Old crock


It is my birthday and my 23-year-old car will not start. It goes whirrrrrr….clickety clickety…clickety…click…click…….click…………click…………….cli

I’m no mechanic. But I have a 23-year-old car that I bought as a ‘project’ (Mrs R’s translation: self-indulgent waste of money and time), so I must diagnose the problem and fix it.

Fortunately, for my birthday my children have given me a book that I wanted. It is a handy repair and maintenance manual for my car. Using the troubleshooting guide I quickly diagnose that the car has a flat battery.

I go to the car parts shop and buy a battery charger as a special extra birthday present for myself. When I get home I tell Mrs R that it was cheaper than a new battery, so I have saved some money.

Without even using the book I am able to identify the battery in the engine compartment and remove it (Oooh, sparks!). It is a lot heavier than the battery in my torch. I expect it will be even heavier when it is charged.

I charge the battery…Time passes… It takes longer to charge than my phone.

The next day I reinstall the battery (Oooh, more sparks!) and turn the ignition key. The engine starts immediately, like new.

This is a major milestone in my ‘project’, but I am not complacent. I must investigate why the battery became flat.

Using the handy repair and maintenance manual I deduce that the battery is charged by the alternator. The alternator generates electricity (I’m not sure why it is not called a generator – but I never got beyond O-level physics) and is powered by a drive belt, which is driven by a big spinning pulley at the bottom of the engine.

The manual recommends that I check the tension in the drive belt. If it is too loose it will not turn the alternator properly, which in turn will not charge the battery. The manual says that the drive belt should only move about 1cm when pressed firmly at point A.

In the engine compartment I observe that you can only press firmly at point A if you have arms 5 feet long, two elbows and hands the same size as a three-year-old’s. So I press firmly on the drive belt at approximately point F.

The drive belt flaps languidly, like an elasticated waistband at the Slimmer of the Year awards. It is also remarkably frayed.

I consult the manual to find out how to remove and replace the drive belt.

“To remove the drive belt, first remove the cooling fan…” I look up cooling fan removal.

“To remove the cooling fan, first remove the radiator…” I look up radiator.

“To remove the radiator, first remove the front grille and trim…”.

I shut the bonnet and go inside for some leftover birthday cake.

7 Responses to “Old crock”

  1. 1 Camilla

    I believe in the Haynes manual for the original Mini there were some repairs which started “first, remove engine”.

    I think probably handbooks need to be prioritised like NHS direct, into “self help”, “see your doctor/friendly local mechanic today” and “call 999 at once”.

  2. New haynes guides have a helpful little key above each bit of repair/maintenance work. 1 spanner symbol represents an easy job with no special tools, 5 represents a complete b@stard of a job needing special tools, three attempts, lots of swearing and, eventually, a trip to the mechanic to sort out. These aren’t the actual words but they might as well be…

  3. 3 Mrs R

    Correction – self-indulgent waste of money, time and space. It is a blot on the landscape of our front garden and few people seem able to drive past it without driving over the front lawn (which I had only just tidied up before Alex bought the Gay Wagon).

  4. The gay wagon? what is this car??

    Happy Birthday too for yest! you share your B’day with my Mum :p

  5. 5 Amanda

    aaah, the joys of “when I get the time…” projects. We have one of those…the wardrobe doors that are still to go on from when I was in hospital giving birth to my 11 year old… Still, everyone needs a little sense of self-indulgence in their lives even though it doesn’t rate on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs… hmmm

  6. 6 John

    Come on Alex – fess up, what exactly is the Gay Wagon. I recon pink camper van!!!!!!

  7. 7 Andrew

    Merc 4×4 in pink… G-Wagon

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