Help that actually hinders and other modern ills

| 6 Apr 2012

This is my wife's school run car. As you might guess it is not really my cup of tea, but it ticked a very important option box – it was free.

Yup, that's it, free. So I can forgive it pretty much anything.

And you know what, if I have to drive a modern, it's as appealing as most. 

Why? Because this was a car that was built in 2001 and, believe it or not, has no central locking, no alarm and still has wind-up windows. Brilliant. Just like a classic.

Its best feature is that it is near-immaculate. Every corner has been mildly bumped, grazed and otherwise molested, but the interior and most of the exterior are pristine.

I guess that is thanks to all those modern things they add to cars, such as rust prevention. A lot to be grateful for then. 

Except, in a modern world where nothing is done until it is utterly overdone, stretched to the point where it snapped, they have also "improved" things under the bonnet.

And that is where the problems started.

I was over the moon to take the call telling me it had flown through the MoT, but my joy was short-lived when the long-suffering tester Alan announced that now "the bl***y thing" wouldn't move off his rollers.

Some kind of issue with the revving, in that it didn't want to.

So Alan, bless his heart, spent a lot of time working through about 4000 meaningless computer codes to try and find out what the problem was and then resetting stuff. I am sure it is more complicated than that, but he didn't charge me, so my knowing and caring sensors are dormant on this one.

In the end, frustrated by the illogicality of it all – Alan is a classic fiend, too, he and tech sit as harmoniously together as Dereck Chisora and David Haye share a tent – he disconnected something, because that had apparently worked with a few other cars. Just unplugged it.

And it worked with this car as well.

I may have misunderstood this, almost certainly in fact, but what he had disconnected was some sort of sensor specially (and totally unnecessarily in this day and age when engines are so good) added to the car to ensure its smooth running.

The problem is, the sensor hasn't read its job description properly and when it breaks it doesn't just stop sensing, its ridiculous self-importance and need to interfere in things that are perfectly happy without it apparently compels it to stop the car entirely as some sort of futile protest. And surely that is the most costly, time-consuming and inconvenient outcome for the very same mechanically inept people it was added to babysit in the first place.

The cost of a new sensor is something like £200, so I can spend a lot of money replacing something I don't want and don't need, the only purpose of which is to try and kill a car that works better with it disconnected, or I can just leave it flapping around the engine bay.

You already know what I am going to do about that, but still nothing will help me close the logic gap. Why introduce a so-called failsafe that, when it fails itself, does more harm than if it weren't there in the first place?

Bonkers. It's like having a run-flat tyre that will get you home but destroy the brakes and suspension in the process.

I am not an absolute luddite, well I am, and I accept that huge leaps forward have been made in safety, reliability and technology, but, well, just but. 

And yes, I know someone out there who has built his own computer out of Twiglets is going to tell me why that sensor is hugely important in preventing armageddon, but for me the facts are: superfluous sensor = car no work, no vestigial sensor = car work. Simple.

The engineering nanny state has gone too far, promising solutions that in reality only introduce far more potential problems than it was ever intended to remedy.

Thank heaven for classic cars, they only break for proper reasons.