Black Cab – The Long Way Home.
I say the long way home, but it’s been 12 hours of constant travels by now, save a few dog walks and a petrol stop every 150 miles and I just want to take a B-line straight to Essex. Guess what, it’s the A1 all the way down to Cambridgeshire. Love the A1.
I made it about as far back down as Morpeth before the Tizer ran out and I pulled off the A1 to find the most remote, hidden location I could so I could have a little sleep.
On my way into Scotland on the Matrix Boards, and on the radio, was news of an incoming storm overnight with yellow weather warnings for rain, heading from west to east. I didn’t think much of the rain warning in the past hours because I was so focused on keeping the slabsided monstrosity in its lane with the crazy coastline gusts trying to blow me of bridges or into oncoming trucks. The rain warning came back into my mind in sharp focus when at 5am I woke up to heavy rain drumming down on the big tin Taxi roof. I guess that’s the end of my sleep. The dogs enjoy running round in the rain and really enjoy the treat of early breakfast (even in the rain) because I want to try and get ahead of the storm rather than stop in an hour and a half for their normal feed time.
Sleeping in the Taxi was good but not great. It’s partitioned in such a way that I can’t lay straight in it in any way, even with the back seats folded up. I think I’d have slept better if I wasn’t in there with two dogs, one of which proceeded to stand there with its face one inch from mine just staring at me. To be fair I was using its dog bed as a mattress.
A few hours later below Scotch Corner and I’m ahead of the rain and the Sun starts to rouse my circadian rhythm and I’m back in the zone.
I’ve learned how to tour in the cab better by now, 600 miles in, the seat, although containing 380,000 miles of fart is pretty comfortable, the position is quite trucker like. The radio is pretty clear and I’m so so glad I fitted it. I’d brought some CD’s with me, but the ride is so poor that every crease, crack, pothole and repair in the road seems to smash through the body and the CD skips so much I gave up on the CD’s pretty quickly. Visibility is great. After 20 hours you get used to the cackle of the Ford diesel and whistle of the Taxi sign. Overtaking is an art too. You have to creep up behind a truck, wait for a flat section of dual carriage way (this is where aforementioned eidetic knowledge of sections of the A1 is helpful) and then the trick is to apply enough pressure to the accelerator to elicit some more speed, but not too much accelerator otherwise it’ll shift down and stick you in an rpm range where all torque is gone, and the engine is trying to detonate to put itself out of its misery. If you encounter a hill, abort the overtake, the truck can maintain it’s power up the hill, the Taxi cannot. So, if there is no hill and you’ve not shifted down then you just need to endure the 65mph death shake until you are past your obstacle (truck). Then, in relief, you can back off to comfort and immediately get overtaken by the truck again on the next hill.
As a last treat for the dogs for enduring my adventure with me I took them to Clumber Park for a few hours – a place I used to frequent when I lived local.
Back in Essex, the Black Cab is exactly as it was 870 miles before we’d set off. It was in an awful state already but these things really are automotive cockroaches. Great in the city, not so good over distances, largely disgusting but hard to kill.
Black Cab - Top Tier Bodgery
Wherever the Black cab ends up going, I need to fix the moaning power steering pump...
Step 1: Improve the ability to ignore said power steering fault by fitting a radio. Like many others around here I'm sure I'm not alone in having a box of miscellaneous radios hanging around in the garage. Often they're too good to throw away but not worth the hassle of selling, so it's always nice to occasionally get a car with no radio so I have a reason to use one up.
It wasn't quite plug and play mind. My radio stock are all a jumble of different harness types and first one wouldn't power on... - unknown if it's the car or the radio at this point so I try another with a different harness adapter and that comes on! Only no sound. 🙄 Trying a spare speaker in the drivers door elicits tunes from the mystery CD that was left in this player the best part of a decade ago, so I know the wiring to that side is good. Same test on the passenger side with no success. The passenger speaker then goes in the drivers door (working speaker + working wiring) and the passenger door gets a re-wire and a random speaker I've had for nearly 20 years sitting in with the miscellaneous stereos. This cab is eating up all my old tat I've kept for far to long which is great. Some artful bodgery sees the smaller speaker fit inside the dead OEM speaker casing after a bit of grinding. Now it all mounts up in the door as good as before.
I can still hear the power steering pump crying for help over the radio.
Black Cab - LGOS - what to do 🤨?
I’ve been chugging around in the Taxi a bit more now the Fiesta has gone. It’s a pretty hateful thing and the V5 has now arrived in my name.., (time to sell it?) but unsurprisingly, after only 10 days the novelty has not yet worn off. I am often left with the feeling of “why have I got this thing” when I look out the window, yet after a quick drive I’m always left happy despite it’s clear and forthcoming shortcomings.
Today I visited a red phone box just because I had no-where to go in it and it’s evoking a sort of Churchillean Brunellish British patriotism in me. If I’m ever to be dispatched for Fish & Chips, this is the car I’m taking. If a car could vote, this one is pro-[redacted political stance].
I’d never planned on getting a Black Cab, but I feel like I need to do something to mark the occasion of having it before I can give it up. My thinking so far is either too small, like phone boxes, postboxes or chippies, or too big, like retiring it to the south of Spain. They only middle ground I’ve got so far is a full A1 slog from Islington to wherever in Edinburgh the A1 ends, or indeed wherever the car “ends”.
Fiesta KKC - Gone already.... Next!
The Fiesta has been a hoot. It's firmly on the "would buy again" list, but alas it has driven off into the night to it's new life; with a fresh full 13 months MOT and an £11 Ultra Shield carwash wash. There was basically nothing I've had to do with this car other than enjoy it as much as possible for the 10 days or so I've ended up having it. I didn't even get round to advertising it yet, it sold to a friend of a friend who was in need of something like this, so I was glad I could help in the end. With my third October purchase coming shortly I needed to get it gone pretty quick to prevent me having to take out yet another insurance policy 🙄
It came into my collection because of a scrappage risk looming over it, which is amazing to consider as it's been great and just flew through an MOT. The sensible choice in our household would have been to run the Focus and the Fiesta (especially over winter with it's heated front screen) and be rid of all the rest of the shite, but then that's not why I'm on here...
I only took the initial photo's with it and as I like to provide a picture in each post you'll have to have this one again:
In other news, having completed all the prefix registration letters, happenchance has now been working on the regional area codes of the new* style registrations. October purchase #3 is another Essex reg, but so far this month I got EO and LG which isn't bad. I'm approaching 50% complete. The Jury is out on J (private only?) and X (import?) as one's I'll probably not be bothered with if I can't get them, much like Q-prefix in my first challenge. I think T is going to be a hard one as it's a rare Scotland reg, I think. There's a few more random purchases left in me and then I'll have to start getting targeted, haha.
Today was the day to get it done - wanted to fix the issue with the choke being stuck out before I drove it on the road as that was annoying - having to reach under the dash cowel to hold the outer while I pushed it back in.
Turns out the little rubber nut thing that holds it in place had worn away - so when I pushed it in the whole thing would just move back and do nothing. Nothing that can't be fixed with a few cable ties:
Now good as new and choke can go from 0% to 100% and back without fault - and the choke light doesn't come on every time I breathe too abruptly - hooray!
Thought it'd be nice to give it a good wash - quite pretty with some elbow grease - and got a lot of the algae off of the metal surrounds on the boot window and windowscreen. That front bit of white plastic on the bumper has some very well established mould though.
The Portrait mode on my phone does wonders though...
@Jikovron popped over for some cementing of the top of my drive and a natter:
In the Proton of much fury.
Taxed, insured (only cost me £32 additional for the rest of my current policy to swap the BX for this) - and took it for it's first ride out to.....Asda...well it can't all be thrilling.
Looks so small and stubby compared to the BX. Got some petrol and some air for the tyres.
Took some artsy pictures on the way back - because why not:
As a bonus - the side pockets are well sized for reduced Tesco finds. The ultimate chewing gum, pringles knockoff and tahini paste transport vessel.
The heaters blow hot, idling it'll build temp but that'll soon go at any speed - maybe the stat is stuck open as I thought- Weird how the heaters still blow hot even when doing 60 and the temp reads nothing...I'll have to check the thermostat when I get a second (and a replacement).
All in all though - drives and pulls well - nippy, handling is a bit boat like at points but I didn't drive it in anger just yet - some lowering will fix that in the future anyhow. Enjoyed it and chuffed overall.
I wanted a small runaround which was better on fuel than my CR-V for sharing commuting duties and I've been missing my old Puma - I had a Millenium about 2 years ago but that turned out to be a badly described pile of mould and rust so didn't last.
A quick search on Facebook Marketplace pulled up this one - correct wheels, correct 1.7 Yamaha engine, decent colour and low mileage with plenty of MOT for a sensible price, only 20 miles away. The owner turned out to have several and was thinning out his collection, properly nice old chap who's now into Boxsters instead. I viewed it in the dark and pouring rain earlier in the week, left a deposit and got a lift over yesterday to collect it.
I love it - these are very addictive little cars and this one drives superbly, as it should with only 64k on it. Heavily undersealed, minimal welding needed over the years and rear arches intact if not in great condition, it's barely moved for 2 years and for £1,100 I was happy.
What caught me by surprise when I picked it up was the extra folder of paperwork that came with it - he'd shown me the fastidious records he'd kept in the last 6-7 years so I knew about that but I hadn't realised there was an enormous Motorpoint folder which has literally every receipt and invoice since 2000 in it, including the sales paperwork and a photo of the car when brand new taped to the front of it. Turns out the first owner had it 13 years and took exceptional care of it, I'm a total geek for that stuff so I'm made up with that. I also found that the service book is so full there's a second one with it and it has a full Ford service history with the same dealer up to 2013 and 57k miles - it's only done another 7k since then and has been serviced and maintained since.
The oil is very clean but has been in there a couple of years, the timing belt is due on time if not mileage and the tyres, whilst a matching set of Michelins (a first for me, my stuff usually has to go straight to the tyre centre to lose whatever mismatched budgets it came on) are quite old. They're still looking good though and have loads of grip so I will let them stay for now and keep an eye on their condition.
Verdict: I've lucked out, with a little bit of maintenance and care over the next few months, this can become a really, really nice example.
Oh, and if you know Pumas and think those wheels aren't right on a 2000 X plate, you're right, they'd moved on to spoked wheels by then. In the first owner's paperwork stack is an invoice from the Ford dealer for 4 alloy wheels at the time of sale; it appears he specifically got the turbine ones added on.
My old faithful daily driver Volvo seems to be living a charmed existence currently, it developed an engine oil leak between the engine and gearbox after I stupidly over filled it (albeit slightly) when I did the annual oil/filter change recently so I feared the main crank seal had failed which is a serious job to replace on one of these, the prognosis became even more desperate when I removed the oil filler cap and a fairly loud popping noise was apparent leading me to think something within the engine had failed and maybe caused excess crankcase pressure.
After a bit of online research the source of the popping noise turned out to be nothing more serious than failed vacuum engine mounts, in the true spirit of this place I effected a bodge and disconnected the vacuum supply to the engine mounts and wrapped some insulating tape around a small valve, and hey presto the popping noise stopped as has the engine oil leak! The euphoria was complete when the car went through the MOT last week needing no more than a few bulbs and handbrake adjustment, it even flew through its emissions test after I removed a completely shot EGR valve and fitted a blanking plate in its place earlier this year.
From thinking the worse that might well have been the end of the road for the car after only 8 years of trouble free service, I’m happy now!
Well well well... nearly two years without any updates to this thread, hey?
Mmm, you don't get away that easily.
So, what gives in these strange times, daddy-o?
Well, not much in the way of motoring, to be fair.
Both the wub-wub-wub Forester Turbo and the increasingly scratty yet unkillable Mk1 Yaris have largely continued to just be an cars, in their usual disgustingly dependable early-2000s Japanese tradition.
Which means that, unlike my agonisingly-documented years of Rennering, nothing's really fallen off, blown up, or urgently needed to be bodged with White-Tac ten minutes before an MOT. Therefore, as predicted by the Autoshite sages upthread, I've merely missed out on a world of automotive pain - but you cats have missed out on further side-splitting* antics from the hapless DC and his ever-shifting roster of totally fucking fucked m8 sub-£300 Mk1 Lagunas.
But then, since both the Subaru and the Toyota have hardly been driven since midway through last March - to the extent that my insurer generously refunded me a whopping £10.08, since my average weekly mileage has dropped from 300 to less than 50 - and, with both of them running on Boris MOTs, I suppose they haven't had all that much opportunity to go wrong in a highly conspicuous and/or gratuitously expensive manner.
Until now, of course.
But with recent tales of @Tim_E's tribulations over his Passat, and @Dan_ZTT's relatable Vel Satis electronic funsies, I was moved to bang out a long-overdue update.
The Forester has proved itself a thoroughly decent motor, and it came as a mild shock to realise I've been driving it for verging on three years now, making it my second-longest lived daily after KAZ.
I mean, it's had a bit of work here and there - I replaced the droopy rear springs with heavyweight Sachs jobs not long after acquiring it, and then rebuilt the brakes with new discs 'n' pads all round over the summer, as they were never quite right and had become really gritty through lack of use. I didn't do this work myself, of course; I've no doubt I would have managed to take my head off my shoulders using a spring clamp, and my rip-roaring success* with brakes can also be found documented a few pages back. But other than a healthy appetite for headlight bulbs, Subaru ownership has been largely uneventful. A dashboard bulb here and a sticky boot release there; nothing much to write about, really.
So I didn't. Obviously.
Well, cold weather ain't great for shite motors, that much we know.
But, having started, run and stopped pretty much on the button since I acquired it, I suppose I'd become somewhat complacent.
So, Christmas Eve 2020. I'd headed out early to pick up a few last-minute bits and bobs, for a greatly-reduced and socially distanced pandemic festive season. So far, so good. Christmas Day, we went nowhere - video calls to friends and family, and a dinner that mainly involved a gigantic bowl of prawn cocktail each. Hey, we're all just trying to do it to get through it, and if 'it' happens to be a kilo of prawns, then I'll be doing my bit, for sure.
Then, on Boxing Day afternoon, I went out to retrieve some stuff from the boot and the central locking wouldn't unlock when I jabbed the keyfob. Nothing. Nada.
Now, I knew the fob was already a bit dicky, often requiring four or five increasingly irate pushes before it'd operate. I'd replaced the battery about a year before and given the contacts a good scrub with electrical cleaner, to no avail.
Typically, the car only came with one key, and after the purchase I'd tried and failed to find anyone who could cut me a like-for-like spare. The weird one-button design of this particular fob doesn't match the one shown in the owner's manual, and seems nigh-on impossible to find; replacement two-button Subaru keys are widely available, but apparently not the one-button type.
Naturally, Subaru had decided to fit these fobs with a weird narrow-but-thick CR1632 button cell battery, which had given me all sorts of gyp while trying to track one down before; apparently, these aren't ones you can simply pick up from the battery section in Home Bargains or Tesco. Why I hadn't bought two of them last year is anyone's guess, but I ended up ordering one on Boxing Day Night from Amazon (yes, just the one - because, as you'll deduce after three consecutive Mk1 Lagunas, I never learn).
What with seasonal festivities, and New Year, and the country falling into a terrifying vortex of death and despair as COVID-19 fatalities went through the fucking roof again, it took a little while for the fob battery to turn up on the doorstep (and I genuinely am grateful for the postal delivery workers who have gone way above and beyond to keep things even slightly functioning in this past year; even though Jeff Bezos seems to have trouble finding his wallet when it comes to paying them a fair wage).
During this time, it had occurred to me that I might use the dead key to manually open the car through the driver's side lock and retrieve my festive delights from the boot, but I was dissuaded from this by fears that I would trigger the alarm via the interior sensors, and then be totally unable to switch the damn thing off, and end up having to rip out all the wires and cables with my bare hands just to stop the bastard sounding over and over and over and over, my ham-fistedness then causing something fatal to the needlessly complex Sigma alarm/immobiliser system.
And we certainly wouldn't want any of that happening. Can you even imagine how much of a total fucking ball-ache it would be if that happened, boys and girls?
[Pregnant pause for dramatic eyebrow raising and heavy foreshadowing, in best storyteller tradition.]
Of course, the new fob battery made not a shred of difference. Still nothing doing, no matter how much I pushed, begged and pleaded.
So, reasoning that the microswitch had finally given up completely (after giving me scarcely a year's warning that it was failing - tut tut) and lacking any of the tools, parts or technical wherewithal to solder on a new one, for once I did the smart thing and went looking for a professional who could repair it properly.
Of course, no local locksmiths reckoned they could do the work, and what with a nationwide stay-at-home order in force, travelling further afield in the off-chance wasn't a realistic possibility. Luckily, eBay rode to the rescue with a postal key repair service; the specific mono-buttoned Forester fob was listed, with a same-day turnaround…
So although I had my misgivings about entrusting the only key to the car to the tender mercies of Royal Mail, I told myself I was merely being paranoid. But of course I selected a tracked and signed next day service, for total peace of mind.
Oh, you can see where this is going too, can't you?
I'll draw a veil over the ensuing postal shitshow, but suffice to say the grim details can be found on the Grumpy Thread.
I should clarify that my gnashing of teeth wasn't directed at those Royal Mail employees out doing the deliveries, again in very challenging and dangerous conditions, but the fact that their online retail arm was continuing to sell premium next-day services with no ability to actually provide the service paid for. If the website had simply said, 'look, we're flat-out here, we'll do our best but no promises, right now it's second -class mail only, tracked if you need it' then I would have been cool with that.
So it was nearly a month before I saw my key again; all of it down to Royal Mail slinging my 'guaranteed next-day' parcel into a corner of a warehouse and then ignoring it for three and a bit weeks, and none of it down to the repair dude in Peterborough, who did indeed turn the repair round the same day it arrived, and had it back with me the next.
Problem solved, hey?
Sagging with relief, I pointed the key at the Forester and… nothing. Again.
Now, I could feel the new switch clicking ok, so clearly the work had been done. But the car remained stubbornly locked.
A quick peek inside revealed the clock was now blank… and after manually unlocking the door (with some trepidation) and popping the bonnet, a quick tickle with a battery tester tool confirmed that the battery was now totally flat.
Muttering assorted curses, I dragged the battery out (not as easy as it might have been, due to the crowded engine bay) and slung it on the charge overnight, first topping up the electrolyte which was looking unhelpfully low.
It seemed to take a charge ok, so I threw it back into the engine bay the following morning and connected it all up. Hopes were high, but still nada. The central locking did now operate from the keyfob and the clock came back on, but efforts to turn the engine over merely resulted in assorted relay clickings and dimming dashlights. No cranking.
Well, bollocks. A goosed battery.
A feeling of dim irritation scratched at my fingertips, as I twigged that this could have accounted for the sudden non-opening on Boxing Day, and perhaps I'd been a little too quick to ascribe it to the dodgy-looking keyfob. I've only once before had a battery totally fail on me without warning - and that time it left me stranded mid-way round the Great Ocean Road outside Melbourne, in a deserted national park with no mobile phone signal. So y'know, small mercies and all that.
I slammed the bonnet and invented a few new curse-words. It was early February, it was freezing, I had nowhere to go anyway so what was the point in prioritising expenditure on this bag o'misery right now? It had sat now for about five weeks, a few longer wouldn't kill it.
In best Cosmic Joker tradition, my bluff was called at around half past three the following morning.
Fuck. Is that...?
I hammered down the stairs, clad in my cosy jim-jams, and began rummaging frantically in the key box while MrsDC smacked on the hall lights, temporarily blinding me.
The Forester's alarm has done this before. It's a pain in the hoop, and Subaru forums the world over have any number of threads about problematic alarms. It seems that Subaru, keen to ensure that ne'er-do-wells don't get an easy time in pinching their esteemed products, have such ludicrously sensitive alarms and locks that damn near anything sets them off.
So I'm no stranger to this 3.30am alarm call (and neither are the other 400 households within earshot), usually triggered by a cat jumping on the roof, the dashcam sucker coming off the windscreen, a particularly lardy leaf brushing the doorhandle, or a blackbird looking at it funny.
But usually I just need to give the keyfob a squeeze and it shuts off. Most of the time I don't even need to open the front door; I can just press the button in the hall and silence blessed silence returns, allowing me to slink back upstairs again and pretend it was nothing to do with me.
But not this time.
I jabbed away at the newly-repaired keyfob like a maniac, but to no avail.
Wrenching the front door open, I stood outside under the winter night's frosty void, pointing the key in fury at the flashing, squealing Forester, like a deranged Harry Potter in slippers.
Alarmus fucking negato.
(Not actual game footage)
I knew that the alarm was meant to only sound for thirty seconds before automatically turning off, but this was a long thirty seconds. A very, very long thirty seconds.
Lights were starting to come on in some of the bedroom windows opposite. FFS.
I tried the Subaru's doors to find they were still locked despite all the fob-battering, and with the alarm still showing no sign of getting bored with its earsplitting nocturnal warblings, I scuttled round to the driver's door and manually unlocked it, before trying the button again from the inside - for reasons that are still unclear.
Naturally, no improvement was forthcoming.
I tried the key in the ignition, in case this would magically silence it. Nope.
I flailed around, jabbing on all the overhead lights as if that might help the situation; I even pulled everything out of the glove box in case there was a miracle device in there that would end this sonic torment for me and about two-thirds of the population of south-east Antrim, but in doing so simply managed to scatter a Belfast A-Z, the locking wheel nut socket and, oddly, a large block of marzipan onto the floor, but noooooo... the alarm decided to just keep on keepin' on.
Eventually, the voice of reason made itself known through the electronic tumult, in the form of a somewhat fed-up MrsDC.
"Can you not just disconnect the battery?"
Yes. Yes, I probably could. Or I could wait until a mob formed and tried to do something clever to my neck using a length of knotted towrope and next door's cordyline tree, but on speedy reflection I felt this was a reasonable course of action to explore further without the encumbrance of a business case.
I popped the bonnet lever, and scurried round to the front of the car. The Subaru's release catch is never quite where I expect it to be, so a further ten seconds of fumbling ensued while I swore and barked my knuckles on the freezing metal. Eventually, I got the bonnet up.
Oh brilliant, now people across the Irish Sea in Dumfries could enjoy Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd's contribution to the dawn chorus. How astute of Subaru's design team to realise that when a car's being tea-leafed in Belfast, it's important that people in Carlisle know about it.
It felt like I was being strobed with one of those sound cannons used to break up riots; the fluctuating pressure on my eardrums was unbelievable, as I grabbed and pawed at anything resembling a cable in my stunned stupor.
Suddenly, it all stopped. Everything.
Was I dead? Had someone taken pity on my cack-handed endeavours and just knocked me out with a single .30 rifle round, fired from their bedroom window?
Hopefully. It certainly seemed a preferable outcome to having to deal with this fuckabout any longer.
But no; I'd managed to wrench off the clamp from the battery's negative terminal. A blessed peace descended once more upon the land.
I closed the bonnet and limped inside, my ears ringing and my knuckles grazed, and my bollocks frozen.
Fuck me ragged. Cars, eh?
The next morning, looking suitably chastised, I dutifully toddled over in the Yaris to the Local Motor Factor a few streets over and, via a mixture of improvised mime and Makaton through masks from a distance of 2 metres across the Perspex till barrier, I managed to communicate that I needed a new car battery. The old one was tested and pronounced useless (dead cell); and I was relieved of seventy quid for an unfamiliarly named 'Napa' replacement with a 5yr warranty.
I sloped on home, and slotted the new one into the Forester's irritatingly small and inaccessible battery tray, which required the bending of various air con gubbins in a way that appears somewhat unwise, in order to get it in.
I also noted that this power cube boasted a rather beefier CCA rating of 510, rather than the 380 amps of the problematic Exide that had lived in there previously. Hmm.
Nipping everything up, it was time for the moment of truth...
It started! The old Subaru flat-4 caught and went whurble-whurble-whurble for the first time in about six weeks.
I left it to run, to get it up to temperature before doing anything more ambitious. A quick scoot-over with the battery tester device indicated no alternator issues, which had also concerned me, and I was greatly reassured that the transponder in the keyfob hadn't managed to lose all its data or something during the repair process. It lived!
I R MECKANICKING JEANIUS.
Feeling well chuffed - while trying to forget that there was plainly never anything wrong with the keyfob in the first place so I could have saved myself all that expense and hassle in the first instance - I decided to take the car up to the filling station and reinflate the tyres, which had gone a bit saggy-looking in the intervening time.
But, as luck would have it, something elsewhere needed attending to first, and then summat else, and suddenly the car had been idling for half an hour and I had other tasks still incomplete so... feeling pleased, I shut the engine off and locked up, intending to do the tyres and take it for a drive tomorrow.
But, as Ronan Keating posited so touchingly/mawkishly (delete as appropriate) - what if tomorrow never comes?
It was still dark when I was awoken from my slumbers once again.
I flollopped down the stairs like a drunken sack of spuds, and was so insensible to all but the hideous electronic keening that I was out the door with the car keys before I realised that I wasn't wearing my slippers, or indeed any other form of footwear.
We have a gravel driveway. Actually, that's not quite true. We have a grit driveway. Because I am a cheap-ass mofo (who knew?), I twigged that it was much, much cheaper to buy ton bags of horticultural grit than it was to buy yer actual driveway gravel. Because you really don't notice the difference - except if you happen to walk on it in bare feet because, here's the thing; gravel is biggish and rounded, and grit is small and sharp. Damned sharp.
Suddenly, I became very much apprised of the opposing spatial properties of grit vs. gravel, but hadn't really the time to go into the subtleties of the argument since, like tending a squalling infant, my overriding instinct at that moment was directed solely at the Subaru's squealing and my heartfelt desire to MAKE IT STOP.
As before, pressing the keyfob did nothing at all, so I scuttled round to the driver's side, manually unlocked the door, reached in and hauled at the bonnet release cable.
Some more messing with the catch earned me another faceful of decibels ( WEEEEEEEowwwww WEEEEEEEowwwww etc etc), and then I twisted and joggled at the negative battery clamp (which, it turned out, I'd done an absolutely first-rate job of nipping up really tightly) until, eventually, a shocked peace reverberated through the pre-dawn streets once more.
I'll admit it, I was close to tears this time. I'd bought it a new battery, I'd bought it a new microswitch, and in return I'd managed to piss off every man, woman and child in a mile radius on two consecutive nights - plus my bare feet were full of sharp grit.
I limped back inside, and spent the lonely hours before sun-up in the bathroom, removing said pieces of grit from my feet using tweezers and a bowl of TCP, all the while doing some hardcore rumination on my life choices to date, and would a Hyundai i20 on finance really be such a bad thing after all?
It's contemplative moments like these on ghost-grey February mornings that I believe can break a shiter. I'm sure as and when Martin Scorsese gets around to putting together a biopic of my assorted motoring non-adventures (hey, he's a busy guy, don't @ him) he'll probably add in some sort of flashback montage around this scene, involving such highlights as me tooling round in a Datsun Sunny with plastic sheeting instead of windows, having to ask MrsDC to hang off the end of a 5ft breaker bar to support the engine in a Polo while I removed one of the mounts, and setting my trousers on fire while trying to take the exhaust off a Viva HC with an angle grinder. Probably with an appropriately melancholic soundtrack (emphatically not Ronan Keating, though). Hey, he can fill in the details; I'm not gonna tell him how to do his job.
So, self-pity aside (and hey, I don't like to brag but I know how to throw one hell of a pity party), the following morning the Forester was still inert, and every time I took a step my feet felt like I'd stuffed my socks with steel swarf.
I was also delighted* to realise that I'd apparently broken the bonnet release in my haste to shut the thing up, as the damn bonnet now wouldn't close at all.
So I did what I always do in these situations; I ignored it. I ignored the shit out of it. For about a month and a half. Which was something of a challenge, since it's right outside the front door, but I have form in this kind of endurance test, so I was pretty confident I'd win. Just ask any of the Renners. Two years? Easy.
Every weekend, MrsDC and I would stage a jolly pantomime over breakfast, where she'd casually ask if I was planning on doing anything with the car, and I'd tell her I was going to fix it. Then we'd both have a good laugh, and I wouldn't.
Life's a riot over at Casa Datsuncog.
But once again, I managed to draw on my deep reserves of personal character, and so a heroic battle was waged over the course of a few weeks between my total apathetic laziness and my utter, shameless parsimony, which was incandescent that I'd stumped up three months' worth of road tax in 2021 (value: nearly £100) for a car that had not turned a wheel on the Queen's highway in all that time.
Thus, Parsimony demanded that Apathy ought to just crack on and SORN the fucker if it was going nowhere, and cut our damn losses while we worked out what to do with the ungrateful remains. Apathy protested that it was really all Motivation's fault for doing nothing beyond warily pushing at the bonnet every few days just to confirm it still wouldn't latch, while Motivation then shouted that Parsimony was really to blame for not calling out a mobile autospark back in January to confirm what the actual fucking problem was, rather than piss about playing fucking parts darts for weeks at a stretch.
You really don't want to live in my head, I tell you. You really don't.
So on Sunday past, I cracked. I did. It was a surprise to me just as much as you, let me say.
The first thing was the bonnet latch. Now, I have no special knowledge of bonnet latches, to be fair, but the principle of the thing is fairly simple - basically a bike brake, but attached to a spring to release a rotating chock and allow the bonnet to move up thanks to another spring. There had to be a limit to the complexity of this one, even by my rock-bottom skills.
Luckily*, the grille pretty much fell off in my hand, so I could quickly see what was going on behind. (Note to self: order more cable ties ASAP)
Prodding at the mechanism with a screwdriver did nothing much, so the next challenge was - remove the latch without killing myself. I was fairly sure the rather terrifyingly powerful spring was retained inside, and wouldn't ping out and embed itself in my throat as soon as I began to slacken the bolts, but still...
Mmmm, that's looking pretty horrible.
Off with the braided cable, and I skipped back into the comparative warmth of the house to give the whole shebang a nice bath in some household petrol and a brisk scrub with a toothbrush [insert joke about 'reminder to rinse the missus' toothbrush before returning it to the bathroom', arf arf]
Yeah, that looks a brave bit better.
Thoughts of a quick win have been far from my mind of late, but I was genuinely amazed to find that when reattached, the bonnet now closed and opened correctly. So it was just choked solid with old grease and glar.
Giddy with excitement at Phase 1, I turned to the battery. Gingerly, I reconnected the negative lead...
MrsDC did all sorts of ingenious things with the key from the driver's seat while I whipped the terminal on and off. Some folks on the Subaru forums recommend the use of 'valet mode' to deal with a misbehaving alarm, involving pressing buttons a certain number of times with doors and ignitions in specific positions to deactivate the alarm.
However, my own Forester manual says nothing at all about this mode (maybe because valet parking ain't really a thing here in Blighty?) and my efforts to follow their step-by-step instructions ran into bother. The advice given was to open the car as normal, get in while leaving the door open, then press and hold the 'unlock' button for two seconds to activate valet mode, which would cause the immobiliser light on the dash to double-flash to show it was activated . Sadly, as mentioned, this particular fob doesn't possess a dedicated 'unlock' button - only the one dual function lock/unlock button - so all that happened was that the car tried to lock itself again as soon as the button was pressed.
And all the while going WEEEEEEEowwwww WEEEEEEEowwwww WEEEEEEEowwwww WEEEEEEEowwwww WEEEEEEEowwwww WEEEEEEEowwwww. Plenty of that.
With patience running thin, I tried to work out what the problem might be. Were the keyfob and immobiliser system no longer on speaking terms, since the microswitch was replaced? No, because it had run when the new battery was fitted.
Were the immobiliser and alarm banjaxed due to being left with no battery connected? Possibly. I've heard of otherwise sound cars being bridged as they've ended up with a recurring alarm fault that just can't be traced or fixed following a battery problem. And at first the car was ok when the battery was connected - but now the alarm was sounding as soon as the terminal made contact with the cable.
I glared at the new battery. Maybe... maybe it was dodgy? It's far from unknown; back in my Halfords days, there was probably a 10% return rate on new batteries (what can I say, they were made by Lucas back then...). I went in and found my multimeter, which indicated 11.34v across the terminals. Not, like, flat - but not great.
So I pulled the battery again, and hooked it up to the old Linwood charger overnight. Maybe it was faulty, maybe it was just low after being left to sit unconnected for several weeks. Maybe there was an electrical drain somewhere? I'd spent a happy* few weeks trying to solve the riddle of the Amazing Disappearing Charge on my flatmate's Metro back in Brighton many years ago, and never did get to the bottom of the issue.
Just as I was looking at the Linwood's needle trembling around the charge gauge's halfway mark, there came a familiar sound from outside.
WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK??
For a second, I thought I was actually losing my mind. The battery was sitting there in front of me on the kitchen worktop, yet the Forester's alarm was unmistakable.
Was there a SECONDARY battery?
Was there a BACKUP independent alarm system?
Were we deep into the same twilight realm of @Jim Bell's Zafira alarm woes, and the immortal "I did a bad fright"?
My brain splintering into fragments, I rushed to the front door and pulled it open.
You have no idea how glad I was to realise that it was next door's son's Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X spitting its dummy out on this occasion. Interesting that it must use the same Sigma alarm siren as the Subaru. I'm pretty well attuned to that particular sound these days, believe it or not.
By Monday morning, the battery was showing a healthier 12.38v across the poles, although after disconnection this dropped after a few hours to 12.24v. I left it out on the worktop, checking on it every now and then like a worried old lady whose cat's gone off its food.
On Tuesday evening, with 3 tons of topsoil due for delivery the next morning (plus another ton of grit to top up the driveway, because as we know I never learn), I realised it was essential to get the Forester mobile and out of the drive, or risk imprisoning it behind all the dumpy bags for another couple of months. So, having prevaricated mightily all day and with the scanty spring evening light now going, I bit the bullet and slotted the battery back in. And reattached the retaining bar. Now or never.
Positive clamp to positive terminal. Okay.
As I touched the negative clamp to the negative terminal, the alarm gave a brief squawk and, as a reflex, I pulled it back off again. FFS. Was this really going to fight me every step of the way?
Screwing down my courage to the sticking point, I jammed the clamp firmly onto the terminal.
Nothing. No alarm. Silence.
I lowered the bonnet.
I pressed the key fob.
The car locked. The lights flashed.
I pressed it again.
Feeling like this was more of a job for the bomb squad, I opened the driver's door. Silence. Nothing.
Just the 'immobiliser disarmed' light glowing red on the clock cubby.
Key in. Engage.
BANG! It fired up!
That familiar roar through the stainless back box, and the throb of the flat-4. It worked.
I sat back in the seat, in relief.
And then I noticed the glow from the overhead lights. I possibly wouldn't have noticed if it had been earlier in the day, but as I said, the daylight was going.
You may recall that way back, on the occasion of the Forester's first performance of solo nocturnes, I'd knocked all the interior lights on to see what was what?
And then pulled the battery lead?
And then fitted a brand new battery on a sunny spring morning, which ran fine?
But then the alarm went off again, about 18 hours later?
You're all way, way ahead of me here, aren't you?
Yeah. I'd drained the brand new battery with the still-switched-on interior lights that I didn't notice were on, causing the alarm to flip out when the voltage dropped below 12 volts.
That was the problem the whole time.
I was giving serious thought about selling it as a non-runner, or even scrapping it altogether. When it turns out the the only problem is that I'm as dumb as a bag of rocks.
Well well well.
And you know what the best bit is?
I did exactly the same fucking thing with one of the Lagunas four years ago.
A tale of two collections, part two.
Idly browsing Gumtree at the beginning of last week, I stumbled across a highly desirable piece of Autoshite. "Posted four minutes ago....". The location was sub-optimal. Redhill in Surrey. Two stops from Gatwick though...
A deposit was sent and a flight booked, all arranged for Saturday evening. A very excited wait ensued.
Set off about 5m on Saturday. Mode of transport one, a little Mercedes Sprinter based bus into Town;
Step two, the Glasgow Airport "Express";
I hate this bus. Nine fucking quid for a single journey to the airport from Buchanan Bus station. You can dress it up with nice upholstery all you want but it's £9 for a one way 7 mile bus journey is ridiculous.
At least it's a scenic trip;
Anyway, it got there. I was on the 19:50 flight to Gatwick which was pretty painless. Toy train to South Terminal at Gatwick and onto a train to Redhill.
Met the seller at home in Redhill and picked the car up, lodgings were booked in Milton Keynes to do the M25 portion during night hours. Here we see my purchase outside my salubrious overnight stop for the first time.
It's a 2001 Citroen Synergie 2.0 TD in SX trim. It's done 160k. Was purchased off a nice French couple who were really sad to see it go. It's a nice honest car that wears its miles quite well, don't think it's had a stint as a works van at any point!
The sills have had a tickle at last MOT and one of the doors has a suspicious tidemark, there are dents here and there. There are plenty receipts though,the interior is in nice order and even the A/C works.
Decided to make a bit of a holiday of it. Got a cheap return from MK to London on the Sunday morning and done a tourist.
Room with a view;
Spot of the trip, outside Euston Station;
Monday started with a visit to Crich Tramway which I thought was great, three different trams on the go all day. Highly recommended. The editor has gone a bit haywire, so see video at the end.
The steed in daylight;
It got home no problem. It even had just under 3/4 of a tank in it when collected and made it home absolutely no bother despite having A/C running whole time. Cruising between 62 and 70 variously. Seems to be very decent on fuel.
It's a comfy car, the two armrests are well positioned and the driving position pretty conventional. Not a great deal of room for clutch foot resting and no cruise being the only drawbacks. Far more refined than I'd thought.
Some all important interior money shots;
You'll notice it has fancy seats from the Executive model in the back row. They're really nice and have twin armrests. There are various slots in the floor so you can arrange the seats in a myriad of different ways. I think I'll remove the middle three and bring the rear two forward to create an executive four seater. They can them tumble forward to allow for load lugging.
I rarely need to carry more than a couple of passengers. The large load area is more useful.
It's not had a timing belt since 2009 from the look of things, so I think I'll put it in for it's MOT and if all OK stump up for that. It does leave me with five on fleet (although MX-5 will almost certainly not be here past the next week). Will have to decide if it can stay as part of a group of four, or if something will need moved on.
With this collection trip, I believe that takes my collection mileage for October to approximately 2000 miles. Inverness, Basingstoke and Redhill.
Tram as promised;
A tale of two collection capers, part one.
Not myself buying the car this time but my brother. Found on an owners club forum for ACTUAL MONEY. 8 years old, sub 100k and full main dealer history meant it should be fairly uneventful.
These events took place last Thursday and Friday.
Basingstoke was the destination. Leg one;
On to Waterloo for a train to Basingstoke;
It was a hideously muggy day, but we made it to our lodgings at the Premier Inn in Basingstoke around 12:30am.
After a Greggs breakfast we met the chap and a distressing amount of reddies were digitally exchanged. We set off North towards the British Motor Museum at Gaydon, where we see the steed for the first time;
It's a Lexus GS450H premier. A 3.5 V6 twinned with a Hybrid drive system. It goes like the hammers of fuck and is ridiculously serene and comfortable.
Really enjoyed our visit to the museum;
Venturing North ocne more;
The spot of the trip at Warrington Mcdonalds;
The rest of the trip was as uneventful as you'd expect. CVT witchcraft seeing 1k RPM @ 80mph on a private test track.
Got home about midnight, feeling not too bad for 425 miles in a day.
The hydraulic pipe that has burst on mine is part number 20 on this diagram. A Mercedes only part according to my local MB specialist. It lives under the near side plastic front wing liner so a well known rot spot on 210's. Luckily i replaced the near side front wing less than 2 years ago so it will be easy to take the wing off to investigate or keep the new wing when/if i have to scrap the car.
I start training for my new job in just over an hour. It's been so quick going from interview to offer to start date I've not really had a chance to worry about it. I visited a couple of friends who've worked in call centres on Saturday and they assured me I'm going to love* it. How bad can it be?
Just had a thought. You know I mentioned the wheels are too small and the speedo is over reading?
That will mean the tachometer is also over reading so it is recording more mileage than it is actually travelling. So if I drive at a true 100kmh for an hour and the speedo is showing 110kmh, the tacho will record 110kms travelled. This means my fuel economy test is wrong, possibly 10% optimistic. So let’s assume we are probably averaging closer to 47mpg for the moment.
Got to get bigger wheels or higher profile tyres. It seems the 165/80/13 options are mainly van or trailer tyres and not really ideal for cars. In the U.K. I can get some decent options in that size but there are few here. Not sure I want to spend $106 on Firemax tyres. I can get Goodyear Duraplus for $100 after discount but they have terrible reviews.
The car was originally supplied with 155/80/13’s. I gain the correct rolling radius but lose tyre width and potentially some grip. Plus they aren’t that cheap really. That said I can get Marshal (basically Kumho Solus tyres from ten years ago) for around $80.
Anton from the local tyre place reckons 175/70/13 might be a decent trade off as that gains me more width and surprisingly a bit more diameter. A couple of Dunlop options are currently on special - SP Sport at $72 and SP Touring at $57 which are both tempting. Still light on diameter though.
current tyre circumference - 1763 mm
original size tyres - 1817 mm
175/70 tyres - 1807 mm
So Anton may be correct. I will still have a little less circumference but 10 mm is going to matter less than 54 mm. Plus they will fill the arches a little better, be wider, gain a little ride height and are cheaper so it’s basically a decent compromise. Speedo should be a little bit more honest too.
Of course Anton doesn’t supply these, he only does Laufenn and HiFly and is more expensive than Hyperdrive. Might just have to ask him nicely if we will fit some I supply myself. He’s a grumpy bastard so might ask someone else!
Anyway in more exciting news the local Cinema (think small barn) is showing The Italian Job on Saturday so off to buy tickets. Not sure how busy it will be but can guarantee I will be the only one mouthing all the words.
All the clearance parts pretty much sold out. Not that I need any although some cheap oil filters, a rocker gasket and a dizzy cap wouldn’t go to waste
Anyway more shite advertising. Note the happy folk ticking the little boxes, well I do that too. Bear in mind they are Australian and therefore physically perfect which is where any similarity ends.
My box says “Still an uncomfortable old shitebox?” and the next one says “starts on the button and sounds silky smooth?” and I get to tick both. A third one says “Oooh, is that Josie by Steely Dan?” and I don’t get to tick that one because for some reason the car always blasts out Pickney Girl first thing...
OMG. Dunno what the second jab hangover was like for the AstraZeneca but the Pfizer ain’t much fun.
Today we jabbed 1199 people with batch FF4222. I have written that number at least 300 times today on peoples vaccine cards. I don’t know why it stuck but I think it looks like the Product code for a Ferguson four wheel drive unit for a Jensen Interceptor. Two collapses, both pre jab from people who are scared of needles. That is far more common than negative reactions.
Car wise I bump started a nurses Yaris which had a flat in the car park. Why does nobody know how to do a bump start any more? Can’t be a bad idea to add it to the driving test? The Mitsi also had its belt nipped up a tad and the squeal is gone which is nice.
Ran it’s first full tank of fuel through it and managed 633 kilometres. Light wasn’t on but imminent so maybe we can say 660 kms maximum range on. Oddly the web suggests the tank is 47 litres but mine seems to be 35l. Maybe different for Japan? Or smaller for the 1300? Seems odd. Anyway, it did 410 miles on 7.7 gallons making 53mpg. That seems uncommonly good. If it has got a 47l tank, that means 10.1 gallons of fuel lasted 410 miles giving a whisker over 40 mpg. Low traffic and a maximum speed of 62mpg undoubtedly helping there but still perfectly acceptable figures for a 23 year old car.
There were activities....
Number One. I couldn’t resist it. I like a bargain and when presented by Repco clearing out old stock, the prospect of new brake cylinders for five bucks was irresistible. I don’t need them of course, There were also two slightly differing types for my car so rather than run the risk of getting the wrong type I bought both.
Number Two. The fan belt was also replaced at last. All week I have been enduring steadily worsening belt slippage and it was a mere matter of time before it went pop. Generally straightforward enough apart from the inevitable inaccessible bolt which became much more accessible once the correct tool was found. Just in time too, bits of it were fraying off and with it split in two it’s days were numbered and short. A nice new Mitsuboshi one went on. It was cheap, rubbery, and one piece. Choice bro. Sounds much quieter and I look forward to using my heated rear window without waking the whole street.
Anyhoo, this thread is nothing without pics so here is Mitzi Kaput as she sits today. I have attached a vid too, not because I want to do a walk around but because there was an excellent bird singing and I liked it, that’s all.
Passenger door badly let’s it down. Some DIY paintless dent removal YouTubing is called for