Some of you may remember that when I wrote about my Ireland trip in early December I mentioned that I’d left my van with my friendly neighbourhood mechanic to sort out a bit of a problem with it while I was away, but unfortunately it hadn’t been done before I got back and I couldn’t leave the van with him any longer as I needed it for work and a 4-week pet sitting engagement, also he was going away himself for a month. The problem was an intermittent squealing noise coming from somewhere at the front of the van, and though initially it wasn’t too troublesome it was a noise which has gradually got worse since early this month.
On the Wednesday two weeks ago, as I was coming home from work early that morning, something under the bonnet ‘went’ and a banging noise developed – instinctively I knew there was something seriously wrong but luckily I was only three streets away from home so I put the hazard lights on, slowed right down and managed to get back, calling out the AA once I was home. The guy said that two of the three front belts had snapped, with one having wrapped itself round something it shouldn’t be wrapped round ; it was a problem which couldn’t be fixed at the roadside but he knew where the mechanic’s workshop was when I mentioned it – fortunately not too far away – so he said if I took it easy I could drive the van down there and he would follow behind me to make sure I was okay. So that’s what I did, and resigned myself to walking to and from my various jobs while the van was out of action.
By the Saturday I hadn’t had any news on the van so I went down to the workshop to check, only to be told that they couldn’t get the right belts for it – they’d had belts from four different local car accessory places but none had been the right size. The ‘problem’ is that the van is a Japanese import and though it’s based on a common Toyota body and chassis it’s a luxury version with an odd name and not many people in the car trade know what it is – even many insurance companies have never heard of it! Back at home I rang a Toyota breakers in the next town, only to be told “ring back on Monday” which I did, and was then told that they don’t sell belts, however the guy I spoke to was quite helpful and gave me some good information on how to get the correct ones.
So on Tuesday last week I went to the Toyota main dealer’s with the information I needed and the very helpful guy in there looked it up on the computer and ordered the belts I needed – luckily the Toyota place is only round the corner from my evening job so I collected the new belts on my way to work the following evening then dropped them off at the mechanic’s on Thursday morning. Late last Friday afternoon I got a text to say the van had been done and finally, after ten days of it being off the road, I collected it on Saturday – the mechanic’s mate who had done the work was rather derisive when I said how much the belts had cost, saying he could get them for only £8 each, but then the generic ones he’d got didn’t fit anyway whereas the genuine Toyota ones I got did, so I don’t mind paying a bit more for something that’s right.
It seemed however that the broken belts hadn’t been the only problem – the one that had been making the banging noise when it snapped had actually gouged a hole in the power steering pipe and while the van was at the workshop it had been leaking power steering fluid all over the place. The pipe had been fixed though and the power steering fluid topped up, and though I’ve only driven the van four short distances since Saturday everything seems to be okay with it, and at least the squealing noise has stopped.
Work-wise my main problem has been that two of the places where I work aren’t on direct bus routes so I’ve had to do a heck of a lot more walking than I usually do. Here’s an example – Tuesday morning : home to work 2.5 miles, work to Toyota dealer’s 3 miles, Toyota to town 1 mile, (town to home on the bus) total 6.5 miles. Tuesday evening : Job 1 to Job 2 – 1.25 miles. Thursday morning : home to work 2.5 miles, work to mechanic’s 2.5 miles, mechanic’s to home 1 mile, home to boss’s house and back 2 miles, total 8 miles. Friday morning : home to work and back 5 miles. Luckily, for my evening job I’ve been able to go most of the way on the bus but I’ve still had to walk three quarters of a mile from the bus stop to work and back again afterwards from Monday to Friday. So over the five days last week I did a total of over 28 miles of brisk walking, and that’s not counting the three days walking I did the previous week or all the walking about I do when I’m actually at work – no wonder I ended up with a blister on each foot and a worn out pair of trainers!
I must admit that in the nine years I’ve been driving the van that’s the first time I’ve ever had something major go wrong with it, so for a vehicle that’s 24 years old this year it’s done well so far. A broken fan belt or two is something that could happen to anybody due to wear and tear so I’ve just put it down to being one of those things – at least now I’ve got the van back I can get to and from work a lot easier, and it’ll save on blisters and trainers!