Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Servicing Shock

A worn rotoflex (or doughnut) coupling.The Lotus, in spite of spending most of the last twelve months laid up in one workshop or another, has not seen a true specialist in a while. For this reason, I decided to take it to a Lotus specialist nearby (known to the Club) for its long-overdue "full service".

I am still shaking from the bill. Over £1,000!

Don't get me wrong, broadly speaking the Lotus is reasonable economical. Until now the car has caused me little trouble, but three years without a proper service have taken their toll.

Couple that to the fact the rotoflex joints on the rear axle (similar to the one pictured, courtesy of BoatUS.com) need changing this time, which is no small task, and must happen at least every 15 years or so, regardless of mileage (the rubber simply ages). The final bill is eye-watering.

There's a lesson here. Avoid the annual service at your peril! Ignoring the working classic car until it breaks is a false economy, as I keep attempting to explain to my long-suffering girlfriend. She, like many people, only sees the bills - £100 here, £200 there. But in the grand scheme of things, these small "hits" to keep things ship-shape pale into insignificance compared with the cost of ignoring a car for 3 years and having to fix everything at once, and some!

Of course, when I get the Lotus back I sincerely hope that will be it for a year, and it should be. That's the point of a good service by a specialist engineer. There's always the potential for finding a gremlin in an old car which has been lurking for a few months, waiting to be spotted by the sharp-eyed mechanic.

But it's important to bear in mind even the big gremlins (like my £500 rotoflex replacements) on a classic car are cheaper than some of the monstrous creatures to be found lurking in a 5-year-old modern car. Something like a new catalytic converter (courtesy of a malfunctioning engine management computer) means a truly horrific bill for even the cheapest 2002 Fiat Punto (it would effectively write off my Rover) and these things do happen.

So I philosophically accept the pain of running a classic car, and remind myself the guy driving around in a second-hand BMW M3 is shaping up for a much larger bill before too long.

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