Driving Miss Dizzy – a lesson in the importance of car maintenance

‘I’m not clumsy, I’m just accident prone’ – Daniel Radcliffe

There are also lots of things you gain confidence in through age and experience, like going into a bar on your own and ordering a drink when you’re waiting for someone rather than waiting outside and travelling somewhere alone. And driving. I passed my driving test 15 years ago and whilst I haven’t been the most confident driver in the world (I still park at the far end of the supermarket car park where there are lots of spaces and I only really like driving on roads that I know and are quiet) I like to think I’m perfectly adequate and any time I’ve found myself getting into any minor bother in the car, my instincts have always kicked in and I’ve avoided any catastrophes.

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The first real problem I had was in 2009 when my trusty Rover 25 broke down on a slip road coming off the A1. We were going up a steady incline, foot was to the floor yet the car had no power. We managed to coast down the slip road and pull over safely to the side while we called for some recovery. Other than a few people laughing at us broken down at the side of the road, and a £500 head gasket that needed placing, we came away relatively unscathed. Then fast forward to 18 months ago I went through a rite of passage that I could quite frankly have lived without. I had my first real car crash.

It was along a stretch of duel carriage way near my parents house which I must have driven over thousands of times. There had been torrential rain all day, the sun had just come out but the roads were still wet and I just lost control. My back wheel spun out from under me, I couldn’t correct it in time and the next thing I knew I was ploughing through a street sign and ended up backwards in a ditch. It took a few seconds to pull myself together. I checked I was OK, not bleeding from anywhere and no one else had been hit or hurt and  I did what I think every girl does when she’s in trouble not matter what age; I called my dad. I was still quite near their house (Dave was all the way in town with his friends) and they would be able to get here the quickest. Whilst waiting for them I had a lovely woman come out of her house and offer me a cup of tea (so British) and asked if I needed her to call anyone, and a taxi driver pulled up with his passengers and they all came over to check I was OK and if I wanted them to wait with me. I think I was in the ‘just fallen over on the ice’ stage of shock where you’re just like ‘I’m fine, I’m fine’  but I very much appreciate the thought and kindness they showed me, if I hadn’t had been so close to home I may well have needed their offers of help.

Mum and dad arrived and we called the police and our recovery company. Again, loads of people kept on stopping and offering help, even though the police and a paramedic were there. I answered everyone’s questions as best I could whilst still shaking, and we waited for Green Flag to arrive in the back of my mum’s car. That’s were I think if finally hit me and I started crying and shaking uncontrollably. Then again when Dave arrived from town. Then again when Steph and Ang called me to check I was ok. Then again on Sunday morning when my brother rang me. We got recovered and towed home and that was that of my Saturday afternoon drama.

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The wholly ironic sign I skidded off the road into

2 incidents in 15 years probably doesn’t sound like much however, particularly the second accident, have left me quite nervous about driving these days. The emotional impacts that things like that leave you with can be crippling if you let them and when I look back I wish I’d seen the warning signs that my car needed looking at and perhaps they could have been avoided. In the head gasket case, the warning signs had been there for a while, the heating in the car had been patchy and I was constantly having to top up the engine with water to get some warmth on the car (and when I say regularly I mean like 3 times a week) but when you find a work around it’s easy to pretend the problem isn’t there, because taking your car to a garage can be a pain.

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I had a similar ‘burying my head in sand’ moment once when I tried to ignore that my exhaust needed replacing. The car had been making the noise of a supped up Vauxhall corsa and I would just turn my music up and pretend it wasn’t happening until my mum made me get it fixed. Of course with a dodgy exhaust, although easy to ignore you run the risk of creating future, bigger problems with the exhaust system of the car if it’s not running properly and (more importantly) could be a danger to other road users should it suddenly fall off in the middle of the road. The A1 is busy enough without having to worry about rogue exhausts flying around all over the place!

If i’d got all these things seen to straight away then we may not have problem down and I’m almost certain it wouldn’t have ended up costing £500! When i wrote my car off the second time, although it had passed it’s service and MoT a few months previously, i’d noticed that I’d skidded a few times when the road was wet, so perhaps should have had the tyres looked at sooner, or at least used it as a warning sign to drive more carefully when it’s wet.

They’ve definitely been some very emotional, and expensive lessons to not just wait until you annual MoT is due. Cars very rarely just spontaneously combust, they will usually give a heads up when something’s not working the way it should be, don’t ignore it!

If you are in search of professional car exhaust mechanics, Fife Autocentre can help you out!

This have been a collaborative post between myself, Fife Autocentre and Ellefluence

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