Talking Motors: Getting right people in to do a proper job

A broken Fiat 500 door hinge
A broken Fiat 500 door hinge

There’s an element of self-satisfaction in getting a job done yourself.

And the feeling is turned-up a notch when it’s a job you haven’t done before.

Simple to follow instructions

Simple to follow instructions

Getting that feeling is often an uncomfortable journey involving contorting yourself into impossible positions while trying to hold three screws, a screwdriver and a torch and feeling about for fiddly clips or wires. And these are always out of sight and the kind of not-quite-out-of-reach as in you can just about feel them but not grip them.

And a dodgy Fiat 500 door handle recently presented me with one of these opportunities.

I had it all planned out after doing a bit of research that showed me it was a piece of hinge, and not the whole door handle, which was at fault.

Without wanting to bore too much, but these details are essential for the proper understanding of the problem, there is a little rubber seal behind the door handle which lets water through in tiny amounts.

This rusts a tiny hinge and then the handle, when pulled with force by a careful lady owner who is carrying two arm-loads of shopping already, comes away from the door.

At first this problem is purely cosmetic but if left unattended to it will eventually come off. And it’s apparently quite a common one for Fiat 500 owners to have to deal with.

“Don’t ring the garage,” I said. “I will buy the part and fit it myself – it will save us a fortune and then we can use what we’ve saved to buy fun things like alcohol and burgers.”

In my head it was perfect. I would buy a new hinge (a genuine Fiat part costing £6, no less) print off the instructions of how to fit it and triumphantly do the job to a shower of man points and praise.

I was even going to film the job being done so that this article about how great I am could be accompanied with a step-by-step video for readers in similar peril.

I did the first two things on the list. I ordered the part and printed off the instructions.

But it was when I read a few forums on the subject I stalled.

I was still sure I could do the work – honestly I was – but with all the removal of trim and shiny plastic bits, I wondered if it was worth risking it on a car that wasn’t my own.

If it were my name on the paperwork, I’d have dove straight in, but I wasn’t risking doing any damage to a car that’s not mine.

The part lay in its jiffy bag on the kitchen table for a month or so, maybe longer depending on who you ask.

And then someone posted on the forum saying they’d scratched their door.

That was it – I wasn’t being held responsible.

So I went to the dealer with a sheepish expression and walked to the counter in the same manner as child would when they’re going to tell their mum they’ve broken an ornament.

I explained the problem, told them I’d bought a part, genuine Fiat no less, and asked how many fun coupons it would cost. I was pleasantly surprised to learn it was only £40, but the cost to my pride was a lot more.

A wheely long time coming – but worth the wait

If you’ve been after a drive in your classic this week and can’t because of the rain, it’s probably my fault.

Every time I get a job done on one of the cars available to me, the weather decides it’s not up to me whether I get to enjoy the result or not.

Farmers around Billinge don’t bother with a rain dance when they want their crops to grow – they just knock on for me and ask me to clean my car.

My mum’s MG Midget has been back on the road for a couple of years, and for the whole time, its wheels have needed doing.

The car is immaculate, probably because it’s been looked after by my mum and not me, and it’s a bit special given it was one of the last 100 Midgets ever made.

So the fact the wheels resembled something from a scrapheap-ready Cortina was a source of embarrassment.

Late Midgets are fitted with 13’ rostyle wheels, which are painted silver around the outside with the four sections in the middle painted black.

Ours were a sort of yellowy-grey colour with black sections in the middle and a sprinkling of rusty brown spots all over.

I tried jet washing them clean once and all it did was make the rust run down in teary streaks.

Wonder Wheels, scrubbing, metal polish – nothing. These wheels were more than just a bit grubby.

But still feeling confident and wanting to earn some Brownie points, I told mum I would sort them (while in my head planning a search for new wheels on eBay).

We ordered a wheel rennovation kit and I thought that would be that. A five-minute job and we’d be good as new.

The kit came as a piece of sandpaper, sticky templates that refused to stick on anything except fingers, and two cans of spray paint, one black and one silver.

My confidence suddenly drained away, given an 
attempt to ‘touch-up’ a scratch on a now defunct Fiat Punto which resulted in a chalky two tone blue paint job.

It’s a lesson I can’t seem to learn – one of my guitars suffered a similar spray-paint induced end while I was in high school.

Fortunately, Guy at Miry Lane’s GA Welding knew what to do, and in a couple of days the wheels looked as good as the rest of the car.

And I’ve been able to enjoy the car looking better 
once. On the drive home from the garage.

A not-so direct route to watch Latics match

After covering for Phil Wilkinson last week, this week it was Paul Kendrick’s turn to hand over his workload into my capable hands while he took some well-deserved time off.

And with that responsibility came the opportunity to drive to Oldham on Tuesday night (I know a joke about the way to Oldham, snigger).

But what Paul didn’t tell me is that Boundary Park, although not quite Doncaster, is a pig of a place to get to.

I’d like to pretend I looked at a dog-eared A-Z to plan my journey, but the sad reality is I plugged in the sat nav, and in ‘avoiding traffic’ – as it described constantly moving the purple line to the chequered flag – it took me through what felt like the whole of the North West before I saw the tops of the ground’s floodlights peer over rooftops in the distance.

The mood a 2-1 defeat for Latics put me in, as well as the frantic rush to meet the post-match deadline, was not what you might describe as happy as I trudged back to the car to begin my journey home.

‘At least there’ll be no traffic at this time,’ I thought to myself, expecting to be home before midnight.

I wasn’t wrong, but I wasn’t spot on either.

The M60 was shut. The sat nav took me on the East Lancs and that was smothered in roadworks.

Not a driving experience to enjoy.