Sorry for my absence (again). No sooner had I got over my gastric flu and had a recuperative weekend away, than I went down with a horrible throaty head cold. I feel fine now but my ears are still squeaking like an inept balloon modeller on a wet Sunday. Back now though……
This afternoon, I managed to talk Lady Marjorie out of taking her car ten miles to the garage for her mechanic to replace the tail light. Once she had realised that simple car jobs can be done by ordinary folk, some of whom are not even called Bob, she agreed that I could pick up a new bulb from Halfords and fit it for her in the morning. She waved me off down the drive with an immaculately pressed lace handkerchief and a tear in her eye.
The thing is, that many small jobs on a car can be done by ourselves. It’s not that I want to deprive honest mechanics of a living, but why waste money when a job is quick, cheap and simple? Even on modern cars where, if you can find out how to lift the bonnet, there is just a small microchip and a telephone number for NASA lurking beneath, bulbs still need changing, fuses need replacing and tyres occasionally need levering off in a ditch and we can do these things ourselves. It is not an esoteric art.
In my new book, ‘Wartime Housewife: No-Nonsense Handbook for Modern Living’ there is a chapter on essential items for different aspects of domestic life, including a sensible kit for the car. One should always carry a spare bulb or two and men and women alike should have a telescopic wheel brace. So often, wheels have been put on at the garage with a machine and the strongest bod can have a hard time of getting his nuts off. But with an extendable wheel brace, the extra leverage makes short work of even the tightest wheel nut and the feeblest of biceps.
Look in the handbook and it will tell you what to do. If your car doesn’t have a handbook, then Haynes manuals for older cars are still available, and manuals for modern cars are available online at uk.haynes.com.
As I was sorting Lady M’s car out, I remembered that my own headlamps was on the blink. I went to Halfords and looked up the correct bulb for my Focus Estate (there is a flipchart in store so that you can check you have the right one) and went out into the car park to fit it. The bulb was eleven quid which made me gulp a bit, but still cheaper than a mechanic and, as I hadn’t had to change any bulbs on this car so far, I thought it was about time I learned how to do it.
I lifted the bonnet and approached the light array housing. Once I realised that I had to remove the battery cover to get anywhere near it, I took a further ten minutes getting the housing off and trying to get my hand into the miniscule space allowed for big greasy mits to get at the bulbs. Having erroneously removed something that intermittently buzzed in my hand, I put it back sharpish and found the offending bulb. I thought I’d better just do another quick check to make sure I had the right one.
I switched on the engine, turned on the lights and went to the front to stare at them. All were lit. Mmmm. I switched off the engine, went back under the bonnet checked the bulbs again, taking care to accidentally drop the housing into the machinery of the car. With a sigh I slid under the car and tried to manoeuvre my arm through the hole in the bottom to wiggle it out. Removing myself gingerly from the puddle in which I had inadvertently reclined, I returned it to its rightful place, breaking several nails in the process, and checked the lights again. All working – the bulb was just loose.
I was glad that I had effected this repair in the car park because I was able to go straight back into the shop and get my money back. The whole business took about forty minutes because I was unfamiliar with the car, but next time it will be the work of a moment. I was dishevelled and greasy and that’s how I like it, because I did it myself. And so can you.