After a quiet Christmas Day at home, we set off on Boxing Day to see my husband’s family. They don’t live that far away (45 minutes drive on a good run), so we hadn’t really anticipated any problems. We were driving along listening to Kate Bush on the radio, when we heard a strange noise. I turned the radio off and we could still hear it, but it was difficult to really work out what it was, but it definitely didn’t sound like a good, healthy noise.
A few miles further on and I had the definite impression that I was losing power, it seemed to get worse and worse. There was another louder, more scary noise. I put my hazards on and limped along to a lay by. It was frustrating as we knew we were close to our exit, but I didn’t dare drive any further. We got out and inspected the car, but there wasn’t nothing blindingly obvious wrong (it would have had to be pretty obvious as neither of us are skilled mechanically). We rang for help from the emergency telephone and found a safe place to stand on some steps on the embankment. It was freezing cold (it would snow later that day).
We rang and arranged for Mr 92three30’s dad to come and pick H up. We weren’t far from their house and it was very cold. He took H and our luggage away and we settled down for a wait. It took just over an hour of waiting before the breakdown man arrived. He couldn’t see anything wrong, so he suggested we drive off at the next junction and take the car somewhere quieter and safer. We did that with him behind us with his flashing light on and limped off at the junction. We knew there was a lay by very early on the road just there, as it was the junction we normally took. We barely made it. Mr Breakdown still wasn’t sure what was wrong so he suggested driving it himself. He could immediately see there was a problem with the gearbox and reverse gear wasn’t working at all. He drove the car slowly to the next lay by a 100 metres down the road or so, and then turned the car around to go back to his van at which point the car totally gave up the ghost.
He said that gearbox failures were a common fault in Toyota Corollas. A little googling on the subject later seemed to bear this out. Generally, a gearbox should last 100,000 miles or more. Our car has done less than 60,000. There were lots of gearbox failures being reported in online forums at 50 something thousand miles, just like ours. There were tales of people with 3-year-old cars struggling to get a contribution from Toyota, so I don’t rate our chances with an 11-year-old veteran.
So our car has gone off to a garage for repair. The breakdown people took it to one of their garages, but it’s not a great time of year to be getting anything done in a hurry, so we are likely to be without our car for over 2 weeks in total.
It was a bit of a dilemma what to do about the car. Repairing it will probably cost what it is worth (if it was in working order), especially as we already knew the front brake pads would need replacing soon too. We could scrap it and buy another car, but if that was a second-hand one, it would be an uncertain option. We’d recently discussed saving up for another car, but we were talking a few years hence and not this week. Our Corolla has been ours since new and has been serviced regularly. It’s been reliable and it’s very much a known quantity. Buying a second-hand car, which could turn out to be unreliable, might actually cost us more in the long run. And then there is the hassle and work of sourcing another car, researching, test driving, etc. We haven’t currently got a car to get around to see potential vehicles. It would be a bit of a mare. Buying a new car wasn’t something we felt we could do right now and there is often a bit of a wait for a new one anyway. In the end it was a close call, but we decided to have our old car repaired.
So now we are back at home without a car. It’s not the worst possible time, but it’s never a convenient time is it? On the plus side, we walk to school and Mr 92three30 gets the bus to work anyway, so the daily commute is unaffected. It’s me that will miss it more. I’ve been using the car for shorter journeys than normal lately because I sprained my ankle badly early in December. It’s getting better, but it will struggle a bit if I have to walk more. There are a few logistical challenges like H’s swimming class, which is too far away to walk, but we can get the bus. I think I might need to investigate online shopping for the first time, if only to get a few of the bulky things delivered as we are short of some of the heavy things like cat litter. It’s money we could do without spending obviously, but we had some saved up for kitchen accessories and for decorating H’s room, so those plans will have to go on hold.