Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Wednesday, 19 September 2012
About a month ago, a little warning light came on the dashboard of the latest Volvo, and when I checked the manual to see what the symbol meant, all it said was the computer had detected a fault which may increase petrol consumption, so I took it to the man.
The man plugged an industrial laptop into a hidden socket near the dashboard, fiddled with it, then went out to point at an obscure object deep down under the bonnet saying, "That's what it is - the air-pump. They place them so low that water gets into them and they stop working. It's fucked, and they cost over £300 before fitting. Just ignore it, but keep your eye on the fuel consumption."
'Keep my eye on the fuel consumption'? What for? Was I supposed to get back to him for commiseration when I noticed the car was using more fuel than normal?
In retrospect, I had noticed an intermittent and curious whine coming from under the hood, which sounded like the gyroscopic compass of a light aircraft cranking itself up. It turns out that this noise should be constant, and not just for a few minutes after starting the engine.
So I began scouting around for a replacement, and after rejecting dozens of expensive and filthy-looking second hand ones from America, I found this one above - brand-new (he says) - languishing on a shelf in a back-street of Istanbul, Turkey, and mine for $146 US. I bought it, and it arrived after what must have been a stormy sea-crossing.
Pierburg (I have discovered) make dozens of different air-pumps for dozens of different marques, and they are all the same except for the hose-outlets fitted to their ends. This one was made for a Volvo 850. Not only that, but it was made for an 850 of the same year as mine. The trouble is that it was not made for my particular Volvo 850, and the outlet hose does not fit it at all.
I don't know how much extra fuel I used driving down to Cornwall last weekend, so I could not go to my mechanic for commiseration - or at least not specific commiseration, only the abstract variety.
So I put this pump back onto eBay yesterday and went off to see a Pierburg pump which was made for a VW, but it turned out to to be ever-so-slightly different to what I needed.
Then I went to a highly specialised shop that deals with tractor maintainence (my spell-checker has packed up and I have tried 4 different ways of spelling this word), where I found - after rummaging through huge bins of plastic objects - a reducer which will adapt nicely to this pump, so we can have a second go at fitting it this week, so I took it off eBay.
If you think this story is boring, just imagine what it is like to be living it. I have left out most of the unbearably tedious bits as well.
The moral (if one can be found) is that car-manufacturers have you by the short and curlies when they design systems common to many other makes and commission manufacturers to alter the details of parts so they can only be bought from a specific dealer. These pumps all range from between £100 to £400, if you should be unlucky enough to own a VW Sharran.
I think it would cost about £200,000 to build a £30,000 car from spare parts.