have replaced it this year, but thought to squeeze another year out of it. Big and expensive mistake.

Andrew Duffin said...

Yes those dual-mass flywheels are a complete scam; some diesels (I believe the latest Fiestas) are now made without them, but drivers will be paying for this design cockup for years to come.

As for the whole electronics/software scam thing, do you know the EU have given in to lobbying from the big car manufacturers, so soon there will be no obligation on them (the manufacturers) to release diagnostic and error codes to the independent trade.

So it's goodbye to your local workshop, hello to mega-priced snooty patronising main-dealers.

Thanks again, EU!

Can we leave yet?

Anonymous said...

Brought a 1997 Hilux Surf Over from Japan in 2006 saving over £3k on cars brought over by garages and sold at UK retail.

Since landing in the UK I've had to replace both batteries, full set of tyres, the front exhaust pipe, front shock absorbers, rear shock absorber bushes and starter motor brushes. All achieved for less than £500 inc labour.

Costs £185 in road tax because of its age apparently.
Runs on 100% virgin veggie oil at 85-95p a litre at Twatco or Bookers. Diesel when it gets chilly as the veg oil on it's own will thicken too much. Will also run happily on any sort of veg oil/diesel mix.

Here's the link to the people I used.
Highly recommend them and the Toyota Hilux Surf.

John M Ward said...

Fascinating stuff!

I've never had one of those things (I wouldn't on principle as they pollute, but that's 19th-century engine design and its derivatives for you) so it is interesting to read about the current generation on occasion.

We really do need teleports on this planet, not boxes on wheels. This is a new millennium after all...

subrosa said...

You won't believe this but before I passed my test at 17 my father insisted I could change the oil, drain the radiator, change spark plugs and change a wheel. My first car was a Ford Anglia and I was able to do all those things. My second was a Triumph Herald soft top and I could still do them.

Then I went to a Ford Escort and that was fine too.

For several years I had a company car and didn't need one of my own. Then I bought a Mazda and found I couldn't budge a wheel and changing the oil was a nightmare.

A couple of months ago I had to go to my local garage (where I get my servicing done for the reasons you say QM) because my windscreen washers weren't skooshing and I thought it was the fuse. I couldn't access the fuse box! It took a mechanic 35 minutes to get into the box and replace it. Thankfully that was the problem. £5 was what it cost.

My present car will last me years yet but I learned the same lesson as you before I bought this one. Once you think you should get rid of a car do it right away. Hanging on is an expensive game. Been there, done that.

JuliaM said...

Indeed, the money is the drawback. I console myself, as I'm handing over the cheque, with the thought that I'm doing my bit for the local exconomy...

James Higham said...

Get a bike, lad - I've been saying this for months.

Quiet_Man said...

James, when you work 12 hour shifts and live 15 miles from your place of work, the last thing you want to do is get on your bike. Apart from that I will be buying a bike as next year we'll be holidaying in the Schwarzwälder and want to get around the locale with a minimum of fuss.

English Pensioner said...

I see that Germany (ie Volkswagen) are pressing the EU to make it mandatory for cars to ONLY be serviced by the manufacturers' own chains of authorised service agents, due to the complexity of the modern vehicle.

Yes, they are so complex that two VW garages with all their fancy computers couldn't find the problem with my Bora's diesel engine, which the boss at the local jobbing garage identified instantly, without a computer, when he listened to the engine and said that he could hear a split pipe associated with the turbo!