Wiper Trouble

My driver’s-side wiper has a small split in the end – about an inch long. That means I need some new wipers in the near future, but nothing urgent. That’s until I discovered that there was a 3 inch split in the centre of the blade, hence more urgency required. Given that main Honda dealer prices for something as trivial as a wiper blade were likely to be vastly inflated, I braved the tarted-up Saxos and Corsas for my local Halfords.

Before I left the house, I looked at their clever online tool, which confidently predicts the required wiper size for your vehicle. Simply enter your registration number and up pops your vehicle make and model, along with a list of suitable wiper-blade products. Online it reckoned I needed 24” on the driver’s side, and 16” on the passenger’s side.

So off I pop to the local shop and decide to make certain by leafing through the little flip-book that they have. This is a more manual version of the online tool – you lookup your make and model, along with model year and it gives you the various options. This suggested I needed 26” on driver’s side, and 16” on the passenger’s side.

Standing looking confused, one of the shop “assistants” asked if I needed any help. The conversation went like this:

“Can I help you there sir?”

“Yeah – I’m replacing the wipers on my car and the online tool said one size, but the book says another and I’m not sure which one to get. Do you have a tape measure I could borrow and pop outside to measure it please?”

“Well we can have a look on the computer and see what that says.”

“My car is just outside and will only take a minute.”

“Nah – we’ll have a look at the computer.”

OK then – fine. I sighed and wandered over to his little kingdom of the oily parts desk. After giving him my registration, he went quiet.

“Hmmm. Hmmm. That’s odd. Hmmm.”

“Yes?”

“Well the Halfords parts are showing up as needing 24 inch and the Bosch parts are showing up as needing 26 inch. If I were you I would get the bigger one.”

“But the difference between them is an inch at either end and that could be the difference between catching and not catching.”

“Well it depends on how far apart they are.”

At this point I was expecting someone to turn up with an honorary Physics degree from Oxford to pay testimony to his amazing spatial awareness. He then suggested we go outside and measure it, which I thought was a good plan, if a little late to the conversation.

It was late and there were only three cars in the (small) car-park: two of those probably belonged to staff because I didn’t see any other customers in there. Bearing in mind I had just given him the make, model and registration of my car, he asked me to point out which one it was.

He wandered round and measured 24” for the driver’s side. I needed to prompt him to check the passenger’s side. He measured that to be 15”.

He seemed quite put-out when I told him I was going to the main dealer because Halfords couldn’t get the sizes right.

I phoned the main dealer the following day and they promised £25 fitted for a proper Honda part. That was only just a little more than the Halfords’ own brand. When I went into the garage, they only charged me £21.73 fitted. And the service guy (who I trust) told me the Halfords ones don’t fit very well anyway.

All together: I can see clearly now with wipers on…

Window Shopping

The other evening, I spent a good 2 hours web browsing looking for a new car. Note that I am not changing my current 54 plate Honda Accord diesel, but like women go window shopping for bags, boots, and bracelets, I am window shopping for a new car.

It was probably prompted by the disappointingly early demise of the clutch on my current motor. 65k is not an acceptable distance for a modern clutch to last, but there we go. There is a glimmer at the end of the £500+ tunnel though – there’s lots of reports on the web of there being a manufacturing fault with clutches on Honda diesels and this causes premature failure, so there’s hope that Honda will replace it at a reduced cost.

The seed of doubt had been sown, however, and I went off to look around the internet for a virtual replacement. The basic premise of my next car would be that it would be:

  • relatively new (< 12 months) – this would take the major pain of depreciation off the car
  • low mileage – anything that’s done 25k in under a year is likely to have been lived in and hammered quite hard
  • diesel – for the fuel costs
  • estate – for the extra room we need

So let’s start looking round at what’s out there and why not start with another Accord? Well the latest Accord Tourer I just don’t like. I really do want to like it, but it just doesn’t look right, it tries to hard to be a 3-series / C-class / A4 rival and falls short by being too fussy and generally too Japanese. It’s also too expensive for what you get. That had been dismissed pretty much before I started clicking, so that was a no-brainer.

Alternatives then? I’ve really fancied a Volvo V70 for a while now and you can get a good one with a decent diesel engine for under £15k (their first-year depreciation is horrendous). But then I started reading around and considering some alternatives.

What about the BMW 3-series, Merc C-class, or Audi A4 offerings? Nah – their expensive initial purchase price combined with strong residuals means on my budget I would end up with an asthmatic poverty-spec wardrobe on wheels.

OK – so what else? The Renault Laguna, Citroen C5, and Peugeot 407 are all French. That instantly rules them out because I’m not trusting anything built by the French. That’s not a xenophobic statement, because it’s been proven time and time again. Most car review websites politely put it as “questionable reliability”, but we all know that French cars aren’t great.

Next on the list? Ford Mondeo. A very big estate, with lots of them out there (hence it’s a buyer’s market) and known reliability. Also offered with lots of toys on most models (including the infinitely desirable quick-clear windscreen for those icy mornings). It is a dull choice, but there again, it’s a diesel estate; I’m not likely to be the envy of the McDonalds car-park crowd anyway.

At this point I digressed a bit and dreamed of winning the lottery and ordering a brand-new BMW M5 Touring. In this colour:

BMW M5 Touring in lovely blue

Apparently that’s “Interlagos Blue”. Add some nice black perforated leather and a couple of “go-on-why-not” options and you’re handing over a cheque for 80 grand. Eventually I came to my senses and went back to the task in hand.

So from that I wandered over to Vauxhall and their latest repmobile offering in the Insignia. It’s actually a nice car – I’ve been in one and looks half decent. Unfortunately Vauxhall’s diesel range lets them down and there’s also complaints that the estate version isn’t as practical or roomy as one would like.

So what’s left in the real world then? The VW Passat is like most of their range – quite expensive for what you get. I never really considered Mazda or Nissan. There’s the Toyota Avensis but I really don’t fancy one at all (for no real reason). Skoda Octavia? Nah.

But then I suddenly had a thought. Do I really need a diesel? And secondly, do I really need an estate? The first question would involve some long sums considering fuel economy, price, car tax and estimated mileage (I only now do around 12k a year, rather than the 20k I used to do 4 years ago). That’s something for another day.

So it really boils down to “what extra I do I get with an estate?”. That’s actually a hard question to answer, because most reviews of estate cars quote “standard boot volume” (measured in litres). That is how much space you have up to the window line. The other figure they quote is usually maximum boot volume (including with the rear seats folded down). Now that’s useless for me, because I want lots of room with people in the back, not just for a day trip to B&Q.

I’ve given up window shopping – it’s too hard.

A Week of Windows

This week has been a week of doing stuff to windows.

Tuesday afternoon saw the replacement of the car windscreen following an extremely brief encounter with a meteorite. I say meteorite, but in actual fact it was a small stone flung up from the offside front tyre of a Golf travelling in the opposite direction. The noise it made on impact just sounded like a meteorite.

It managed to strike the edge of the windscreen on the driver’s side, about a third of the way up the screen. This instantly caused a 6″ crack to appear. I shouted some obscenity loudly, which rhymed with “shite”. I even saw the stone coming in a graceful, spinning, parabolic arc towards the glazing. It was caused by the extremely cheap way in which councils tend to resurface roads these days. Basically they spray hot tar onto the surface (regardless of the underpinning surface apparently) and then dump a load of stone chips onto it, hoping some stick. They then let cars drive over it for a couple of weeks to let the stones really bed-in (or go through some windscreens) and then come along later, brush away what’s left loose and then put the road markings back.

So Friday night I invoked the whole “covered for windscreen repairs on your insurance policy” thing and by Tuesday afternoon I had a sparkly new windscreen installed, complete with tinted sun visor strip and rain-sensitive wipers thingy. £70 excess was the bad news. Good news was that the full bill would have been in excess of £300 though. The inside of the car smells of glue now; glad I’m not driving long distance for a while – I’d be high as a kite by the time we got there.

The second window thing is that I was working at home today while a bloke fitted us some new front windows. The time taken for these guys is amazing. He arrived here at 8:20, had the first old window out by 8:45 and the new one fitted, glazed and internally finished by 10:15. It was just one bloke too – even for the upstairs ones, which I was surprised at.

Then tomorrow we are having the remainder of the house windows painted by our friendly decorator, Sue. That’s weather permitting by the way, with last week’s attempt being abandoned due to really bad rain.