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Car woes

Last Saturday, before raising up mom's car, I tried starting it and everything died the moment the starter engaged. As I said last week, we have three scenarios:
  • The engine has seized.
  • The starter has seized.
  • The battery is discharged.
One thing I will say about the Citroen C1 is that it has been extremely reliable. It has never let us down in the past, and the last roadworthiness check it had (last year), it was... seven years old? I don't remember, but it passed with no problems. It had just been a really reliable car.

I looked at battery chargers on Amazon. It's changed a lot since I last did anything with car engines. I expected to see a large box with a swing-needle meter on the front. Now it's little things with digital readouts.

Amazon did a promotion of one at an acceptable price. A little made-in-China device sold through them (so eligible for Prime delivery, and much easier to return if it doesn't work). Ordered on Tuesday, arrived on Thursday.

I went out that evening and hooked the charger up to the battery (not the mains). Doing that reports the battery status. And, yeah, I think the problem has just made itself clear:


Today, I took out a flex and hooked the battery up to charge itself properly. Amusingly, the device registered the ambient temperature as -6 (it's a mite over 5°C). I hope it is more accurate when it comes to current and voltage.

This morning I hooked up the charger properly and left it for three hours. Because I'm impatient, I pressed the terminals back onto the battery and tried to start it.
Instant total death.

Badly. Nothing came on when I turned the key to off and back on again.

Oh crap.

So I got out and looked at the engine. What the...?

A split second later and I nearly peed myself.

I'd just pushed the battery terminals on. Obviously the movement of the engine caused it to come disconnected. That was the problem.

I think the car is trolling me.

So I push the terminals back on, and firmly in place.

"Okay, you nearly gave me a heart attack, well played. Now let's see what you can do", I said to the car. And turned the key.
The engine turned and started without a problem. You wouldn't know it'd been... at least two months since the car was last started. After warming up and reaching idling speed, it purred. Probably happy to have all its mechanical bits in use. So I let it run awhile, with my fingers on the key just in case the car's balance shifted in amidst all of this. But it didn't.

So I switched off, unplugged the battery terminals, and stuck it back on charge for the rest of the day.


Car joy

My Carte Gris (registration document) arrived in the post, with a ever-so-memorable licence plate number. I've been saying it over and over to myself to try to remember it.

The money for the loan finally arrived in my account, so I did the transfer on Wednesday afternoon. They ought to have the money now. Maybe. The woman at the Post Office said it'll take 48 hours. Is that 48 hours from now? Tomorrow? Does it include Saturday? Since you're moving a number from this account to that account and you've already input the information of both, why the hell does it need to take longer than 48 milliseconds? 48 hours... Jeez, Amazon supplied me with a new toner cartridge in half that time, and that was moving an actual physical object.

So, I'm just waiting for my car now.


I am ditching Euro Assistance. The woman there called me last Saturday. I explained to the woman what was going on and what I was waiting for. She said she would get back in touch in a week if I hadn't gotten in touch before. Okay. That was acceptable to me.
Guess who tried calling me on Tuesday (literally three days later)? I can't tell you if or when they called afterwards as I put their number on my phone's block list. Enough of that. It goes from persistence to desperation. But I guess I'd need to eventually take their offer. The Allianz one is more expensive, and the friend-of-dealer has something like €160 for setting up the policy that needs to be paid up front. Euro Assistance is around €80, and the cost is spread over the first year of subscription. I still baulk at the idea of having a policy from a company that annoyed me so much that I stuck them on my phone's block list. I've never blocked a company before. Some callers from unknown countries (probably France's equivalent of outsourced spammy call centres in India), but never a French company. Until now. I need other options, and I need them fast.

Looking around for other options, I tried La Poste. Calling at 18h50 when I got home, a man picked up and after I explained what I wanted and was part way through giving my name, he hung up on me. I called right back, and an automated system played messages until 7pm arrived and the message said "sorry, our hours are..." and hung up on me. Hey, La Poste, great customer service. Would you like a recording of that call?
I called back the next day and a woman took my details and then explained that the company they work with will not insure anybody until they have had at least nine months of trouble free insurance elsewhere. Funny, it doesn't say "Don't waste your effing time" on their website.

As I was heading up to play a lucky dip on the Euro lottery (no, I didn't win), I walked into the other bank. I asked the woman at the front desk if she could make me a quotation for car insurance. She took me to a cubicle and explained that she could not do that, but she could get me a price for insurance. So I explained what I wanted. Her eyebrows went up when I got to the bit about not having a licence and wanting to insure a sans permis.
She called the insurer (Suravenir) to ask them. They said they can do it, and they offer two levels of insurance. The legal minimum, and something that she described as "damage, collision". Is that sort-of fully comp? She explained that they do their pricing by region, not by vehicle. Incredulous I asked if the quote would then be the same for an Aixam or a BMW. She laughed and said, no, this was sans permis. And since I live in a remote country location, I pay this.
She then wrote down the prices. Legal coverage €266,56 - what the hell? That was worse than MMA! The damage/collision was €575,60. She helpfully added that it would work out to be about forty eight euros a month.
My mouth dropped open and bounced off the desk.
Poor woman was really apologetic and said it was expensive because I didn't have a licence.

I told her that's not why I was shocked. I called up the quotation from Euro Assistance (a PDF) and showed it to her. She looked at it, took her glasses off and looked at it again, as if something might come into focus. It's cute when girls do that. But she understood, the price she was talking was only a little over half what Euro Assistance were asking. And if it counts for damage and collision... I'll need to clarify what exactly that means, but it sounds like more than EA's third party, fire, and theft.
The difference in quotes is about €25 a month, which makes €300 a year. Stick that in a jar, and I will have something to cover all/most of whatever level of excess they want to apply.

Well. That was a fortuitous "let's just see" as I was walking by.

Hopefully the transfer will be verified next Monday or Tuesday, and the car can be delivered shortly after. Not sure how it'll go given my work hours, but I'll worry about that when the time comes... Then once that's done, I'll go to the bank and sort out the insurance.

Then I'll be a legal driver.

I'm not sure if I should say "God help me" or "God help everybody else".


The insurance on mom's car

Yup, pointing out that I don't have a licence and thus they cannot insure me as the owner of the C1 did the trick. They sent me a Word document by email to print, sign, scan, and mail back. It took a few days, I had to find something capable of reading Word documents that wasn't Google Docs. Turns out the Samsung printer utility can do it, so I printed it on the laser, signed it, scanned it on the inkjet. The policy terminates on the 28th of September. It has to. They have no choice.
Well, that'll be one less thing to think about.


Thanks but...

I received a letter from the palliative care unit on Friday. They were all very saddened by my mother's passing, and they invited me to talk to their psychologists who specialise in these sorts of things.

Thing is, if I was depressed as hell and ready to blow my brains out, I may well have done it in the forty-eight days since she died.

I'd like to go and do some more work outside, but it's bloody cold now. Hard to believe it's only thirteen weeks since summer holiday and the heatwave. I know it's November and cold is expected in November, but it's sudden enough that it's like somebody forgot to stick a coin in the meter...
Heh, I'm probably giving my age away there - I bet there's no such thing as a coin meter these days.
Anyway, back on topic, being at work has helped. And having some time after work where I am forced to walk around town (I finish at 4.45, the person who takes me home finishes at 6.30-7pm) so I've met some people, made friends. I was explaining Koi-Koi to the owner of a new tea shop (Anna? Ava? Eva? I suck at names...) yesterday and she was picking up on it pretty quickly. My mother and I used to play. It was nice to play with somebody else.
I'm looking forward to going home after work now if I want to, or to the tea shop without a twelve minute walk to get there, because it's getting cold and miserable and not so much fun walking around. I'm looking forward to going into Châteaubriant on a Saturday for a change of scene. And maybe during the winter holiday (astonishingly, only five and a half weeks away - where does the time go?) I might attempt to go down to Ancenis. There's a Burger King and a plethora of shops. It's about 60km and a fairly simple route.
I'd like to go to Clisson again, but that's about 100km away. If my car does 42-45kph, we're looking at over two hours to get there, and the same to come back. That's a hell of a trek for the best supermarket bakery I've found in this part of France! And a very pretty scenic place at that. I think going there will have to be a late spring or summer holiday event, and mostly wait until I can drive a real car.
Which is why I'm keeping mom's car active. I want to pass my driving test and get a licence. I may well keep the little Aixam for work as it seems as if it might be dead cheap to run, but then to be able to go to more interesting places in the C1 (and not have to worry about avoiding dual carriageways) would be nice.
I'm trying to be optimistic and make some plans for the future. And I did all this without needing to talk to psychologists. :-)


Or, to put it all in context... I didn't win anything on the lottery (what is it now, €123,000,000 or something!?!) but it's been a good couple of days. Plans are starting to come together, and Hannibal loves it when a plan comes together.



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Murdoch, 16th November 2019, 21:10
Rick, 16th November 2019, 21:14
Dudududum, bah de bubah bah...
David Pilling, 20th November 2019, 16:54
Driving is just about catch phrases, I paid BSM to teach me: 
"Look out for Mike on his bike" - setting off from lights, left turns. 
"Tarmac and tyres" - when pulling up behind another car. 
Other things I paid to learn: 
"The most dangerous place is being the fifth of a five car bunch" 
"If you can see the side of the car in your wing mirrors they're adjusted wrongly" 
"Don't honk someone will shoot you" (US book) 
The one they didn't say: 
"Stop on red, go on amber" (Tom Robinson, 'Grey Cortina'). 
I notice that in the USA, there is no amber phase between red and green when setting off. 
Mick, 21st November 2019, 02:36
I wonder if no red / amber phase in the US is to do with the low number of cars sold with manual gear boxes? I assume that red / amber is the time for those with manual gears to get into first to go? I'm lead to believe that manual gears in the US (Stick shift) is a bit of a novelty and has been for many decades. Just a thought. Probably wrong.
David Pilling, 21st November 2019, 16:57
Probly in France it is "Mariette sur son bicylette". Traffic lights invented in the USA.
David Pilling, 21st November 2019, 17:02
Sorry Franglais. Should be Frodo sur son moto (or velo).

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