Thursday 28 February 2013

Car saga

There are few things more disconcerting than driving a car that you expect to die on you at any moment. Especially when it has already broken down at a busy junction in the Monday morning rush hour. Neither Sharon nor I have felt the love for the Mazda 6 since I bought it last April. True, it is a good size for all the boys to fit in and has a great boot, but over the winter months it has been increasingly erratic when starting from cold. Generally it would cut out once or twice before I got the boys to school and, in the evening, I couldn't get it out the car park without it stalling.

Then, on Monday, it completely died on me at the junction of Midmar Drive and Blackford Road and would not restart. I finally got pushed to the side of the road by a couple of helpers and phoned the AA. I managed to get started after about ten minutes and limped into work with a few touch and go moments on Lothian Road and on entry to the car park. I redirected the AA man to come to my car park but it was no good. He couldn't fathom what the problem was and so we had to push it out of the car park so he could tow it up to GW Martin's garage for me.

Gerry Martin had a look at it on Tuesday but couldn't find an obvious fault. They changed the fuel filter and got it running so I picked it up, although, ominously, after sitting on the forecourt for a couple of hours, it wasn't a fluent start. Cue some serious internet research which didn't make for particularly inspiring reading. My symptoms seemed to point to a fuel pump problem of which there seemed to be no shortage for the Mazda 6. And neither was there an easy fix. My attention focused in on a faulty suction control valve (SCV) problem and when Wednesday's cold morning left me back at square one, my thoughts turned to replacing the Mazda. I had spotted an Audi A4 estate on the books of our old friends at Mackinnon Costello and duly arranged a test drive for lunchtime. It was exactly what I was looking for - a solid Audi build, a decent 1.9 litre diesel engine, in perfect nick with the timing belt done and 67060 miles on the clock. OK, so it was going to be a bit cramped for the boys and the boot was a fair bit smaller than the Mazda but it was just a pleasure to turn the key and start smoothly. The problem was getting the Mazda in a fit state to trade in.

Gerry Martin suggested I try Lawson Diesel off Bonnington Road. When I called them and told them the problem and what I thought might be the cause they concurred, saying they'd had a few problems like that with the Mazda and others. They had the part in stock so I bussed over there to collect it. £192 including VAT, but given they would charge £250 plus VAT to fit it, and I still had to get my car going, I decided to just pick up the part and see if I could get the car to Morningside. Back home then, and with the sun shining on the bonnet the warmth did the trick. I got the car started but it was another torturous journey of coasting to junctions and red lights and trying my damnedest not to stall the car. Somehow I got to GW Martin's without blocking Comiston Road or Morningside Road.

On Thursday morning they phoned. Fifteen minutes to fit the new suction control valve and the car started first time, depsite the cold. When I picked it up later it was running perfectly, like there had never been a problem. At least they never charged me for the fitting, given that I had previously forked out £95 for the new fuel filter which had failed to fix the problem. So I had the satisfaction of finding the solution to the problem but it was too late to change my mind about the Mazda which seemed destined to have more DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter) problems as it got older. DPFs were introduced into Japanese cars in 2005, some two years before European cars, due to more stringent environmental regulations in the Far East. So, to trade the Mazda in for the 55-plate Audi made sense to me, even if I was a few thousand quid out of pocket.

A week I could do without repeating.

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