As I was on my commute home after work Friday I noticed my battery warning light was glowing. “By Jove, that’s a devilishly unfortunate occurrence” I exclaimed, (Well I think those may not have been the exact words used).
Now I have had problems in the past with my alternator, so I hoped it was either a dead battery, or just the alternator playing up. My commute is over the Welsh mountains, where there is no phone signal in the slightest, So I decided to drive on in the hope that :-
- If the battery was dead. I could keep driving fine off the alternator as long as I did not have to stop and restart the vehicle.
- If the Alternator was dead. I could get home as long as I did not over use the charge stored in the battery.
Option 2 was a bit tricky as it was pouring down with rain and dark, I should have had my lights & wipers on, but I am MAN. so I needed no lights, and minimum wipers. Unfortunately my plans were destroyed when I made a right turn at a junction. I had slowed down partially, and tried using the breaks as I turned only for it to feel weird. Confused by this event as I mounted the top of a hill and started to drive down a steep incline, I noticed as I adjusted speed to manage the twisting turns of the road that each time I used the brakes there was less and less there until the time I put my foot on the pedal and there was nothing there. *Don’t Panic!*
I came safely to a stop using the age old breaking technique of mounting the grassy bank at the side of the road for the grass/mud to slow the vehicle down, then finalising the stop with the handbrake. Upon checking the engine I discovered my “Alternator Belt” or “Fan Belt” (depending on your age) had come off.
So I found myself, standing over a internal combustion engine, big metal engineering tools held in my oil stained hands roaring up at the heavens as they poured rain down on me. “I AM MAN HEAR ME ROAR!!!!” You Know, working in an office based Job you sometimes forget the feeling of manly work. If there had been a woman in the area I would have asked for a stocking to really be manly in fixing the car.
I soon got bored of this activity and decided to sit inside the car while waiting for the engine to cool down enough to let me re-attach the belt. (Since the belt also controlled the oil pump & radiator fan the engine was a tad hot)
When I could safely work on the engine it was a five minute job to reattach the belt, which was a lot less time than spent looking manly and roaring earlier. And my trip home continued with me driving very calmly as the belt was frayed, twisted, and not the healthiest. I actually made it the last ten miles home with the belt, before some woman stepped out in front of me two hundred yards from my place and as I swerved around her I heard a SNAP, as the belt finally gave up the ghost. At least it had got me home.
I need to add one more section on this story before I bid you farewell dear constant reader. On the Saturday I popped into town to go to a Car Accessories and Parts place to get a replacement belt. Now I have used the same place for years, since its a lot cheaper than most because it sells to mechanics and car part shops. So I pull up outside the warehouse near the customer door, only to be confronted by a sign saying they now have a shiny new shop across the road, for customers to use. I manage to cross the four lanes of very busy traffic to enter the shop, which looks more like a normal car accessory shop than a parts place. I order my belt, the guy behind the counter checks the exact one I need, takes my money, then tells me I need to go to their main building across the road to collect my part. Yes. They send you across four busy lanes of traffic to order your part, then back across them to collect it. From now on I order over the phone.