Unnecessary Run of Bad Luck Leads to 10K Bill & Growing

By Dean Taylor - 28th July 2011

Driving home from work one Tuesday afternoon I noticed the Van was not quite running as smooth as it had done for the previous 12 months but as we were heading out of London I didn’t want to stop in the rush hour traffic to take a look.  I persisted with the rough ride and so did the van, so it seemed, until I was approximately 2 miles from home.   Suddenly the van started to lose power and no matter how hard I pushed the accelerator the slower the van got.  Coming down the A10 towards Hoddesdon (Herts) I spotted the perfect place to pull over.  Just as I swung the van into the layby the engine decided to rev itself to the max.  so much so that my passenger started to open the door, ready to jump as we both thought it was going to explode into a ball of flames.  I tried to cut the engine but it was having none of it, the engine seemed to be revving higher & higher throwing thick black smoke out it’s rear, filling the A10 until every other motorist was a stop.  Getting panicked I chucked it into 2nd and released the clutch hoping that it would stall and stall it almost did until it decided to bring it self back to life.  Doing the same again I got it to eventually die.

Now, I have not got much of a clue about motors other than the basics but some thing was telling me it was the turbo and after drafting in a good friends help to get me towed home, this was confirmed by my slightly more knowledgeable Father.  What I am lead to believe is that when the turbo packs in it feeds direct from the oil leaving no way to cut her off, spinning faster and faster until potentially blowing and screwing the whole engine.  Luckily for me I killed her before it got to this stage.

Right, So now the expense is about to start.  I needed to get the van sorted asap as I had a full diary and hate letting anyone down.  First things first, I need to source a replacement vehicle to keep things moving and money coming in.  £240 later I had a hire van on a five day term.  Next,  need to get my van into a garage and have the new turbo fitted.  As luck would have it a friend of a friend owns a little garage not to far away and he specialises in diesel repairs.  After communicating with him for a day or so, he not only reconfirmed our suspicions of a blown turbo but also provided, what I felt to be a reasonable price.

Van booked in at £770 and was to be ready for pick up on the Friday.  Lovely, It could of been a whole lot worse I thought, 1 weeks van hire, brand new turbo & no customers let down – £1010.  Sorted!

If only things in my life were that simple.  Picked the van up on the Friday and with the wife following behind I got home no probs.  It run like a dream.  Parked up out side my place and swapped tools  back over from the hire vehicle before running that back to the owners.  I didn’t have any worked booked in for the weekend so the van sat untouched all weekend until back to it on Monday.

Jumped in and drove it about a mile down the road to pick up my mate.  Jumped back onto the A10, heading south towards London and BAMM, the timing belt decides to brake.  I just sat there speechless hoping that I was going to be waking up soon to the sound of my alarm.

Back out side my house again I started to get things moving to get back out on the road.  Phoned the same van hire firm but they had nothing available that day.  Phoned a couple more but nothing was ready for a few hours so I made the call to my customers, who were thankfully very understanding of the situation.

The next morning I managed to locate another company who had a few ideal vehicles ready for immediate hire.  I turned up with all the documents needed and made payment of £260 for a weeks hire.  When the guy showed me to the van I was stunned, It looked like it had just gone head to head with a 40 tonne lorry and lost.  Beaten to shit this van was and my first thought was the reaction I would get from my customers.   The thing run OK, in fact it was actually quite nice to drive so I took it just so I could get back out to work and start earning some more money.

Mean while my brother was investigating the best way to go about putting my van back to work.  He had worked out that the valves would be screwed and possibly damaged the pistons.  He obtained a couple of estimates which were coming in around £800 – £1000 but was quite sure he could carry out the repair himself.  He located a second hand head costing £100 and set about removing the old and installing the new.  In this process he informed me that I needed a new head kit adding a further £120 to the bill.   F**k me what a job he had let himself in for.  Working at the side of the road he spent 3 whole days in hot weather getting absolutely filthy trying to get things sorted.  About 7.30pm on the third day everything was back in place and ready for the moment of truth.  Handing me the keys and telling me to give it a bash I could see the look of fear in his eyes.  I turned the key and she started, running a bit rough mind you but after a few minutes she seemed to be clearing herself and things were sounding better.  Suddenly she went BANG.  WTF was that I said as she died.  Popping the bonnet we could see that the fan belt had now snapped taking the bloody timing belt back off with it doing the same damage as before.  I felt like crying.  I also felt gutted for my Brother as he had put so much of his sweat & blood into doing me a favour which turned out to be a complete waste of time.

I called it a day with the van.  I could not afford nor did I want to throw any more money at the machine.  I had to move on and look into purchasing another.  Easier said than done.  Working like a maniac trying to get money in to cover my expenses I had to take out further costs for vehicle hire.  This was now approaching the £1200 mark and I was still no step closer to owning another one myself.  In the end I took on a £7000 loan from a family member and spent a day, with loss of earnings touching £200, searching the net and the local(ish) traders until I found one that was within my budget and seemed ideal.

I now have the new van and so far so good.  I still need to have the signage done but will have to put that on the back burner for the time being as funds will not allow (estimate of £450).

After looking back and reflecting on this unfortunate series of events I have come to the conclusion that it could all of been avoided.  I have had a bloody good run when it comes to motors.  16 years of driving and purchasing cars/vans I have never until now brought a duff.  Not that I know what I’m looking at but just pure luck.  I have taken this run of ‘good’ luck for granted, jumping into my vehicles every morning, turning the key, starting her up and driving to work with out ever occurring any problems.  If I had looked after my motors, getting them serviced regular &  having the belts changed etc when I should then this event may never have happened.  The trying to save a few quid by not doing these tasks has lead to massive expense and headache.  One that I certainly never ever want to go through again.

Lessons learnt is the correct phrase here I suppose.  I have now made up what I call my Vehicle pack, which is left in my van at all times.  This contains all the info I need should the unthinkable happen again.  It’s got details of my breakdown recovery firm, Windscreen replacement firm, Vehicle hire firm, Insurance docs, Service due dates, mobile tyre ftting firm and any thing else that may take the sting out of any situation likely to happen.

These things do happen but if we are prepared for it then the cost will be much much less and the headache is almost non existent.

It’ll be good to hear of any stories similar to this – unless I’m the only idiot out there that allows for these kinds of situations to arise.

About the author

Dean Taylor is a co-founder of YourTradeBase and a skilled tradesperson. Working in the trades all his life, he's grown his business by using the right tools for the job. He's why we built YourTradeBase.com

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  • Oh mate! sounds like a few unlucky (and expensive!) days! Good idea about putting all the info in the glove box, though hopefully you won’t be needing it again! And it’s only natural not to worry about things breaking down until they actually do. I go no ideas about cars. I was clueless when I broke down once only to phone Dad and for him to tell me the tank was prob empty… It was.

  • haha – It does usually make things a tad easier if you have fuel. The only fuel you need now will be that dodgy spaghetti & liver – I bet the consequences got you moving fast enough… to the loo that is!

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