Friday, 13 July 2012

Rover engines that (don't quite) go bump in the night

FOLLOWING my poking fun at one BMW’s less than finest moment the other day, I breathed a sigh of relief at not having to deal with a rather more British breakdown before!

My Rover 214SEi might not be the most exciting bit of motoring ever made but it has a special place outside the Simister household because it does all the things the clapped out old sports cars don’t; it always does upwards of 30 to the gallon, it’s quiet, comfy and by and large lives a largely breakdown-free existence.

Considering it cost just £300 it’s definitely been one of my better buys, getting me everywhere from the Scottish borders to Bedfordshire, from the furthest reaches of Snowdonia to the church spires of York. In fact, just last week it managed to make it all the way to a campsite in the Norfolk Broads crammed with camping gear, and get back again. It’s a car that’s earned my respect by doing what it does brilliantly.

Aside from the well-publicised head gasket maladies long suffered by Rovers powered by the company’s K-Series engine, its biggest Achilles heel is that it struggles to start if you leave it standing for days on end in damp conditions. Given this week’s weather forecast and that it refused to play ball when I got back from my trip to Germany last year, I decided to play safe, leave it at my parents’ place and let them look after the old dog for a few days. A better bet than risking it, leaving it in downpours for days on end and then expecting it to miraculously burst into life.

Famous last words, and all that.

It was on the train heading back from Manchester Airport that I got the call. My dad, keen to make sure everything on the Rover was up and running, popped down to the local petrol station, popped a few quid’s worth of petrol in....and then discovered he couldn’t start it. Even the starter motor wouldn’t turn. Zilch. Nothing.

It’s hard enough dealing with a kaput car at the best of times, but when you’re over an hour away on the train and unable to do much to help it becomes that bit more stressful, and the mental images of a peeved-looking parent leaning under an open bonnet rain became too much to take. In desperation I rang Gaz, my long-suffering mate in the mechanic trade, to see if he could drive the five minutes up the road and take a look at the stranded Rover.

Which I’m glad he did. It turned out the reason why my old man, more familiar with cars from the Seventies and Eighties, couldn’t get the Rover going was because he couldn’t get its admittedly unfathomable immobiliser switched off. Naturally, as soon as it was the leather-lined Brit burst into life without so much as a cough. A close call!

I touched the (plastic) wood on the dashboard. My Rover’s back to its reliable old self!

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