There are some of you who know I was a successful rally driver. Cars are a part of my life which bring me great pleasure. Don’t make the mistake of thinking I am speed obsessed; my enjoyment comes from an appreciation of design, advancing technology: and memories of a time when the competition was bought me a large amount of pleasure. My father worked with me during my rallying days, and on balance, this memory brings the most pleasure.
The ownership of a quality car also brings great pleasure to anyone who enjoys driving. Now, being a Scotsman, I am a little careful with my money! I see sense in owning a car which will hold, or possibly increase in value. Some time ago an opportunity came to buy a rare and collectible motorcar for a sensible price. I am not writing the car was purchased ‘for a song’ far from it, the combination of condition, history, and its previous ownership resulted in my decision to purchase the vehicle.
Each year I travel to France on a business trip. In our work, the minerals we trade, have to be personally selected, and therefore, Carol and I chose to travel to a trade show in Alsace. Do not mistake, the trip for a holiday, the journey is 700+ miles, and the heat at the event is stifling. In fact, it was so hot at the show this year; I found myself having to take great care of my well-being.
The journey is an opportunity to take my classic car out for a decent run. Long stretches of clear motorways and the final 160 kilometers of twisting mountain roads, bring me great enjoyment. And on this journey, a problem occurred. Two hundred miles from the destination, the oil warning light came on as I was driving. I stopped at the service station and dipped the sump. No problem, the levels were fine. The car is extensively serviced, and although a high-performance vehicle, it is never driven to excess.
The next two hundred miles were driven carefully and as I drove the car, many years of mechanical engineering passed through my mind. What could be the causes? Well, the first thing to accept is the light comes on because the sensor is detecting low pressure. Therefore, there is a sequence of possible problems to consider. And there was another consideration; the warning light was intermittent, an intermittent warning is often ignored. In my mind I went through a list of possible failures or faults: Sensor failure, damaged or blocked oil cooler, or the worse of problems, a £1000 oil pump failure. This replacement is a big job, as the oil pump is deep within the engine and to change it is a major transplant.
At the nearest town to my accommodation, a VW and Audi trained mechanic suggested the problem was a damaged or failed oil sensor. He recommended the car was returned to the U.K by recovery. I decided this was the right option, although deep within my psyche, I ‘knew’ the problem was not serious. The A.A recovery system is fantastic. “We’ll get your car to an Audi dealer in Colmar, and if the cost to repair the problem is over a certain price, the car will be returned to the U.K for repair.” A couple of days later, the diagnosis was “10,000 euros to fix it; we’ll take your car home”.
Imagine the feeling, 10,000 euros to repair the car. Audi Colmar had diagnosed the oil pump as failing. And deep inside, with years of mechanical engineering experience, my inner being still said ‘Campbell, oil pumps work, or they do not, it is not the oil pump’ – My car was loaded onto the delivery truck, and ten days or so later it appeared outside my home.
As already mentioned the car is well maintained, and it was decided to remove the sump and pressure test the oil pump and the oil delivery system. Inside the engine the metal has become a light golden colour, it is immaculate. There is no indication of excessive oil heat, and after testing the garage confirm the pump is fine. The diagnosis and analysis continue, and eventually, the fault is discovered, a ten thousand to one chance, the oil filter membrane has for some reason collapsed, and the flow of blood of the engine is restricted. A thirty-pound consumable is the simple cause of the problem. In truth, I was not surprised, right from the beginning my inner-being and forty+ years of mechanical engineering told me the issue was not one of great concern.
The experience reminded me of my transplant. An illness leads me to a consultant who dismissed my chances and informed me my condition was beyond help (the Colmar garage). I knew there was a way to return to health and trusted a whole string of people to get me to the surgery (the A.A). I had surgery, and a solution was found (replacement oil filter). I am alive and well.
There is more to the comparison. The lesson is this, if you feel unwell, do not ignore the intermittent warnings (oil lamp). Even if your inner-being suggests, the symptoms are not serious, seek to advise from professionals. Listen to what is being described, and if you need a second opinion, seek one out. Trust your instincts and trust the medical professionals who will work tirelessly to keep you well. There will be some who will make mistakes, do not dwell on this, it is the positive aspects which are important.
My car is now in storage ready for the new year and more adventures. Drama over, a story told and perhaps a lesson for all of us to consider. We can learn from many facets of our life’s journey, in fact, the person who says “What can I learn from this?” will always have the advantage over the one who looks to blame others. It would be easy to say the Colmar dealership or the unsympathetic consultant was wrong and be chastised.
It is simpler to know and accept; people make mistakes, that is the way of life. All that is past is known, all which is ahead is unknown. Learn from your experiences and take advantage of the good experiences.
Live life Well