Sunday, January 6, 2013

Ford is a four letter word in this household

I don’t have high standards when it comes to cars, witness the fact that I drive a Shrek green Ford Territory, however I do have the clear expectation that when I turn the ignition key the car starts with a degree of aplomb.  2013 was not therefore, getting off to a cracking start when I turned the key in the Shrek mobile and discovered that in doing so I had shut off air con, radio and the ability to open the windows thus turning the car into a travelling greenhouse given the current mini heat wave in Sydney, but more worryingly the total brake failure light was glowing red.

I am not an ignition novice.  An early romantic encounter with Husband involved him towing my non-starting car half way across London.  What he remembers most from that outing was the fact I interpreted his hand signal of “Keep the tension on the tow rope tight” as “Take your hands off the wheel”, and gaily waved my hands in the air to show I was following instructions, leading to some interesting road manoeuvres of the slaloming type and more amazingly the continuation of the relationship.

My most notable car non-starter was in the US.  Rescue came in the form of a burly man, heavy of beard and brow, clad in the type of lumberjack shirt that features in Most Wanted Ads.  His first move was to berate me for parking the car in a non-towable spot – I restrained myself from pointing out I didn’t usually park my car in my own driveway with towing it out in mind.  He then proceeded to ask if I had a hammer handy, I advanced towards him timorously holding a large claw hammer at arms length, whereupon he swung it and whacked the steering column and lo and behold the car started.

This time round the problem is apparently a spring in the ignition barrel.  This didn’t sound too serious, so I placed it in nuisance category along with pantry moths and sand in bottom of shower.  That was before the mechanic broke it to me that to replace the spring, they would have to replace the ignition barrel and to replace the barrel, they would have to replace the steering column – and like the old lady who swallowed the fly – the operation required to right the situation doesn’t come cheap.  The cheery response of the Ford Australia operative to whom I spoke, or actually spluttered, was that I wasn’t the first who had had this issue, and presumably the same four letter response, on being told I was looking at a four figure sum to sort the problem, and indeed when I checked the internet that was absolutely right - there are many other drivers who have discovered they are about to be charged over a thousand dollars to replace a minor part.

Jeremy Clarkson I’m not, but it seems totally ridiculous that to sort the car equivalent of an ingrown toenail you have to amputate the leg, but actually I don’t have time to argue the design ethics of the situation with the Ford, I’m off to fetch my hammer.

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