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Tales of a breakdown driver (modern content)


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#1 OFFLINE   Barry Cade.

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 11:38 PM

Another Astra on the back of the breakdown van today, the 3rd in the last couple of weeks with a snapped camshaft, today's was silver (as were all the others) 1600 petrol (as were all the others) and "56" plate (as were all the others). Exhaust camshaft broken between cylinder3 and 4 (as were all the others) I see a pattern here. :|

Also had a raft of call outs to modern VAG group cars, where folks backed them out of their garage, switch off and find they won't start again. They always eventually go, but take a fair bit of winding, usually requiring a boost from the jump leads.

Seeing VW TSi engines eating their own timing chain tensioners, Vectra's munching gearboxes and Honda's wiping their immobiliser codes after a flat battery. Never jump start a modern Honda with the key in the ignition. Mini's also seem to be suddenly having clutch failures. Its a bit strange how all these faults seem to come at once, you never see any then sometimes 2 or 3 in a week.

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#2 OFFLINE   gtd2000

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 12:14 AM

Honda's wiping their immobiliser codes after a flat battery. Never jump start a modern Honda with the key in the ignition.


How do you jump start a Honda if you can't use the key in the ignition?
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#3 OFFLINE   wuvvum

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 12:37 AM

I would imagine that you just need to make sure the key is out of the ignition when you connect the jump leads. I do this as a matter of course when jump starting a modern - in fact I make sure that everything is switched off to minimise the risk of sending the electronics into meltdown.

#4 OFFLINE   Barry Cade.

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 12:43 AM

Yep, As Wuv says- take they key out until the leads are connected properly. If there is a surge when the leads are connected it wipes the key if it's in the ignition. Seemingly only affects 2006 5 door Civic's, but I'm not taking any chances.

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#5 OFFLINE   R9UKE

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 01:26 AM

I've always been intrigued by what you guys would get to see. Better than reading Driver Power or JD Surveys.

What are modern Frenchies like?
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#6 ONLINE   STUNO

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 08:33 AM

What are modern Frenchies like?



They break, just like the old ones

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#7 OFFLINE   dollywobbler

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 10:13 AM

I always laugh when people play the 'reliability' card for buying a modern. If modern cars were so reliable, surely the AA and RAC would have gone out of business? Sure, I may have to resort to regular bouts of tinkering to keep my fleet healthy, but the 2CV has broken down (as in needed a tow home) once in about seven years.

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#8 OFFLINE   jonny69

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 11:37 AM

Hmm, I hadn't considered the whole jump-starting a modern thing. I helped out a posh couple in Virginia Water a few weeks ago because their fairly new Aston decided to flatten its battery. I was happy to help in my Anglia, but secretly wished I still had my snotty old Pop :D. They were probably lucky that my good intentions didn't kill their car further :shock:

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#9 OFFLINE   dollywobbler

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 12:01 PM

I think the original Audi quattro was one of the first cars where you could wreak havoc with jump leads. There have been instances where the power spike has blown the dashboard. Again though, perhaps that's a danger if you connect while the ignition is on.

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#10 OFFLINE   Cavcraft

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 12:10 PM

When I ran my last recovery truck it could sit for three or four weeks not doing anything. Then, the moment I got a call I'd be busy all week or longer.
Honestly can't recall seeing the same cars with the same problems, but if I weighed a car in I'd often end up bridging more of the same. I think I had three Kas in a fortnight once, all of which went straight over the bridge.

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#11 OFFLINE   HillmanImp

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 12:19 PM

Aye, will have to keep this in mind when jumping cars.

How much can the average RAC/AA/Green Flag chap do at the side of the road these days? Do they carry diagnostics for all cars in the van? Can you diagnose ingition problems for instance the old fashioned way or will the computer system have done something to stop normal diagnosis by shutting stuff down etc? I honestly have no idea how a modern car works (I dont really know how an old one works though if I am completly honest).
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#12 ONLINE   cort16

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 12:24 PM

When I went on that trip to france we had AA vans with us and they had the full diagnostic kit. One of our party had a C5 that kept going onto limp home mode and they put the machine on and found some dicky sensor was shutting it down when they floored it at low revs and it went into overboost. They just told them to not floor it at low revs and it didn't do it again all the way back to the UK.

I've found that if you get an AA van they'll try to get the car going or at least have a go at figuring it out but if you get an agency they just want to scoop it up and drop you off somewhere. This happend with my old m535i when it died a few year ago (I wish he'd just dropped it in the harbour the POS).
I estimate this car needs £3000 maybe £4000 spending on it to get it rite and when this is done it will be wotrth about £1500!!

#13 OFFLINE   gtd2000

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 04:09 PM

Yep, As Wuv says- take they key out until the leads are connected properly. If there is a surge when the leads are connected it wipes the key if it's in the ignition. Seemingly only affects 2006 5 door Civic's, but I'm not taking any chances.


Ah that makes sense then - I was wondering how you would be able to crank the engine without using the key. :wink:
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#14 ONLINE   Skizzer

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 04:38 PM

I've always been intrigued by what you guys would get to see. Better than reading Driver Power or JD Surveys.


This. You should write a blog or something, like all those ambulance drivers and posh hookers I keep hearing about.

BTW Tiff, my XJ6 thread update title wasn't having a pop at you!
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#15 OFFLINE   Pillock

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 04:51 PM

It does depend on how you report the fault. When the lift sensor went on the Leon, I reported it as "the glowplug light is on whilst driving and it's down on power". Out comes a man with his fault code reader - although whilst waiting I'd already sussed the problem as a broken wire, I just needed his soldering iron.

When I phoned to say "there's a hole in my gearbox, and be careful on the roundabout as that's where all the oil is" they didn't send a man out with a fault code reader. They sent a truck.

I'm not sure how much of it is urban legend, but a popular story with the Aircooled VW crowd is to report some sort of brake fault, and the breakdown firm aren't allowed to repair by the side of the road in case of further problems - instant recovery. Strange how many brake faults develop in Cornwall.

#16 OFFLINE   FredTransit

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 04:55 PM

Yep, As Wuv says- take they key out until the leads are connected properly. If there is a surge when the leads are connected it wipes the key if it's in the ignition. Seemingly only affects 2006 5 door Civic's, but I'm not taking any chances.


I once had the RAC out to a Mk2 with a flat battery. The div put the leads on to the 2nd battery and the wrong way round. There was a flash and I said its OK no harm done. He went white and shot back to the van shouting 'tell me the CPUs not fooked'! It was OK but the wrong polarity could have killed it!!
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#17 OFFLINE   Barry Cade.

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 09:58 PM

Today was a quiet day. Started off with a call to a 61 plate Golf TDi. No power steering and ESP light and steering warning lights on. Checked the fuses first as it has been known for newer VAG cars to have problems with the fuses themselves- the plastic cracks and its really difficult to see as they look OK. All checked out fine, so on to the RDT and off to the dealer.

Then off to a mk3 Mondeo TDi- non start, starter making funny noises. Usual dust in bendix issue, rocked it in gear, then sent him off to his garage to have the starter cleaned out.

Nothing all afternoon then off to the other side of Dunfermline, Rover 25, cut out non start. Found the car in quite a bad place with very dull hazards. Popped the jump leads on to get it running and away to a safer place, then checked the volts..11.4.. Duff alternator which was obviously a very recent replacement, the 2nd in a matter of weeks as I found out. Checked all the cabling and earths, checked the reading straight from the back of the alternator. Nothing, so hooked up the RDT and towed him home. Mc Donalds at Halbeath then home for me.


I carry an OBD reader and some basic tools. A Snap on vehicle entry kit, soldering iron, some blu tack, a voltmeter, circuit tester, a load of cable ties, a stethoscope a big ***** hammer, some fairy liquid,and a puncture repair kit. Never needed anything else.

We are there to get you going if possible, and will spend up to an hour, but I've been spannering for over 20 years now so I kinda know if its worth spending the time or just tow to a garage. We are not there to diagnose faults to make the garages life easier, just to get you on your way or get your car to where it needs to go to get fixed. Why carry thousands of pounds of diagnostic kit if you don't have the parts or information to fix.

New series of Winter Road Rescue started tonight on channel 5. Gives a wee insight of the life of a roadside/recovery driver.

I'll keep updating this if you guys are interested!
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#18 OFFLINE   Barry Cade.

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 10:04 PM

I've always been intrigued by what you guys would get to see. Better than reading Driver Power or JD Surveys.

What are modern Frenchies like?


Seeing a few DCi Clio's having issues, seems to be pump related but not a roadside fix. I think they have the same problems as the old HDi's with the pumps breaking up internally and shards of metal floating around. Meganes are nothing but grief, especially with the daft keycard, and body control module issues.Petrol 206's are common for coilpack and injector issues. I used to hate French cars and their unreliability, but am now finding Vauxhall and VW much worse. :shock:

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#19 OFFLINE   Barry Cade.

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 10:12 PM

It does depend on how you report the fault. When the lift sensor went on the Leon, I reported it as "the glowplug light is on whilst driving and it's down on power". Out comes a man with his fault code reader - although whilst waiting I'd already sussed the problem as a broken wire, I just needed his soldering iron.

When I phoned to say "there's a hole in my gearbox, and be careful on the roundabout as that's where all the oil is" they didn't send a man out with a fault code reader. They sent a truck.

I'm not sure how much of it is urban legend, but a popular story with the Aircooled VW crowd is to report some sort of brake fault, and the breakdown firm aren't allowed to repair by the side of the road in case of further problems - instant recovery. Strange how many brake faults develop in Cornwall.


Yep. If you know the fault can't be fixed, let the breakdown company know, otherwise they'll send a man in a van, which is OK if it can go on an RDT, but if your in a Freelander or something you'll need a truck. Telling them this will save you an hour or more at the roadside (if they listen to you)

The VW story is true, and more common than you'd think.. Cut brake pipes are a favorite, as are calls late at night to a pub car park, and the owner smelling of drink......probably with a rotor arm in his pocket.
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#20 ONLINE   barefoot

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 11:14 PM

A Snap on vehicle entry kit...


I'm thinking of taking up thieving, is it really that easy?

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#21 OFFLINE   Barry Cade.

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 11:29 PM

A Snap on vehicle entry kit...


I'm thinking of taking up thieving, is it really that easy?


To get into cars, yes. To drive them away, no. Most call outs are for keys locked in cars, so just gaining entry. Various methods can be used and some of them aren't obvious at first. Only had to break a window once! Deadlocks are a PITA...

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#22 OFFLINE   Joseph

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 12:52 AM

I'll keep updating this if you guys are interested!


Please do! This is a very interesting thread. Apart from finding out the most common faults which are emerging on modern motors, it is also interesting to see the insight of what you guys do.

Threads like this can also work out to be quite humourous in what you have encountered as well. Cue recovery from pub car park stories!

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#23 OFFLINE   The Reverend Bluejeans

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 01:56 PM

Like a prize tit, I locked the keys in my E34 530i last week. No bother though - it was in the workshop so I put some masking tape on the door frame and chrome roof gutter strip, fed a coathanger down there and 'POP', up it came, door open.

I have a couple of mates who work at VAG dealerships. The B6 2005 onwards Passat was the start of the slippery slope along with the hateful 2.0TDi engine, electronic handbrake and shit like that. Loads of trouble with the recent Golf TSi turbo 1.4 thing as well, proper engine out and in bits catastrophes.
As much as I liked the Mark 5 and 6 Golf, VW have to be the most overrated brand of them all.


P.S - yes, I'd love to see this thread continue. I know that modern cars are basically under engineered and cheaply made crap, but it's very interesting to see which are the worst.

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#24 OFFLINE   carlo

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 03:12 PM

I'll keep updating this if you guys are interested!


Please do! This is a very interesting thread. Apart from finding out the most common faults which are emerging on modern motors, it is also interesting to see the insight of what you guys do.

Threads like this can also work out to be quite humourous in what you have encountered as well. Cue recovery from pub car park stories!


Agreed, very interesting thread, nice to know French modern stuff is sometimes no worse than German modern stuff! At the risk of turning this into a "How good is my Modern?" thread, any opinion on Fiat Panda diesels? Still can't decide whether to flog ours or keep it for a good long time.

#25 OFFLINE   Barry Cade.

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 03:17 PM

Out to a Punto this morning just after 7- chap skidded on ice and grazed a bus stop. A little damage to the wing, but the front wheel got a clout and tyre came off the bead, and rim badly bent. He'd owned the car a month, only to realise the spare wheel didn't actually have a wheel, just a tyre... he went off to have words with the used car dealer after I towed him to his garage.

Next job was a Clio which came through as having an immobiliser issue- I got to the car and turned the key, and it wound over but didn't fire. I turned the key again and it started perfectly. Easy job! That's all so far today.


My 2 funniest ones so far have been an old couple holidaying up at St Andrews. Call came through as a Hyundai Matrix with brake failure.... When I got there the old guy was looking worried about the growing patch of fluid slowly creeping out from under the car, just in front of the rear wheel. I got down and had a look, and noticed the fluid was red. I asked if he'd been in the boot this morning and the realisation hit him............... He'd been putting some camping stuff away and speared a bottle of ATF he'd been carring around, which had drained down and ran along the inner sills and out the drain holes. At least it won't rust and I got a cup of coffee and a laugh out of it.

One evening I got a call to attend a black Lamborghini. Wind up I thought until I got there- a Gallardo Spyder :shock:

Chap had been fuelling up and decided as it was a nice evening to put the roof down- which jammed up halfway through the process. As a crowd began to gather he drove home with it all skew whiff. 15 pages in the handbook later of how to override the electrics I got the roof up and secured...then he pressed the button again :evil: :evil: :evil:

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#26 OFFLINE   Mr_Bo11ox

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 03:23 PM

I once stopped to help an elderly couple whose caravan wheel had come whanging off, chewing up the floor of the caravan and making a big gouge in the road. I jacked up the caravan and put the wheel back on, securing it with 2 wheel nuts off the other side. They were mega grateful but the old boy made a terrible error by casually saying ‘I can’t understand how that came loose and fell off, I only put it on this morning’ to which is Mrs said ‘YOU WHHHAAAAATTT???? SO THIS IS YOUR FAULT IS IT??????’ He was clearly in the doghouse for the next 20 years (if either of them live that long)

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#27 OFFLINE   Justin Case

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 03:27 PM

Interesting stuff and some good tales; yes please keep it going. No mention of Japanese cars yet, does that mean you never have to deal with one or are the faults as boring as the cars. :wink: There seems to be a pattern of modern diesels and small highly stressed petrol engines giving grief, does that mean that a big lightly stressed petrol is the way to go? If so roll on the VXR8 :D
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#28 OFFLINE   Spiny Norman

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 04:36 PM

Another +1 for more please.
If you can be arsed doing a "tales from the front" write up every few days this has the potential to be a really useful and entertaining thread, just the sort of thing we need. :D

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#29 OFFLINE   gtd2000

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 04:48 PM

Looks like the Japanese are losing their grip on the reliability index if this is accurate:

http://www.reliabili...dex.com/top-100

The Ford Fiesta is the most reliable car these days?
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#30 OFFLINE   trigger

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 04:55 PM

Thanks for sharing this thread Tiff, It's most excellent, the jump starting with the keys in the ignition is a new one of me too, I'll make sure not it to that in future.
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