Wednesday waiting.

After I’d got back from Mum’s when I’d had all the problems with the battery, I took the car down to KwikFit to get it sorted out once and for all. I only just managed to get there as the car had no power and I had to limp down there in 1st gear with foot flat to the floor – traveling less than 20mph! (Good job it’s only a 2 minute drive!) They tested the battery and alternator and found them to be fine. This was a bit bemusing as in the 2 years we’ve been having this battery problem, we’ve been convinced that it must be the alternator if not the battery itself. (Logic tells us that either something is draining all the power from the battery or the battery isn’t charging.) They said it could be an electric fault (which would explain the intermittent nature of the problem) and we’d need an auto-electrician to check it out. As we were talking, the mechanic tested the battery and alternator again and now the alternator was only ticking over at 11v (instead of 15). He said that if it had been like that first time round, he’d have said it was the alternator, and that although it still could be, he’d rather I had the chance to get a 2nd opinion in case it was still an electrical problem – in which case I’d have paid for a new alternator for nothing. This made sense and I appreciated his honesty so limped the car back home. It then sat (dead) on the road opposite the house for 3 weeks as we had to first locate an auto-electrician (none in this town despite the plethora of garages!) then find a day when we were not working to take it in, remove the battery and charge it indoors, and then refit it.

So… Wednesday was the day the car was finally booked in to the auto-technician’s in a town about 20 minutes drive away. Billy was coming with me for moral support and to help me find the place and we left the house at just gone 9am after reconnecting the battery. As we pulled off, though, we had the same problem I’d had previously – no power and minimum revs. ARGH! We weren’t going to make it! We really needed somewhere to park up safely so turned down the industrial estate but as this had double yellow lines all down it we had to turn in to one of the businesses there – so chose KwikFit on the off chance they could do anything. They said not as they felt it was all part of the same electrical problem so we called the AA (having worked out that we were more than 1/4 of a mile from home since I have roadside only.) They said they were busy but would get someone to us as when they could so we sat in the car to wait.

A couple of updates, a Tesco bought picnic and 3 hours later, the AA man arrived!

Poor man, he’d had a busy morning in the pouring rain, but nonetheless he was very nice and he tested the battery and alternator. The alternator was now chucking out 17v of charge! Far too much, and very dangerous. When we turned on all the lights and heating, it settled back to a normal rate, so previously, far from helping matters by turning all such things off to save battery power, I’d been making things worse. He said he’d only seen it a couple of times and on the last occasion, the battery had blown up whilst the car moving – yikes! The sort-of-good news was that this was “simply” a case of needing a new alternator. Since we had been parked in KwikFit for 3 hours (with their kind permission – and a bag of doughnuts in thanks) they may as well do the job for me – this would also save moving the car. The AA man came inside to tell them his diagnosis and they phoned their parts people for a price. I was expecting around £200, so my jaw dropped when it turned out to be £465! (There were a couple of other customers int here at the time, and theirs did too!) On investigation, it seems that Nissan and Toyota alternators are more expensive than others. (Hm, the cynic in me wonders if this is because they are a known weak point so will need replacing? 😉 ) The AA man said there was a company down the A1 that could repair alternators – but this would still leave the problem of getting there, and to be honest, I think I prefer to know the part is new. He also suggested I try other garages to see if they could do better, but again I’d have to get there and it would take time to compare prices and then take the car in. I decided, despite the sinking feeling in my stomach, I wanted to just get the job done by KwikFit. Billy reckoned we could just about scrape together the extra £250 above the money I’d put aside for this repair, and we did feel that the alternator had been the problem all along (for a few years) so we agreed to go for it.

We arranged to collect the car on Friday as that was when we could get the money – but later that evening the garage called and advised that all four tyres were badly in need of replacing and were only just legal – and risky given the heavy rain, especially any long journeys down to Chester/Manchester. However this would cost another £200 or so and there was no way we could get that together for this week so we said to leave it for now. We’ve discussed it and will make sure I get the tyres changed in the next week or so before I go back down to Chester. So, we’ll have spent another £700 on the car then! The AA man reckoned it was worth around £1100 though so there is no way we could spend less than £700 and still get a basically reliable car. I reckon I’ll soon have a brand new car anyway – built piece by piece! 😉

So, a 3 week wait for an auto electrician when we didn’t actually need one, and a 3 hour wait in the pouring rain for the AA when we didn’t really need to have called them! On the plus side, Billy and I spent more time together that day than for quite a while, and we did rather enjoy each other’s company so the wait wasn’t as grim as it might have been. (Just rather ironic given that we could have walked the 10 minutes home and come back, had we known.)

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