THEY say the two certainties in life are death and taxes, but sometimes it’s equally hard to get away from a constantly faulty car – and who do you blame?
My significant other has a seven-year-old Citroen that likes to break no matter what you do with it. If you drive it, something goes wrong. If you don’t drive it, something still goes wrong. Among its current faults are brake pads and discs that glaze over after about five minutes of not being used. They become squealing, squeaking heaps of uselessness despite having cost over £500 to replace only a few months ago. Apparently I can (so I do) blame Citroen’s unnecessarily complex and expensive rear discs for that.
To add insult to injury the garage tells me the squeaky brakes are our fault. First it was our fault for braking too hard. When I explained that as a motor journalist I know how to bed brakes in, it quickly became our fault for not driving the car enough. The ‘at least once a week’ we were advised when the new discs and pads were installed is now ‘daily if possible.’ I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this just isn’t right; especially not when you’ve paid so much in the first place.
Aside from this ongoing saga there was the time my other half left the Citroen for about 10 days and then came back to find a suspension spring had exploded. How does that happen on a 55,000-mile car? That one cost hundreds, too. Then there’s the fact that if you switch the cruise control on, sooner or later you also get the service warning light. It goes off when you shut the cruise down so we’re fairly sure it’s just another electrical gremlin, but we daren’t even ask how much it would cost to fix.
Cars are ridiculously expensive things and they should damn well work properly. A mid-range family hatchback will set you back nearly £20,000, and if like a lot of people lately you plan to keep the car well beyond the end of the finance agreement simply because you won’t be able to afford to swap it sooner, why should your sensible financial management be rewarded with failure after expensive failure? Cars should be built to last at least a decade by default. Yes, you’re going to get wear and tear, but not to the degree that every time you get into your car you have to phone the garage for a quote.
You have a number of directions to direct your annoyance. At the disappointing manufacturer, at the rip-off garage or even just at the car itself. Personally I choose a mixture of all three, and I’ve come to uncover what might just be a third certainty in life: you can always swap your car for something better.