Just when you think you have created a reliable car, a small problem comes along to remind you otherwise, which thanks to some laziness, became a major headache.
Friends and neighbours to the rescue!
Words and Photography: Mike Humble
Guilty and not charged
It’s a well known fact that both Keith Adams and I along with a few AROnline readers are huge fans of the Rover 75. A local neighbour who also dips in and out of our pool of facts and figures on the interweb, mentioned just the other day that I had not written anything about my own 75 since its MoT.
He is, of course, quite right but what has there been to mention of note? 300 weekly miles of motoring bliss with no problems whatsoever, superb fuel economy, soft sumptuous seats and an uncanny knack of massaging the knots of stress and daily graft better than a Thai massage parlour. You’ve heard it all before, so in the vain of trying not to over egg the pudding as t’wer, the 75 has simply been getting on with what I expect of it.
Besides, Keith’s 75 is the next project to enjoy and after the (rather surprising) decision of his insurance company to repair the hit and run scrape it suffered, all of us involved at AROnline HQ are looking forward to knuckling down to make the car a real good ‘un. But I have to say, I kind of think Keith is to blame for what has recently happened with my own (until now), utterly reliable Rover 75.
Last weekend, Keith used the ‘Swiss Towers’ long stay airport parking service which, for the record, costs just one meal at the local Horsham Akash Tandoori. On the journey to Gatwick, Keith repeatedly stated how well my 75 looked and ran after I threw him the keys – the last time he had seen the car was only 48 hours after I had bought it.
Picking him up again the next evening, he once again waxed lyrical about the effortless drive as we both admired the ember glow dash seemingly warming our faces in the pitch black gloom of the M23 southbound at night. I know I have been responsible for 99% of the work on the car, but I had to agree with Keith.
The Rover 75 is as good as it got for Rover – a high watermark some might say – but then, on Tuesday, I noticed a slight change in the sound of the starter motor when firing up the old girl from cold. Having used the car virtually every day for over 6 months, I have got used to every noise, habit and foible, so when something new manifests itself, you get a feeling something is amiss.
Towards the end of my shift, I drove the car into the workshop and fitted the drop tester to confirm my suspicion the battery was defective. For those who don’t know, a drop tester places a massive load on the battery, a kind of controlled short circuit if you like to check the battery’s ability to hold a charge.
After a few seconds, the meter still didn’t drop but then the needle fell quicker than a stone in a pond. After just 10 seconds on a drop tester the best the car could muster when turning the key was an impression of a machine gun sound emitting from the starter motor. After a quick jump start, I ventured home determined to make the battery hold out till payday at the least. But as the days rolled by, the starter motor became more laboured.
With an old clunker years ago that required more key turning than winding up a clockwork toy – you knew in time when your battery became life expired. In the modern age, where even diesels will start on the merest flick at minus 20, you just don’t know when the battery is shot until its dead.
Even silly little washing machine cars like a Chevrolet Matiz feature 65 amp alternators whereas an Austin Metro with a similar sized engine made do with a paltry 38 amp – how times indeed are a changing. However, just this morning, I was en route to the barbers when I diverted via the paper shop, jumping back into the car it simply gave in. ‘Er indoors was summoned for the obligatory jump start and ‘car battery’ was added to our Saturday shopping list.
All this has, as stated earlier, taken place short of pay day so a decision had to be made: either we eat or I buy a new battery. A compromise was duly made in the form of my local breakers yard, GW Bridges, who own one of the biggest yards in the South East. They actually recondition alternators on site and also have racks groaning with batteries from the 1000+ cars on site. Being a Rover owner, I am on nodding terms with most of the staff so we jumped in the Golf and headed to Pease Pottage for a nosey. I selected what I thought to be the biggest battery that would fit in the 75’s battery box – an almost brand new 640 amp Varta unit tested, guaranteed and mine for just £18, but I had a slight problem.
Getting back home with the Golf almost pulling a wheelie thanks to our shopping and a battery that could put Sizewell B to shame on power output alone, it dawned on me that virtually all my tools were locked away at work some 25 miles away. After tipping all drawers out and rummaging through the shed, it quickly became apparent I was not going to be able to swap the battery over with a hammer, some tweezers and an egg whisk.
There was only one thing for it: I would have to go door knocking to beg borrow or steal a few tools. Luckily for me, a chap just a few doors down runs a company that fabricates security gates – I have done one or two spannering favours on his Vauxhall Movano so, having explained my pickle, he loaned me a socket set.
And then, I was faced with another dilemma to try my patience once more. Even though the car came with a brace of keys and a commendable wad of service history, I never had the code for the wireless. After pondering for a while with a brew in my hand, I placed my jumper cables onto the leads from our Golf to keep a 12 volt supply at my Rover and gingerly loosened the terminal clamps, managed to remove the dud battery and replace it with a good one.
The moral of this story? Well, should someone sit in your car and tell you how good it is, politely ask them to belt up and don’t leave all your bloody tools in the workshop on a Friday evening!