by Mike Peake
Another aside. Why I HATE newer cars! Actually I don’t. They definitely have their place but I do hate them when they go wrong.
I thought you might like to hear of a recent saga with Mrs FB’s very, very late 2000 VW Touran. Oh OK! It’s 2004 and doesn’t fit the criteria of either group. I‘ve already put myself on the naughty step just for thinking about writing it. However, this episode does bring home what a joy pre 85 classics really are in comparison and I hope you can enjoy it all the same.
So, are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin.
The Touran had been misbehaving over the winter, especially on really cold mornings. The Starter motor would occasionally turn over very slowly but still start the car. I hadn't changed the battery since we bought the car new, so assumed that was the problem and thought "I'll change that soon"
Anyway, soon never turned up and one day I got a phone call from Mrs FB to say car was completely dead and nothing happened when she turned the key.
Time to get the new battery says I and visit the local battery stockist on way home from work armed with model year and registration details. I purchase the recommended shiny new battery.
I spent half an hour removing all the covers (Including air filter box) to expose the old battery and fixing brackets. I spent 3 minutes removing the battery to discover that it is somewhat smaller than the shiny new one sat on the drive.
So I went back to local battery stockist with old battery under one arm and the new, too large, battery under the other. I explained, fairly politely, to the spotty Herbert behind the counter that perhaps he'd misread read the data on his computer and please supply me with the correct battery for Mrs FB’s car. which he did fairly quickly and with only minimal under breath mutterings.
I returned home and spent 3 minutes fitting the new battery and half an hour replacing all the covers (Including air filter box). I jumped into car feeling pleased with myself and turned the key to be treated to........complete silence! I jumped out of car, slammed the door and stormed into the house to sulk with a bottle of Merlot.
I thought about the problem overnight and decided it must be the starter motor at fault. Still cross with the car I decided to phone my local VW dealer for confirmation of my diagnosis and quote for doing the job. They confirmed that my diagnosis could be correct and then, with great delight, informed me that they would gladly change the starter motor in exchange for 320 of my hard earned pounds.
After I'd finished crying and mopped up all the coffee I had spluttered over my computer, I thought "How hard can it be? I’d worked on a couple of cars before (pre 1985 ones, granted) I'll give it a whack myself." "being terminally skint, I'll save myself a bit of cash too." I thought.
So I head out onto the drive and lift the bonnet again to have a look. A quick glance did not reveal the location of the starter motor. So, I sent out a search party provisioned for 2 days and equipped with mirrors, periscopes and rubber arms. I finally located the starter motor hidden behind many more layers of plastic covers both on top and underneath the engine compartment. (Are they really all necessary?)
Another hour was required to carefully remove all the said covers and lumps of unidentifiable plastic, and I can now see, and have access to, my recalcitrant starter. 5 Minutes was then spent removing the 2 electrical wires and a connector and the 2 securing bolts and the starter was out, tested and confirmed to be broken.
Back to the computer to search for a cheap replacement starter. However, I now consider that the vendors of VW starters must all be highway robbing nasty people trying to rip me off. They all wanted me to part with rather more of my money than I really had available.
I sit back and have a mug of coffee and another think "I bet it's just the brushes. I've changed the brushes on the washing machine motor. How hard can it be?"
So I decide to strip down the starter to see what the fault was and as I took the cover off lots of dust and springs and fragments of carbon fell out. “Haha! I was right” thinks I, and I decided that I would continue to strip and clean the rest of the starter ready for the shiny new brushes that I will source that evening.
With that, the loving Mrs FB, feeling sorry for me having to slave over her car for so long, bought me a cup of tea....and then proceeded to get very cross. Apparently, the coffee table in the sitting room ...well you know the rest... Anyway, Katie at A&E (Yes, we’re on 1st name terms now) was very understanding and gave me back the spindle and offered me a season ticket for the car park.
Back home again and who'd have thought that it would be so difficult to find a brush holder set? Everyone kept telling me that they don't sell those but could sell me the complete starter motor. I did find someone in China that would sell it to me, unfortunately he could only supply them in batches of 5000.
Finally, I tracked down a very nice chap on the great bay of E who would sell me just one brush holder set for £10. Now that's more like it!
3 days later it arrived and I fitted it to the lovingly cleaned (Twice) and re assembled starter motor, tested it (It worked) and refitted it to the car all in about 15 minutes! I jumped into the car, turned the key and to my very great surprise, it actually roared into life.
Feeling rather smug with myself, another hour was spent carefully refitting all the covers and unidentifiable bits of plastic. And I was able to present the loving Mrs FB with a fully operational car and we all lived happily ever after and feel very smug at being able to stick two fingers up to VW and their £320 quote. I have also written to VW to tell them that they miss-named the model and should, in fact, have called it the VW Tourette’s after all the bad words it made me use.
I will now try and reflect on this experience and next time I feel the need to swear at my Triumph, I shall simply remember this experience and smile instead. ...yeah right!
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