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DIY car repairs

I’m not a fan of cars, and I’m neither experienced nor especially competent when it comes to DIY. I’ve changed my car stereo before, but it felt like it was pushing the limits of my competence.

Wendy’s indicator in her car had been working intermittently for over a year, and recently stopped working altogether. I’d searched the web and come to the amateur conclusion that the indicator stalk had corroded, which seemed to be a common problem in her car’s model. Wendy asked the garage to repair it when she took it for an MOT, but they said they couldn’t do it. At another garage, they said they’d have to get a specialist in.

And that’s how I ended up buying a replacement indicator stalk online, and following a YouTube tutorial to fix the problem. It was straightforward, taking me about ninety minutes (over two days) and requiring no specialist tools. It did require taking the steering wheel off, which looked quite dramatic.

It all went back together effortlessly (with no bits left over!) and is working splendidly. I was really proud of myself for taking this on, despite it being way out of my comfort zone, and reaching a satisfying conclusion.

It also made me reflect on repairability, from two different perspectives.

Firstly: in the pre-internet era, would I have had the confidence to tackle this with nothing more than a Hayes manual? I think almost certainly not. There’s something reassuring about seeing multiple people tackle the task on video, and getting a proper visual sense of what to expect at each stage.

Secondly: if we had more up-to-date cars, would this be a manageable task? Again, I think almost certainly not. I suspect that modern cars are far less user-repairable, and that there would probably be some garage programming required to replace an electrical part. It seems unlikely that it would be plug-and-play, which wouldn’t be ideal in these climate challenged times.

And so, I suspect this repair has fallen at a very particular, fleeting moment in history. Technology gave me the confidence to tackle the job, but had not made the car itself too complex for a total amateur like me to be able to fix it.

This post was filed under: Post-a-day 2023, .

Car talk

Twenty years ago yesterday, I passed my practical driving test. It was not my first attempt: I had more than 100 lessons over a period of more than a year, and still failed on my first go. Spatial awareness and physical co-ordination have never been my strengths, so the ultimate success is probably more surprising than the initial failure.

Since then, I’ve owned two cars.

For the first six-and-a-half years of my driving ‘career’, I drove a Vauxhall Astra which used to be my mum’s. It served me well, but I decided that the time had come to replace it when fumes started leaking into the passenger cabin.

For the last thirteen-and-a-half years, I’ve driven a Toyota Aygo, which I still think of as my ‘new’ car. I’m still surprised by how fuel efficient it is in comparison to the old car, and how small its petrol tank is.

In the twenty years I’ve held a licence, I’ve been caught committing exactly one motoring offence: I drove through a red light. The circumstances were unusual: I was in a queue of traffic, and thought I had passed the light. In fact, the law is clear that no axle may pass the stop line once the light has changed to red, so my rear wheels saw me break the law. I should have known better.

I’ve never driven in another country, except for the Republic of Ireland, where I drove earlier this year.

From this history, you might surmise that I’m no great fan of driving: you’d be right. I’m glad that I learned to drive: it’s a skill I use at least monthly, and which makes my life easier. It’s a means to an end, but not an activity I derive pleasure from. If my car were magically made self-driving tomorrow, I’d have no qualms about giving driving up.

Roll on the future.

The image at the top of this post was generated by Midjourney.

This post was filed under: Post-a-day 2023, , .

30 things I learned in November 2019

1: It feels great, if a little anticlimactic, to finally be able to delete “Locum” from my email signature.

2: The North Shields Fish Quay has really smartened up since Wendy and I last visited. It would be nice to live somewhere with a river view, if only it didn’t have to be near a river.

3: Going to Ikea for the 10.30 Sunday browsing opening time isn’t a successful crowd avoidance strategy.

4: Barriers between healthcare organisations can make simple things—like arranging urgent vaccinations—more difficult than they ought to be. Perhaps someone should invent some sort of national health service which provides care based on need rather than budgets, contract provisions and organisational mission statements.

5: Telling patients that they look far too young to have donated blood 61 times makes them want to go back and donate again as soon as possible to receive more flattery.

6: Sometimes, people who use irritating business chatter do actually understand what they’re on about.

7: Business planning isn’t my bag.

8: Th Guardian Daily app doesn’t work properly on Kindle tablets.

9: Loud Christmas music in coffee shops makes settling down with a coffee and a good book difficult. Headphones and white noise on Spotify are an imperfect and antisocial solution.

10: It’s not easy being green: should I buy second-hand books and support the planet or new books and support the author?

11: Durham County Council has meeting rooms with quite spectacular coastal views in Seaham:

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12: Dementia friendly parking spaces are now a thing… at least in Hemlington:

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13: “At this time of year, it is not uncommon for viruses including influenza and norovirus to circulate in schools. The risk of infection can be reduced by practising good hand hygiene, particularly after using the toilet, after using a tissue to catch a cough or a sneeze, and before eating.”

14: Our TV needs re-tuning. Broadcasts are moving away from the 700MHz band of frequencies to free up spectrum for mobile data instead. Given the profitability of mobile data services and the proliferation of home broadband (especially in the context of PSTN switch-off), I wonder how long over-the-air television broadcast have left?

15: Arguments opposing the Public Libraries Act 1850 included a Conservative view that people “have too much knowledge already” and that “the more education people get the more difficult they are to manage.” In fairness, I suppose people now carry the sum of human knowledge in their pockets and do have a tendency to be rebel against authoritarian control, so perhaps he had a point.

16: The TLS has relaunched with a rather stylish new look. Dr Brian Klass’s comparison of politics in Trump’s America and that in Brexit Britain through the medium of cheese was a particular highlight of this issue for me.

17: Coffee shop Christmas music irritates Wendy even more than me. It’s depressing, or so I’m told.

18: A replacement wing mirror for a 2009 Aygo costs less than £50. I was expecting a much bigger bill after someone completely snapped mine off (and didn’t leave a note!)

19: The brand new Sunderland medical school has some impressive facilities.

20: Colleagues at Middlesbrough Council taught me that routine air quality monitoring still uses diffusion tubes fixed to lampposts; people have to go up in cherry pickers to change the tubes every month.

21: Research into treatments for interstitial lung disease includes a lot of discussion about disease taxonomy and the problem of lumping and splitting: considering diagnoses with the same underlying pathology together (lumping) or as distinct entities (splitting).

22: Cleveland Fire Brigade taught me about their Stay Safe and Warm free one-hour response service for boiler breakdowns where they lend people emergency electric heaters.

23: A wet and dreary Saturday can be a good prompt to light the fire and relax at home.

24: I didn’t know that Sheffield had a hybrid tram-train system until I read this Wired article.

25: Purdah rules can be really annoying sometimes, especially when I’ve done a lot of work to prepare for a meeting I’m no longer able to attend.

26: I thought I learned the etymology of the word “syndrome” after it was featured in a lecture. Yet after thinking about it for a while, the suggestion that it was derived from words for “before” and “diagnosis” didn’t ring true, so I looked it up in the OED online. The lecture version was thus proven to be completely wrong, so I suppose I learned not to take the content of lectures on trust.

27: Only a decade late to the party, I learned that Ecosia—the search engine that plants trees—is a thing.

28: People really don’t know what I do all day. This month, in my health protection role, a meeting of vascular surgeons has invited me to talk about knife crime, a univeristy course has asked me to teach about rural medicine, and a meeting of intensivists has invited me to present on recreational drug toxicology. They may be disappointed at me turning down their kind invitations, but they’d be far more disappointed if I accepted given that I know naff all about any of those topics.

29: Via Lana Greene’s column in 1843, I leaned of the German word “Multioptionsgesellschaft”. It was apparently coined by Peter Gross, a Swiss sociologist, in the early 1990s. It refers to a world swamped by choice, which feels very current: I frequently open Netflix for something to watch and close it a few minutes later with the resignation of not being able to decide.

30: I heard a snippet of a radio programme in which an older person was being interviewed and the subject of loneliness among the elderly came up. The interviewee suggested that while lots of attention has been paid to loneliness recently, too little has been paid to the loss of solitude for many other older people, such as those in care homes. I’d never heard that point made before, and I suspect it will stick with me: solitude is something very important to me.

This post was filed under: Posts delayed by 12 months, Things I've learned, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Diary for 20th July 2008

I’m sure drivers exhibit a negative correlation between familiarity with the highway code and familiarity with their car horn. «

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, , .

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