Over the weekend I had a repair nightmare.
It’s a bit of a saga, the background to which goes back a decade at least. So please indulge me.
I’m a petrolhead, a car guy. And for the last decade or so I’ve wanted what most car guys want, a garage for their pride and joy. The house we moved from last year didn’t have one, the house before that also didn’t have one and you have to go back to the house we moved from in 2005 to when we last had a garage.
So when we moved to our current house last year to say I was excited about the garage is an understatement. when we moved our garage was, of course, full of boxers but within a few weeks they were cleared. Which is when I discovered a problem I had secretly begun to fear for some weeks.
I couldn’t get the car in.
The garage is quite large but the doorway into is quite narrow and offset to the left. In addition, the entrance to the garage is down a relatively steep incline, though not immediately obvious in the above pic. So if I attempt to drive forwards into the garage so that the drivers door is on the right, away from the wall, the front bumper hits the floor. Not ideal. If I reverse in, then I can’t get out because the driver’s door is against the wall.
So my initial thought was that I needed to have the doorway enlarged, with a double door fitted. At least that’s what I thought until I got a quote for the works which exceeded £3K. I wasn’t entirely persuaded about the wisdom of that course of action.
After a few more attempts I discovered that if I angled the car away from the wall as I reversed in, and folded the rear view mirrors, I could clear enough space between the driver’s door and the wall so I could get out. It was with a sense of triumph that I finally managed to get the car into the garage with plenty of space for me to get out.
The bible is surely right that pride goes before a fall. My triumph was short-lived. The car was in. I could get out. However, I couldn’t shut the garage door. Why? Turns out the car is longer than the garage. By about 4 inches….
I’d measured the width of the doorway but hadn’t thought to measure the length of the garage. Just assumed that it would be more than adequate.
I. Was. Gutted.
You might be wondering what has any of this to do with a repair nightmare… It’s coming I promise.
For the next few months I occasionally parked in the garage but it felt a pyrrhic victory because the point of a garage is that you can shut the door, so that it’s secure. It’s not a garage otherwise; it’s a car port at best. Also we don’t have a garden shed. So bikes, lawnmower, and anything we can’t keep in the house, is also kept in the garage. So leaving it open overnight feels like an invitation to get robbed.
But then I had an idea. The garage is pretty wide; it’s double width I think. If I could just get the car in at a sufficiently acute angle I might just clear the 4 inches I needed to be able to close the garage door. There was a catch however; a low fence running on the edge of the driveway up to the entrance of the garage would need to come down so I could get the maximum acute angle.
So one bright spring weekend my son and I attacked the fence with gusto. Let’s just say a sledge hammer was involved. The fence put up less resistance than we had feared and within a very quick time it was gone. Time to put my idea to the test.
After a few attempts with my son giving guidance I had the car in the garage at what seemed to me the maximum acute angle I could achieve. Time to check the front. Had I cleared the 4 inches that I needed?
Well, it was good news and bad news. The bad news was that I hadn’t cleared the 4 inches I needed. The good news was that I’d cleared about 2.5 inches. Less than 2 inches separated my from my goal!
What was annoying was that there was clearly more than 2 inches of spare space in the garage; it was simply a question of whether it was possible to manoeuvre the car into the available space given the constraints of the width of the doorway.
We got the geometry sets out. We measured. Then remeasured. We visualised. Then we worked out if I got the car in at an acute angle and then when it was about 80%, once the offside front corner had safely cleared the doorway but before the nearside corner had done so, I could turn hard to the left and it would give me an even more acute angle into the garage.
So I tried it. Time to check the front again. Had I cleared the additional 2 inches or so that I needed? There was again good news and bad news. The good news was that I had cleared more than the remaining 2 inches that I needed to be able close the garage door. Fantastic! For the first time in more than 6 months I was able to use the garage properly, nearly 10 years since I’d last had a garage.
The bad news? It was so complicated to get the car in, I wasn’t sure I would be able to get it out again! Driving to work the next morning was going to be tricky. So it proved. But not a tricky as I’d feared.
Over the next few weeks I became pretty proficient at getting in and out of the garage. I found that because the leading edge of the garage floor has a lip I could feel when each of the front wheels crossed that point which gave me valuable information about the precise location of the car.
Getting in was far easier. I had a reversing camera and rear view mirrors to help judge the extremities of the bodywork. Getting out, I had neither, and so had to proceed with caution. Plus there is something very odd about exiting a garage which requires you to turn hard left for 10 inches before straightening your line for a smooth exit
It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that when disaster struck it was on the way out of the garage. I was taking the car out to do a school run some months later. By now I felt pretty confident I knew what I was doing. It appears I didn’t. I misjudged where the extremities were and kept going hard left for more than 10 inches. A serious dent in the nearside fender was result.
How serious? Well let’s put it this way. I took the car to the dealer where I get it serviced for some advice. The service manager came out to look at the car, saw the damage and said with some feeling: ‘Oh my God!’ Not what you really want to hear. To add insult to injury, turns out I cracked the housing for one of the wing mirrors as well.
So a new fender and wing mirror were required. and a spray job to match them to the existing colour. Around 5 working days to remove the damaged parts, fit the replacement parts, and match the colour. Not as simple as painting it with the equivalent manufacturer colour because no two paints are exactly alike. So they will have to blend it so that you can’t easily see the difference.
It was an insurance job. Try to imagine the ignominy of explaining this incident to your insurance company:
‘Was there another vehicle involved in the accident sir?’ No…
‘How fast do you estimate you were travelling when the incident occurred, sir?’ Less than 1 mile per hour…
‘What did you hit sir?’ My garage….
‘Were you breathalysed sir?’ Erm… No. #EpicFail
So the car went off for repair last week. I felt a little emotional about it, to be honest. Felt like dropping off a member of the family at the hospital to have an operation; it’s not life threatening but hey, its an operation. Things could go wrong.
At least with a family member you would be encouraged to go visit; see how they’re getting on; reassure yourself that they are not being neglected or abused. In this case, no visits are encouraged. They’ll call you when it’s done.
So the call comes. It’s a really busy day. I’m tied up all day. Not a problem, they say. They are open late so I can collect that evening if that helps or the following morning. I opt to collect it in the evening, after a really busy day. I’m knackered and by then it’s getting dark. So I can’t really examine the quality of the work. I’ll look it over in the morning.
The following morning my son and I go to look at the car. For some reason I can’t recall I’m at my mother’s house. What was somehow not obvious the night before is now blindingly obvious. Something has gone dreadfully wrong! Their job was to replace and repaint one fender and replace one wing mirror. Instead they had repainted the entire car!
How did I know? Because last week the car was blue; it was now white! And for some reason white did not agree with the car. What had been a fantastic looking thing in blue somehow and for some reason looked shoddy and simply old in white. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Then as I walked round the car I noticed that the side skirt at the lower end of the car was painted in gold and red. Think garish iPhone or 2-tone Bentley. But for some bizarre reason this was only on the driver’s side.
If someone had set out deliberately to vandalise my car they could hardly have done a more thorough job. I was so shocked and traumatised. I put my face in my hands and cried, but very few tears came. My grief and outrage felt real enough, though. This was a nightmare!
Perhaps it was that realisation that ultimately caused me to wake up…..
Turns out I was in fact actually having a nightmare. Went to sleep with the car on my mind on Friday night and had this nightmare just before I woke up om Saturday morning. What makes this all the more embarrassing is that I don’t typically dream. If I dream (or remember my dream) half-dozen times a year that would be plenty. A more typical year would be perhaps half that. Yet here I was having a nightmare about my car! How sad is that??
The truth is, my car has not yet been returned. I’m still awaiting the call to let me know the car is ready, which I anticipate in the next day or two. Hopefully when I collect it later this week, there will be no nightmares. Phew!
I guess you know you are a true petrol head when you are still one in your dreams (and nightmares)….