Archive | December, 2015

Car saga or ‘Inspector Clouseau is on the case’

6 Dec

The irritating thing about modern(ish) cars is that when they go wrong they can be increibly hard to fix. In the old days, cars were relatively simple; I remember my dad getting a Ford once where the heater was an optional extra! And who can forget the Ford Consul or Zephyr range where the windscreen wipers were operated by the vacuum from the engine so that going up hills they moved V E R Y slowly but going downhill they thrashed across the screen like a whirling dervish!

Well, nowdays the modern car has so many sensors on it that when one goes wrong, it can be a devil to find out which one. And this is the case with our Mazda Premacy that Trish bought in July 2014 from our local garage in Pezens (proprietor Raymond).

It’s a lovely car, shown here wearing a mattress on its roof! Our Mazda has five seats but the rear three can either be dropped down or removed entirely so it’s a very useful vehicle for us at The Tannery. The engine is a 2 litre turbo powered diesel and it is very economical, consuming 5 litres per 100 kilometres (or 47 mpg) most of the time.

Having run faultlessly for eight months, it developed a small fault whilst we were in the UK in Spring this year. When pulling away from cold, the engine would ‘hesitate’ a bit. This only happened in the first 5 kms and after that it would run perfectly all day. So we took it to a garage in Maidstone that we’d used before (as we were staying in Wrotham at the time). They diagnosed that the heater plugs (‘les bougies de prechauffage’) were not working properly and replaced them. And all was well! Until it started doing it again this Autumn!

So off we went to our garage in Pezens and they changed the fuel filter and gave us some rather expensive injection cleaner to go in the fuel tank. But to no avail. It started to get worse. Now not so much a hesitation more a complete reluctance to produce any power before the engine had warmed up. This meant the first trip of the day had to be planned as the engine needed about 10 minutes running to warm up and get going.

So I went back to Raymond and in my best French asked him to become Inspector Clouseau and really sort the problem. He had it for three days and told me that the engine was misfiring at 2,000 rpm until warm. He said to really understand what was going wrong would require a ‘diagnostique’. Unfortunately his computer did not have the special plug needed to connect to the Mazda’s socket. I had no idea that cars of this age had diagnostic software.  

The special diagnostic socket

 So we booked the car in to a Mazda garage in Carcassonne for the diagnostic test. On the day I couldn’t go so Trish took it in. It turned out that they didn’t have the special plug either. Brave Trish for coping with a mechanic who spoke French with a strong regional accent and very fast at that. Not easy!

So we took the car back to Raymond and persuaded him to call the mechanic at Mazda in Carcassonne. Interestingly, they were both relucatant to call the other (because I had asked on the telephone the week before for the Mazda person to call Raymond). Anyway they spoke! The result was that they decided the car did not need a diagnostic because now that the two French experts were speaking to each other, it was clear the problem was either the temperature sensor or the valve controlling the flow of diesel into the pump!

The car is going in tomorrow and Raymond is going to disconnect the sensor. If the problem goes away, then a new sensor is required. If the problem is still there, then a new valve is required. Neither of which is expensive.  The total cost so far for all this time? Zero! Neither garage wanted to charge us, which is not what I expected.