Life event

Under Pressure

Aka Car Troubles part 5(?)

About a month ago, I had to go away for a week and the easiest option was to drive there and back. Shortly after pulling onto the main road, the car gave a warning noise and a “check tyre pressure” light came on.

I definitely didn’t have a flat tyre, because I know what that’s like. It could have been a slow puncture (which I’ve also had before) or could it have been that I hadn’t checked the tyres recently and they had all just got low. Thinking it through, the last time I filled the tyres was before Christmas, and I’d driven about a thousand miles since then so it could be that. But my car had also been serviced more recently and I’m sure they check the tyres then. What if the garage had inadvertently done something to the tyres?

Anyway, I turned the car around and headed to the petrol station. I didn’t particularly notice any of the tyres were low when I topped them up, but the car was parked in such a way that I couldn’t see the pressure gauge. This seemed to fix the problem and I drove off on my way. I was however concerned about what would happen if the warning came on again, particularly if I was on the motorway. Fortunately this didn’t happen and I made it home at the end of the week fine (if you count having COVID as being fine).

Fast forward to this week and I had to take the car out again (although only for a local journey this time). The warning light came on again. So this time I decided to take it to my nearby garage.

“Do you know which tyre it is?”

I really didn’t have a clue. “I think it’s the front right. But the pressure should be around 30, except for the dodgy tyre.”

He pulled out his pressure gauge and stuck it on the front right tyre. “19 and a half.”

Clearly my intuition on which tyre was correct. The mechanic looked for punctures but didn’t see anything. He then noticed that pushing on the tyre valve let out a load of air.

Turns out there was a small hole in the valve stem so every time the tyre went round and the valve wobbled, a very small amount of air leaked out. A short time later and a replacement valve stem had been fitted. Much cheaper than a new tyre and the warning light has now gone off. Problem solved!


Full Speed Ahead

Over the last few weeks, there’s been a series of roadworks at the bottom of my road to do with the sewers (I’m not sure exactly what, but they keep appearing and disappearing without any notice). What it has meant is that they’ve completely closed off the road part-way along with ROAD AHEAD CLOSED ACCESS ONLY signs at either end.

Whilst it can probably only save about a minute, quite a few cars seem to use my road as a shortcut as it cuts out a whole junction with a set of traffic lights. I hadn’t ever really noticed that before as it’s still a relatively quiet road. But the road closure is definitely inconveniencing some drivers as I have now noticed quite a few cars speeding past the ROAD AHEAD CLOSED sign until they actually find they can’t go any further and are forced to turn back and go all the way round.

Today I saw a car get to the first ROAD AHEAD CLOSED sign, slow down as he read the sign but still carry on driving past. He then must have realised he might not get through so did a 180 degree turn in a side road before clearly deciding to change his mind and turning another 180 degrees. He then drove another 50 metres further down the road until he was forced to turn around (rather more awkwardly) at the ROAD CLOSED sign and leave back the way he had come.

At the weekend I had to drive to another part of London. Knowing there was also roadworks on one of the railway bridges, I would have to detour down to the next bridge that crossed the railway line. But unexpectedly my detour route also had roadworks! Fortunately this was just temporary traffic lights and not a full road closure and barely added any extra time to my journey.

As I approached my destination though, I saw another sign saying ROAD AHEAD CLOSED. I had no idea where this road was actually closed, but the diversion sign said to turn off. My plan was to park my car on the next road following the diversion sign, but instead I parked on the road before. As I walked to my destination and past the ROAD AHEAD CLOSED sign, it was obvious that the road wasn’t closed and I could have parked where I had originally planned. It’s possible the road was closed further ahead, but I just couldn’t see where. Plenty of cars were still just driving straight past.

So that’s really the question for this week: Do you take the risk and drive past a ROAD AHEAD CLOSED sign only to get forced to turn around, or do you take an alternative route even though the road might still be open? And why are there so many roadworks at the moment?


Car Troubles

On Thursday, I drove from Cardiff to Cheltenham and then onto Sheffield. For the first part of the journey, there was very heavy rain and strong winds. The second part was much drier.

However, as I was speeding (legally) along the motorway, my car (a 15 year old Ford Fiesta) decided to make a strange grinding noise. Odd. The noise was of variable length and at random intervals. First guess was the tape player, I hadn’t used it before as I had only picked some up at my Cheltenham stop-off. Nope, with the player turned off and the tape ejected, the noise continued. Was it when I accelerated? Nope. Braked? Nope. Turned a corner? Nope.

This probably can’t be good. Should I keep driving? Pull over straight away? I decided to stop at the next services if the noise went on. The noise stopped.

About 2 miles from the services, I was preparing to carry on past and then gnnrrrr. Time to stop. At the services I phoned up the insurance company who arranged for a breakdown vehicle to come and visit. About 30 minutes later, a man arrived. I explained the situation and he said that he would have to take it for a spin. We drove off and everything was going OK, OK in that the car wasn’t making a noise. “It’s definately not the brakes or the wheel bearings”. That’s fine, but still no noise. Fortunately the noise kicked in a couple of minutes down the road and the man had an idea of what it could be.

Back at the services, he had a look under the car. He came to the conclusion that the heat-shielding around the exhaust had come loose and was flapping about in the high winds. I wondered why this hadn’t happened earlier, in the actual high winds, but I guessed that it might have just come looser later on. I wasn’t driving differently to what the car had experienced before.

I was safe to drive on though and did so. The noise wasn’t quite so bad after that either.

On the way back, the noise was still gone. Strangely when I got to roughly the same location, the noise started again. And when I got to the point at which it first started, the noise stopped again. I have no idea why this section of road was different to any of the rest of it. There was a slight rumbling at times later but it seems to have gone again.

It’s like my car is just allergic to the M42.