Endless car trouble

I feel like maybe if I write this it will give me good luck… nah, no such thing, but at least I can vent a little. I’ve been loathe to write about this until now, but maybe this story is finished.

I’ve had so many problems with my car…

It all started around September last year, I think. I’ve lost track. One day I realized the radiator water was empty even though I’d just filled it. It emptied almost right away. Thinking that such a problem would not be difficult to fix, I took it to the mechanic in my road, Johannesburg Road, Lyndhurst. (Big mistake.)

Initially he “fixed” the water leak but it didn’t stay fixed. I can’t really say what he did at all because that first job is so long ago now. Being an older car, a 2006 Ford Ka, this vehicle doesn’t have a heat sensor. It has a overheating warning light. When that light comes on, you are generally already in deep shit. Of course I didn’t know that. So on the way home from a shopping centre, that light came on about the same time as steam came out the hood. It was steam from the radiator because all the water was gone again. This time I tried to make it home, but the engine died along the way. Almost made it too. But not quite.

So the next repair job, involving stupid me taking it to the same mechanic, was replacing the head gasket. He actually did a good job with the gasket, and the engine was OK, but… it still overheated. This is when dear old Dr Spark went very wrong. He replaced the radiator cap, telling me that this was the problem. (It wasn’t.)

So I drove for a day or two before realizing that this new radiator cap had no seal whatsoever. You know… when you take a radiator cap off, there is this rubber sealing thingie in the cap? Well, not this one. This one allowed all the water to boil out of the fucking radiator cap in about ten minutes. Not only did they not fix the overheating problem – they also found a way of more efficiently releasing all the fucking coolant. Ain’t that fucking great?

Somewhere along the way the car stopped being able to start, so they replaced the starter too. Oh… I forget, ever since Dr Spark worked on the car, the main belt would squeak. They assured me it wasn’t a problem. And the engine light stayed permanently on.

I left the car standing for about 3 months, relying on lifts and Uber because for a while I didn’t have to work in the office. But things change and now I must be there three days a week.

Eventually, I found a good mechanic, and he found the real cause of the overheating straight away… the thermostat wasn’t opening, meaning that the coolant water just sat in one place; it never flowed around and cooled anything, but rather simply boiled away. So he replaced the thermostat, but could not figure out why the engine light stayed on. No fault detected by diagnostics.

I drove the car for about two weeks, and all was well, or so I thought. Then one day on the way home from work, I decided to do some shopping. And promptly was unable to leave the shopping centre, because the car died at the exit. I managed to get a coworker, the same one who has been helping me with lifts for the last few months, to give me a tow home. This is not ideal… this guy is my manager, he has a small baby daughter, and he’s going out of his way to help me. I feel awful about all this.

Having gotten the car towed home, by his far more expensive car and a soft tow rope, which was super stressful for me because I had imaginings of me damaging his car… I called up Dr Spark again because there was no way I could get the car to the better mechanic. (Yeah, I can sure be an idiot.)  I stayed home that Friday and he came to my house, and showed me the Ignition coil which was pretty badly cracked and fucked up. So I paid for him to replace it.

And thus I found myself driving my son to his aunt’s place. About half way there, the engine light started flashing (a new trick), and the car lost power. Every stop at a traffic light or stop street, it became progressively unresponsive to starting again. At first it would flash for only a few seconds, but those seconds got longer and longer until it didn’t stop flashing at all. By some great miracle we eventually got there, with the car hardly moving at all. I couldn’t have driven even another few meters. Thus I left the car there for a few days.

Again, my colleague helped me, and towards the end of the week, he drove behind me while I drove the car to the good mechanic. (In an area called Sebenza.) Although the car was losing power with every pull-off, it didn’t fade as badly as before so I got there. We have now almost reached the present day… but not quite. He found that Dr Spark has wired up the coil incorrectly, and the car was only firing on 3 cylinders, plus he had to replace the sparkplugs.

So, I got the car back, and once again drove it for about two days before deciding to get McDonalds on the way home, for myself and my son. And in the drive through, the Friday before last, just before I got to the front, something inside the bonnet made a lot of noise and then abruptly stopped. The overheating light came on, and the engine light flashed. But I managed to drive the few meters home… without power steering.

It turns out the squeaking belt finally snapped. This belt…
WhatsApp Image 2021-05-26 at 12.45.56

That belt connects the alternator, the power steering, and the water pump… so that’s why the power steering was gone. (Plus the water pump bust. Unclear if it was already a problem or it was damaged by the snapped belt before it got stuck.) I finally, this past Saturday, paid and got in an Uber to collect the car, at which time the mechanic called me to tell me not to collect it as he had found something else wrong.

(Last problem my own fault. I accidentally poured water into the power steering fluid thing a while back, but I did get it drained and replaced right away. By Doctor Spark. So it’s been like that since about last September. Evidently he didn’t drain it properly.)

Anyway, I once again have the car. He brought it to me today. Later on I must go to the doctor to renew my meds prescriptions. It would be awfully nice to be able to drive this car without getting stuck in some random place… for more than a few days. (I’m under debt review. Can’t get a new car right now. This fucking thing needs to stay fixed for a while.)

Wish me luck.

Also, if you need a car repair in the Johannesburg area, I do not recommend this guy. I do recommend this guy.

2 thoughts on “Endless car trouble

  1. Jeez! You’re a very intelligent and clever guy, Jerome.

    Your blog is often full of witty, smart and useful stuff/information.

    But at the same time you’re very stupid and naive. At least sometimes.

    Maybe worst of all. You already know you are stupid and naive (this quote from your blog proves it, “So the next repair job, involving stupid me taking it to the same mechanic,…”).

    Don’t you ever learn from your mistakes? You trusted your ex-girlfriend. You seemingly trust craftsmen (at least some of them).

    Why do you continue to be so fucking naive?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know exactly… It’s hard to explain but I became a skeptic because I am naturally gullible and trusting.

      In the case of the mechanic, I tried to support the local guy with his small business… and gave them too many chances. But the mechanic I’m using now is very good.


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