Fortunately Sam doesn’t drive. I was dropping her in Sheffield in the Jag on my way home. Half an hour out of Sheffield something started shouting at me from the front right of my V6 engine. Four hours from home. Half an hour from Sheffield. The speed is unpredictably surging and breaking suddenly. I’m having to focus to keep the thing from jumping. There’s the smell of petrol. Sam may not drive but shortly after it starts she asks “Is that your car?” I’m using my calm voice despite panic, or at least I think I am. But I know I’ve gone silent unless questioned. It’s Christmas Eve. The RAC are going to be run off their feet and hire cars are going to be in very very short supply, if not impossible. I’ve got a goose in here, and tons of booze. Getting this on a train will be hellish, expensive and will leave my car up north.
I go quiet and sit forward. Sam knows full well I’m worried sick. But we get as far as hers. I drop her off, and pop the bonnet. I throw in a load of oil, and get to the local Quick Fit half an hour before they shut for Christmas.
“Mate, I’m going to try to drive to London in this. Do you reckon it’s going to explode or gas me?”
“It’s misfiring badly. I think it’s the injector. You’ll be costing yourself a fortune in petrol. But you might not do any permanent damage. You’ll have to go with the windows open. It’ll stink.”
“Just as well I’m not a smoker.”
They can’t fix it. So I’m stuck with driving home for Christmas with my engine occasionally spewing petrol all over the place instead of putting it in the engine where I need it. I have no idea how far I’ll get. Every mile makes the recovery cheaper though. As I’m reversing out of the garage the engine cuts out.
“That’s going to happen a lot,” he shouts, waving and smiling as he locks the store. “Merry Christmas!”
Fifty to sixty miles an hour is optimum it seems, so that’s where I end up, in the slow lane but still getting beeped occasionally when I lose power. My hazards are at the tip of my fingers, going on and off as the fuel supply cuts. All the windows are down because of the smell of petrol, and the heating is on full blast to counteract the cold air. Unpredictability is the problem here. When it misses, the engine drops out from under me and I’m down to coasting. If I hit the accelerator when it’s out I’m just wasting fuel and exacerbating the problem. But it is still new enough that it sorts itself out after a bit. I learnt to stay patient and calm. The longest was a lurching 30 seconds just outside Watford where there was no hard shoulder and I coasted down to under 30mph before it let me have it back. Thankfully I was alone. Had I had passengers they’d have been persuading me to stop. Oh no.
I was listening to the King’s Carol service and occasionally muttering Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo or swearing or praying, staying wide angle forward space super focussed, looking at the possibilities, listening to that fucking engine. Every time it cut out, I hit the hazards and eyed the hard shoulder. Every time it cut back in and let me work the accelerator again I was genuinely surprised and relieved. Every waypoint was a milestone, particularly when I got inside the M25.
I learnt to tell from the dashboard when the fuel was back, because it would tell me that cruise control was unavailable when it cut out. It made for an extremely focussed and extremely tense afternoon. I’ve never been so pleased to see the North Circular. But London driving with all the stop and start is very honky indeed. I need my indicators, so hazard lights can only be temporary. Better for people to be angry about you being slow than to not know where you’re going. But acceleration from standstill is painful as the injector hates it if I rag it and I’m trying not to damage it any more than it already is.
Now the engine light is flashing most of the time. But she got me home, Sleipnir, my Christmas pony. I’d be insane to go back out in her…
Anyone know anyone who can help me fix up some parts for a 2002 X-type? I’m gonna need a fuel injector and a bunch of wheel nuts. So far. Plus some bodywork but I’m less bothered about that. I still love it. But this might turn into the most expensive cheap car I’ve ever bought… Maybe I’ll get in touch with that Imam, oh constant reader, and take him up on his offer to help me fix it up…
Oh and MERRY CHRISTMAS! I hope you all made it where you are heading as well!! Have a wonderful day tomorrow!!