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Struggling up the hill

I was driving home from work yesterday afternoon and got stuck behind a very slow car going up the steep hill to British Camp. I had to drop down to second gear and crawl up the hill at 20mph, and my little mini clearly didn’t like it. The temperature gauge started climbing alarmingly, and the red warning light came on. I managed to limp home and pulled onto my drive, with the engine fan blasting away at full speed, which continued for several minutes even after I’d switched the engine off.

Apart from topping up the windscreen washer reservoir, I tend to treat everything under the bonnet as “No User Serviceable Parts Inside”, and get a mechanic to deal with everything. But, although I have RAC Roadside and Recovery membership, I haven’t paid extra for Homestart, so I’d have to either pay for a mechanic to come out here (which is what I did last time when the battery died) or hope that I could drive it to a garage without causing permanent damage. So I reluctantly popped the bonnet and had a look. It appears that the coolant reservoir is virtually empty, which probably explains a lot. That’s relatively easy to fix, though I’m a bit concerned about why it’s empty in the first place. It should have been topped up when I had the car serviced at the end of last year, and I do hope I’ve not sprung a leak. I suppose the easiest thing to do is to top the reservoir up with fresh coolant, and then keep an eye on it. If it starts disappearing at an alarming rate, I could well have a bigger problem.

While I had the bonnet open, I also checked the oil. I’ve never done that before, though I have seen Christopher do so on one of his earlier cars which drank oil. The level was pretty low – above the minimum but getting worryingly close. I know I’ve got a slow oil leak as there’s spots on my drive where I park. The mechanic tried replacing the seal when I had it serviced last, but I don’t think that’s fixed the problem. I haven’t got any spare oil, so I suspect a trip to Halfords is called for to get something appropriate and top it up. Again, I think I’ll have to keep an eye on that too, to make sure that it’s not leaking away too fast.

So all in all, I think I’m going to have my head under the bonnet at least monthly, checking on the oil and coolant levels. I suppose that’s good practice, but it’s a sign that the car is getting old. It’ll be 12 years old this November, and although it’s very low mileage as I don’t drive very far in it, that’s still getting on a bit. I suppose I’d better start saving up for a replacement. Its a good little car, which we bought from new, and I’m planning on pretty much running it into the ground. But if it starts costing me lots in garage bills, or leaving me stranded without a functioning car for inconveniently long periods, it will have to go!