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Oil leak - part 2

While it is not my job to work out how and why my car was returned leaking oil that it did not leak previously, I am a programmer. That means that my world is a world of logic. There is an oil leak. That is clear. There is oil on the ground. That, also is clear. There is oil sprayed all over the underside of the car. That too is clear. What is currently not clear is the origin of this oil.
Yesterday, when I went to look, there was oil on the underside of the gearbox. This brings in to mind all manner of potential problems. Damaged seal? Cracked casing? Loose bolt? So I rubbed the lower half of the gearbox as well as I could with paper towels, given that I was lying on a bin bag and trying to reach - I do not have the facility to raise the front of the car up for access.
This morning, while I have not driven anywhere (Easter Sunday, nowhere to go), I checked the car, having placed newspaper underneath. There was signs of an oil drip. How much is hard to gauge, given it was landing on paper.
Now here's the thing. The casing on the gearbox was dry underneath. The various joints and rubber bits just looked their usual dirty selves. Nothing stood out as being obviously broken or damaged.
It gets stranger. I have traced the main leak (when the car is standing still) to... a bolt on the underside of the car. Above that bolt is pretty much nothing. The main body of the gearbox is further forward. There is a part of the gearbox there, a sort of 'nose' that is where that part of the arrangement connects to the bodywork (there's a bolt there, and two up front by the engine). There is also what looks like wetness (fresh oil?) around the area where the control linkage from the lever (to select forward, neutral, or reverse) connects into the gearbox.
I started the car and ran the engine. As it was in neutral, I gave the rear variateur a turn to get it moving along with the front (normally there's a sort of slip ring there so the engine can turn freely). Under the car as best I could go, nothing obvious. I got the engine up a little in speed, so the gearbox will have been turning something (if not everything). Turning the engine off and looking again, still nothing.

It is interesting that David Pilling considered the possibility of there simply being too much oil in the gearbox. Something that bothered me, looking at the drips and the mess on the underside of the car, was that the mechanic said he checked the oil and it was okay. That's peculiar. If something comes out, the level should go down, surely?
So, my current working hypothesis is that there is too much oil in the gearbox (it is supposed to be filled 1 litre with SAE 75/90 according to a repair manual for a later model Aixam (but the reverser bridge looks more or less the same)). If there is too much oil, it'll likely come out of places where it wouldn't normally if under duress (things spinning quickly, and heat from the engine).
I really seriously hope that this is all that it is. I have an appointment at half five on Tuesday, I'll have to remember to ask how much oil was actually put into the gearbox.

And since I'll be showing them a printout of the previous blog entry, I ought to translate this one into French(ish) as well. I'll cheat and use Google this time.

Bien que ce ne soit pas mon travail de déterminer comment et pourquoi ma voiture a été renvoyée avec une fuite d'huile qu'elle n'avait pas fui auparavant, je suis programmeur. Cela signifie que mon monde est un monde de logique. Il y a une fuite d'huile. C’est clair. Il y a du huile sur le sol. Cela aussi est clair. Il y a de l'huile pulvérisée sur le dessous de la voiture. Cela aussi est clair. Ce qui n'est pas clair actuellement, c'est l'origine de cette huile.
Hier, quand je suis allé voir, il y avait de l'huile sur le dessous de la boîte de vitesses. Cela évoque toutes sortes de problèmes potentiels. Joint endommagé? Boîtier fissuré? Boulon desserré? J'ai donc frotté la moitié inférieure de la boîte de vitesses aussi bien que possible avec essuie-tout, étant donné que j'étais allongé sur un sac poubelle et que j'essayais de l'atteindre - je n'ai pas la possibilité de soulever l'avant de la voiture pour y accéder.
Ce matin, alors que je n'ai conduit (dimanche de Pâques, nulle part où aller), j'ai vérifié la voiture, ayant placé le journal en dessous. Il y avait des signes d'une goutte d'huile. Combien est difficile à évaluer, étant donné qu'il atterrissait sur papier.
Maintenant, voici la chose. Le boîtier de la boîte de vitesses était sec en dessous. Les divers joints et morceaux de caoutchouc avaient juste l'air d'etre sale comme habituel. Rien ne ressortait comme étant manifestement cassé ou endommagé.
Ça devient plus étrange. J'ai tracé la fuite principale (lorsque la voiture est immobile) à ... un boulon sur le dessous de la voiture. Au-dessus de ce boulon, il n'y a pratiquement rien. Le corps principal de la boîte de vitesses est plus avancé. Il y a une partie de la boîte de vitesses là-bas, une sorte de «nez» qui est l'endroit où cette partie de l'arrangement se connecte à la carrosserie (il y a un boulon là-bas et deux à l'avant par le moteur). Il y a aussi ce qui ressemble à de l'humidité (huile fraîche?) autour de la zone où la tringlerie de commande du levier (pour sélectionner avant, neutre ou arrière) se connecte à la boîte de vitesses.
J'ai démarré la voiture et fait tourner le moteur. Comme il était au point mort, j'ai donné un tour au variateur arriìre pour le faire bouger avec l'avant (normalement il y a une sorte de bague collectrice pour que le moteur puisse tourner librement). Sous la voiture du mieux que je pouvais, rien d'évident. J'ai un peu accéléré le moteur, donc la boîte de vitesses aura tourné quelque chose (sinon tout). Couper le moteur et regarder à nouveau, toujours rien.

Il est intéressant que David Pilling ait envisagé la possibilité qu'il y ait simplement trop d'huile dans la boîte de vitesses. Quelque chose qui m'a dérangé, en regardant les gouttes et les dégâts sur le dessous de la voiture, c'est que le mécanicien a dit qu'il avait vérifié l'huile et que ça allait. C'est particulier. Si quelque chose sort, le niveau devrait sûrement baisser, non?
Donc, mon hypothèse de travail actuelle est qu'il y a trop d'huile dans la boîte de vitesses (elle est censée être remplie 1 litre de SAE 75/90 selon un manuel de réparation pour un modèle Aixam plus récent (mais le pont inverseur ressemble plus ou moins)). S'il y a trop d'huile, elle sortira probablement des endroits où elle ne serait pas normalement sous la contrainte (les choses tournent rapidement et la chaleur du moteur).
J'espère vraiment que c'est tout ce que c'est. J'ai un rendez-vous à cinq heures et demie mardi, je dois me rappeler de demander combien d'huile a effectivement été mise dans la boîte de vitesses.

Okay, back to English. If nothing else, I now have a ridiculous number of photos of close ups of bits of the car I've never looked at before.



It has been a ridiculously hot week. Temperatures in the mid twenties, and in-the-sun temperatures in the mid 30s. I've emptied numerous cans of Dr Pepper, Cherry Coke, and Fanta.
And today, Sunday, I'm taking it easy. Because I hurt all over.

Yesterday, after poking and prodding Felicity's undercarriage (feel free to bring your own subtext), I decided to sit out with a tea. Which was way too hot. I looked at the grass and thought that I better cut that next week before it gets silly. I went inside, it was too hot.

Then clouds came over. The forecast was for thunderstorms. But clouds helped it feel a little less hot. So I went outside and noticed that the Picnic (East) lawn really ought to have a trim.

Okay, okay. I'll get the ride-on out and it's a very simple proposition. If it starts without arguments, battery chargers, or being threatened with a wrench, then I'll go give it a cut.

It started. So I cut the grass. And, well, the Northern Passage by the hanger needed a bit of a trim and since it was small it would only take a few minutes.

I went from there around to the front of the house to park Big Mower and realised that I hadn't retracted the cutting blades. So, okay, there was a dumb looking line of cut through West Lawn. Okay, okay, I'll just go and tidy that up. It's a much larger area but I have been doing all of this at speed #2 as the grass was low and dry. And, indeed, a handful of '80s songs later it was done.

What wasn't done was the area with all the ruts that Big Mower would choke on. With grass now touching being 25-30cm (a foot) tall. Well, that wouldn't do, so I got Little Mower out and did strips on high cut to trim the grass down. But it looked a bit rubbish, as Big Mower did a fairly low cut (even on its highest setting) while Little Mower just didn't have an engine powerful enough to do likewise without numerous passes.

So what to do? Well, what any half-assed Rick would do in such a situation. Find a mower with a bit more power. And, handily, I had just such a beast. Big Mower. Very wary of the potholes and ruts, I went carefully through the new area at speed #1 with a foot on the brake and a hand on the ignition (to just kill the motor if anything happened). Nothing happened. There was only one place I couldn't mow (a rut deep enough to lie down in) but the rest? Got it sorted. And a bit more around back. And some tidying up of the edges to expand the under-control area.
Don't get me wrong, there is still a lot more that needs done, but the Picnic Lawn, around back, and pretty much all of West Lawn was sorted in one single afternoon (and about four litres of petrol, eek!).

Why do I hurt? Well, my waist is suffering because a small tractor-like thing on an uneven lawn means it bounced around quite a lot. My waist and back got a heck of a workout keeping my head upright while my lower half shifted all around the place.
And my arms and shoulders got a workout as the gear lever is pretty stiff and needed to be moved with a bit of effort. Not to mention very manual steering. It was a brutal exercise of bits of me that don't get exercised much (seriously, when's the last time you've done hula hoop all afternoon without stopping?). But, hey, it's done now.

Obligatory photo:

It's not looked like this in years. Probably not since I started work over a decade ago. Even last summer holiday when I was on my own and mom was in hospital, I got it cut but not this good. And it took more like five days rather than five hours.
Mom would have been so proud.

And West Lawn? Well, it's not exactly a Western Wilderness now, is it?


Chômage partiel

As of now, I am on chômage partiel; that means part unemployment. We will be working three day weeks instead of five days like normal.

The reason for this is because the things we create can broadly be broken down into four categories, as follows:

  1. we make stuff for retailers (think like the things you might buy in a specialist shop like Iceland or in a supermarket).
  2. we make stuff for restaurants.
  3. we make stuff for other catering trade (hotels, airplane food, etc).
  4. we make "fête food", that is to say if somebody is holding a "do" and they want something a little better than nachos and salsa dip...

In recent years, the company has been expanding. In fact ever since I joined in 2008, it seemed like the story of the company was completely different to the tales of woe and austerity on the TV following the banking crisis (which one? pick any...).

However, in the space of a mere couple of weeks, categories 2 to 4 simply ceased to exist, not just in France but in most of Europe and many other places around the world (we export, but I don't know where to). Very few planes are flying. Hotels are closed. Restaurants are closed. The few places where things might be sort-of-open-with-restrictions, people aren't going out. Either by executive order as is here in France, or simply because they're watching the news and realising that this really is a serious matter (well, most of the EU and a lot of Asia wouldn't choose to trash their economies without a damn good reason).

There is, thankfully, still work in the first category, but this isn't something that needs a 3x8 work cycle (that's morning, afternoon, and night production). There are also problems with provision, things like eggs, milk, flour, etc are becoming scarcer. Perhaps due to a number of the employees of the manufacturers being off from work? It's like how I'm lucky if I get two post deliveries a week. Things just cannot carry on like before, even for those who still go to work, when a lot of the workforce are absent for medical reasons.
Add to all of that, it's not cheap running a factory. The lights, the cooling systems, the water heating, water itself, the list goes on and the bills haven't gone down even though activity has. I'll give an example, by the way. We have a super-duper washing up machine. Put, say, a baking tray in one end, it'll come out clean and dried at the other end, about three minutes later.
I asked the engineer, during installation, what its consumption was. He did a quick calculation and said when it is fully operational (all heaters, motors, fans...) it will be drawing about 140kW.
To put that into context, my Linky would trip out of I consume more than 9kW (usual maximum consumption is with the water heater and the kettle on together, in the order of 4.5kW).
Sure, factories use a lot more power, and I'm sure they get it at a price per unit that is vastly less than domestic tariff. But it doesn't really matter, when you are talking figures like that, and it's one machine out of many, it'll quickly add up to a scary large amount.

In order to balance the consumption with continuity, we will be working three days a week.

In terms of pay, the government has guaranteed 84% pay, to not be less than the SMIC. The SMIC is €1219 (net), so I ought to have at least that coming in. Which is, actually, not that much below my usual monthly salary.

I hope to put aside around €250 a month now. If I can, this should give me about €5000 for this time next year to look towards a new car. You might be thinking that my maths is way out of whack, as 250 x 12 is only 3000. That's correct, but I have already managed to save €2000. That's in addition to paying the funeral stuff, and all the other charges relating to it. Not to mention a little under €500 for the car (between the part and it's fitting).
So I'm pleased I have managed to set aside some money. I guess not having an active social life (or any social life, really) and no vices other than vast quantities of tea all help to keep the costs down.

It's a nice day, I'm writing this while sitting in the shade. The funny thing is, a part of me misses going to Châteaubriant on Saturdays because the food in the local supermarket...eating always the same things, it can become tedious. But a much larger part of me just doesn't care that much. The weekly trip to the big Leclerc was more habit than anything else. Surprisingly it wasn't hard to wean myself off McDonald's. I had stopped going even before the lockdown. The primary reason? It was boring. I'd eat there because I was too lazy to make something. But it was either a Chicken Big Tasty or a CBO. Once in a while I'd try a Big Mac just to change things, but in reality... it's a really boring selection of always the same things with very little choice of changing the recipe (you can take things away, you can't add anything or switch sauces).
Going to McDo with mom, we'd talk about stuff. Read the paper. Comment on how other patrons were dressed. Compare who had the lukewarm chips and how much they got. All sorts of things. Going there alone? Not the same thing, not at all. So... it's weird. When I couldn't go (before I got my car) I felt like I could murder a burger. Now when I could go, I didn't really want to after a few times. Now I can't go any more (lockdown), I don't actually miss it. In the future I might go if a Happy Meal has an interesting toy (I like the Beanie Babies), but other than that? It ain't Burger King, so I would imagine I'll drive right on by. Besides, it's around 12-15 for a visit (as a Maxi Best Of (French for Go Large) never fills me). Imagine what one could buy for that - a bag of veg and a slab of real beef, not whatever the hell is in the burgers.
Now that I have two semi-smart cookers, one a little more capable, I can think of meals to make, given that I'm lazy and often tired when coming home. My potato chunks and curry sauce is actually quite filling and costs maybe two euros (mostly the cost of the jar of sauce).

Hmm. Fascinating how the mind wanders. I started talking about work going to three days, and ended up talking about being fed up of McDo. Still, I guess the mental meandering helps to keep my blog a little more interesting than a PowerPoint presentation. You never know quite where it'll end up.



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Gavin Wraith, 13th April 2020, 12:10
Keep blogging Rick. You are always interesting. Anyway it is good to hear how others are coping. I gave up car-ownership nearly a decade ago, but now there is no public transport either, so we are reliant on neighbours and taxis. At least we can wander about the village, keeping our distance of course. It must be hell for town dwellers. As I am 81 and my wife is 73 we are in the at-risk category. Theoretically I could be arrested if I tried walking into town to pick up my prescription: the pharmacy has no delivery slots left. Our village has a farm, and they can deliver eggs, sausages and meat. We got a huge joint of pork for Easter, and we shall be making biksemad with it for days. Very simple recipe: dice the leftovers (pork and/or beef), dice parboiled potatoes, fry up with a chopped oniuon, serve with fried eggs on top.
Rick, 13th April 2020, 13:15
That sounds like a lot of cholesterol. ;-) 
I'm not taken with pork, however the idea sounds like something that shouldn't be too hard in the newer smart cooker gizmo on sauté mode, just with a different meat. Might serve with scrambled egg, as I can do that in the microwave. 
Yes, I do worry about the world's slums where the people pretty much can't avoid each other and don't exactly have the possibility of closing the door and hiding for weeks. This could be a severe test of more than a few governments (and special mention to America for not only dropping the ball but losing it too). 
Yeah, it sounds as if some police forces are being overzealous. There was a report in an online paper that somewhere (near Cambridge?) the police were telling medical staff that their NHS cards were not sufficient justification to be out. Idiots. 
David Pilling, 13th April 2020, 13:53
It is said the problem with flour in the UK is the supply of small bags, that's why they can't just transfer the flour from restaurants to end users. Here they have dusted off the word "furlough" for people not working all the time, but that's not your situation.
Rob, 13th April 2020, 20:51
What I'm missing most is the lack of places to stop and sit down and relax and have a coffee. I used to drop in McDonalds on the way back from shopping, because it was reasonable coffee and with the stickers and their app, I'd get ~two free ones for every five I bought. Now, everywhere is shut. Best I could do would be a costa branded vending machine in the co-op, but still nowhere to sit. 
On the other hand, Tiddler has decided that my "home made" burgers (actually frozen 1/4lb ones, sorry) are much better than McDonalds' ones, so at least she's not missing them and I'm saving money..

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