Monday, October 10, 2005


Indicator and headlamp stalks for a Fiat 500 F or LYou learn new things all the time about old cars. No matter how long you've owned them for, there's nearly always some feature or quirk you never noticed before, awaiting discovery either by some freak of chance or perhaps by the intervention of someone more knowledgable than yourself. Here is one such example:

Take a look at the picture. It's the horn and indicator/headlamp stalks for a Fiat 500 F or L (I think they're interchangeable). Those stalks look and feel pretty rigid when they are attached to the car. They certainly don't look like they're supposed to flex in any direction, so attempting to persuade them to do so was very far from my mind. Until I read Mike England's post, here on the Fiat 500 boards.

It never occurred to me our little Fiat 500, whose interior shares so little in common with modern car interior layouts, would actually have a stalk you can flex forward (like any modern car) to flash the lights. But it does!

And so when the weather turned out to be fine this weekend (better than fine actually - it's unseasonably warm and sunny and has been for days) and we decided to play with the Fiat again this weekend, I couldn't wait to try the newly discovered headlamp flashing abilities. Sure enough, it works great! And a Fiat 500 flashing its little headlamps somehow looks, well, even cuter than ever.

I think I've also discovered the reason for the starting problems as well. We in the IT profession would call it "user error" (or "luser error" if the perpetrator of the crime is particularly irritating - not in this case, I hastily add).

My girlfriend, who tends to drive the Fiat as I prefer to be a passenger in this particular vehicle (the Lotus is "his" and the Fiat is "hers"), often goes first in attempting to start the car. It usually coughs a bit for the first couple of attempts then stops firing completely. When I have a go the starter turns the engine over but fails to create so much as a hint of a spark.

Well on Saturday I believe I discovered why. I looked on over my girlfriend's shoulder as she was starting the car from cold and she was pumping away on the gas while the starter motor was turning. A sure way to flood the engine if it doesn't fire quickly. On Sunday I told her not to pump, but to turn the starter over with a little gas and then only try and catch the engine with the throttle when it actually fires. And bingo, the Fiat started without any pushing or towing.

Hurrah! I'll re-test my theory next weekend, weather permitting.

Photograph courtesy of Ricambi-Automobilia.

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