Friday, 3 February 2012

What a week!

Sorry for being a bit quiet for a while and not replying to e-mails, but I've had a very busy week.
I'm never really mentioned what I do for a job as it's not that interesting to other people. I work as a Service Engineer for a company that makes electrical equipment for hospitals (and alarm systems for prisons, but that's another story!) The company is based in the Midlands which has the advantage that I'm 300 miles (500 km) away from my bosses, but has the disadvantage that my 'area' is what they refer to as 'Scotland and the North', all of Scotland plus Northern England as far south as Yorkshire.
On Monday I had fairly straightforward jobs in Glasgow (10 miles/16 km away) and Livingston (50miles/80 km). I got home by mid afternoon, and only had a bit of preparation work to do for another job in Livingston the following day. Terry popped by to collect the ramp that we'd used to load the Honda into the van and the weekend, so we had a cup of tea and a chat.
I did the preparation work that evening then went to bed at about 22:00. However, this week I'm 'on call', which means I can be called out to emergency jobs, and true to form, I was awoken at 23:15 by a call to a hospital near Keighley in Yorkshire. So it was get up, get dressed, and drive on icy roads with flakes of snow for over 200 miles (300 km) arriving, extremely tired, at 03:30.
The job was fairly easy and I had it completed by 04:00, but was so tired that I knew it was unsafe to try and drive home. In the past I've slept in the car, but as it was -3 degrees outside that was out of the question. I was going to look round the hospital to see if I could find anywhere to sleep (the cafeteria and the chapel are always a good bet), but the nurses said that as all their patients were asleep, I could sleep in the ward's day room. The gave me a pillow and some blankets, and I managed about 3 hours sleep before the patients got up. I headed off home, cold tired, and with that uncomfortable feeling you get after sleeping in your clothes.
However, I had only got about 1 mile up the road when there was a loud buzzing from the dashboard, flashing lights, and the words 'Engine malfunction' on the display. So it was clutch in and freewheel into the side of the road, bumping up onto the verge to get off the road as much as possible. It was a fairly busy but narrow road, so I had to get out in case someone crashed into the car. I phoned the leasing company who own the car to let them know, and they arranged for me to be recovered. I also phoned my company, but this was made particularly difficult by the sheep in the field next to the road all coming over for a look and baaing loudly! Obviously, broken down cars are a big deal in the sheep world.
After a very cold hour hanging about an AA van arrived (Automobile Association, not Alcoholics Anonymous), and the driver had a look at the car. He plugged in his computer and eventually said that he couldn't download the information that would tell him what was wrong, and that the car would have to go to a Ford dealer. However, he could get the car to run in its 'Get you Home' mode, so I could follow him to a nearby dealer (10 miles/16 km).
Once at the dealer, they arranged to look at the car and the lease company arranged for me to get a hire car. The hire car depot was about 12 miles/20 km away, past where I had broken down, so the AA man gave me a lift. I had to wait at the hire car depot for a car to be delivered from another branch, and eventually I was on my way home. Incidentally, the hire company was the same one I had hired the van from on Saturday, so my details were in their computer.
So, it was back to the car dealer to pick up my kit from my car, then the 4 hour drive home, arriving about 16:00, tired and worn out. I hadn't set up the Bluetooth connection on the hire car, so had ignored phone calls, but when I got home there was a message from the Ford dealer saying my car had been fixed and was ready for collection!
I phoned my work, and it was decided that as I had a 2 day hire on the other car, I should go back for it on Thursday.
I was so tired that I went to my bed before 21:00 and slept right through until my alarm woke me at 07:30!
The following day (Wednesday) I used the hire car for a number of jobs, and on Thursday I set out at 05:45 to return the hire car. It had to be returned by 10:30, so I set out early in case I got held up. When I left it was -6.5 degrees, and for those of you who know the M6 motorway, when I passed the Tebay Services in Westmorland (one of the highest parts of the road), it was – 8.5 degrees! I had stopped at Gretna Services (where it was a relatively balmy – 6 degrees), and saw a guy on a Yamaha Drag Star filling up at the petrol pumps! He was a bit too keen to go out on his bike!
Eventually, I got the car back, had to wait for a lift to the garage, then another 4 hour drive home in my car. Needless to say, I'm really sick of driving and am glad that I haven't been called to a job yet.
So what went wrong with the car? I had thought it would have been something serious like a seizure or a cam belt snapping to put on the 'Engine malfunction' message. Turns out that a diesel engined Ford Focus has a reservoir under the bonnet that adds an additive to the fuel 'to help with the emissions' and this had run empty. It should be checked every service, and usually only needs topped up at the 60,000 km (38,500 miles) service, but had been missed at the last service. It only has a capacity of 1200ml, so must add a microscopic amount of additive to the fuel.
It's annoying that it waits until the reservoir is empty and gives an 'Engine malfunction' message, rather than detect when it's getting low and gives a 'Top up reservoir' message. Also, the lease company will get a bill for the tank being topped up and for the hire car, and my company lost two days work, so I hope someone at the garage that services my car gets their wrists slapped!


  1. Not interesting? Way TOO interesting, methinks! Hope it gets to be a bit more humdrum for a while.

  2. A bit too humdrum, I'm afraid. I'm working away from home for the next 2 weeks doing the most boring part of my job. This means I don't get any work done on my bikes, around the house, etc., or basically anything that I want to do. Can't wait until I retire!

  3. Good grief Norman, I read this yesterday whilst in sunny Lanzarote and now you can't work on your new Honda. Re retiring just think of the boring job as paying for your opportunities to buy classics and go places on Skorpion. Back home now see you soon and I expect to see some polished bits on Honda. Keys arrived from states yet and have you had it running, we're all desperate for news on project.