Winter car maintenance, or the lack of it!

So, Christmas has been and gone; the New Year has been ushered in, I've driven up, down and across the country in a bid to appease all family members, and my cheap car insurance has thus far (touch wood) been unaffected by accident or injury.

However, the recent cold snap seems to have affected a large number of cars. Winter car maintenance has suddenly been flagged as important and returning to work today, after the weekend, there were various tales of car breakdown woes including a cross-Europe homeward trip on the back of a recovery vehicle, with a whole family in tow (literally).

My own car seems to have suffered significantly too; last week a brake light went, today I discovered one of my dipped headlight bulbs has gone, I have gone through cans of de-icer, bottles of anti-freeze, gallons of screen wash and to top it off my battery is misbehaving terribly. It has been a little dodgy for a few weeks now, but rather than replace it, I have just urged my partner not to sit with the ignition on without the motor running and to ensure he never switches the lights on before he turns the engine over. It seemed to have worked as well; the car continued to get us to and from work, until...

Yesterday, after a particularly gruelling day of athletics at a North London Arena (and yes, watching your son's pentathlon exploits is exhausting) I took the dreaded London Orbital car park route for our homeward journey. What should have taken a smidgen over 2 hours quickly turned into nearly three hours of hell on a Sunday night, with car accidents, traffic jams, idiot tail-gaters and icy rural roads in darkness.

Eventually, we made it home; the exalted athlete was ready for a bath, pizza and bed, and I had a hankering for a drop or two of Chardonnay. We came to the bottom of our road and just as I was about to signal my impending left turn, an ambulance came towards us with blues and twos blasting. Being the conscientious driver that I am, I stopped and waited patiently to let the ambulance go past, only to witness it turn into our cul-de-sac and promptly block all entrance for other vehicles. The ambulance personnel disembarked like stormtroopers, ran full-pelt into the old people's home that sits at the entrance of our close and I'll admit I swore under my breath. In the past this same thing has blocked the road for up to half an hour and I knew I had made a calculated error.

The journey home had already been the stuff of bad dreams and so, not wanting to prolong the agony for him, I told my son to get out of the car and walk the hundred yards to our house. And that was when the nightmare started. I put on my hazard warning lights and made the cardinal mistake... I turned off the engine and left the parking lights on.

I had sat for no more than three minutes when I realised my mistake and sure enough the car had died beneath me. When I turned the ignition key there was nothing, not a flicker, I couldn't even lock the doors. I exploded with rage, the expletives that reined forth from my mouth surprised even me, and my poor unsuspecting partner, who came down the road to offer to sit in the car until the ambulance moved, received the full force of my rant. To add insult to injury we were then asked to push the car out of the way, as we were blocking the path of the ambulance and my partner and I, who are not the most mechanically minded people, tried to bump start the car with pathetic ineptitude.

Eventually we pushed it to our house and left it there with a view to calling the breakdown people in the morning. I was exhausted, tearful and wanted to take a chain saw to the dismal lump of metal that purported to be our family car. My ever-calm partner suggested I go in and put my feet up. So, I did.

This morning it started without a murmur and my chagrin was palpable.

I am going to get a new battery... some time this week... or perhaps it could wait 'til the MOT in February...

Winter car maintenance is just a pain if you ask me. Getting cheap car insurance is a doddle compared to it and I'd rather do that any day, than visit a garage. It's almost certain to be cheaper too.

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