I thought I’d just share our recent experience with other TR owners. This is just a tale of our French garage experience for your entertainment...
Let’s be more precise ... what would you expect for €600 CASH ... or, as he explained in his rapidly improved English, €800 if you want a receipt ... And, yes I can walk you to the closest cash machine whilst your car is conveniently blocked in my garage.
From my post pleading for help, you may have seen we were rather stuck in France with a seriously damaged UJ. We’re currently on the final legs of a road trip that has taken us from the Isle of Wight to Essex, Holland, Germany, Black Forest, Switzerland, France & Spain. Twelve stops over 4 weeks. Through the Alps and over the Pyrenees. Every leg bar one on B-roads avoiding tolls and motorways and through some of the most breathtaking areas, views and roads.
Once we realised what the loud knocking noise that had developed at the rear was, we googled local garages and this one came up as ‘recommended’. By luck, it was no more than 500 yards from our hotel.
My wife’s French is very good and day to day things like eating out, shopping and all the tourist stuff is a breeze. However, for her to describe the finer issues of the working parts of a car ... that she has absolutely no idea about, well that was a bit of a stretch. Match that with a mechanic who I expect didn’t like the English and had no time for pigeon French, we had quite a language barrier. All said, with a few drawings and photos, I believe we managed to let him know the problem.
This was late on Monday night and we agreed that I would bring the limping 4A around at 8am the next day.
My wife’s not a ‘morning’ person so I dealt with this all by myself .... Armed with a diagram covered with notes in French, I took the car there and in my useless French, I showed him this plan and he nodded a lot and then gave me a ‘thumbs up’ leaving me to think that all was in hand.
What was in my note ??? Well, it clearly showed what UJ was knackered (the one closest to the Diff) and very clearly showing that the two by the hubs were ‘NEW’. Simply enough ... you’d think.
At lunch time that same day my wife and I called in to see how things were going. I was pleased to see the 4A on a four post ramp with wheels off ... but a little concerned to why the bonnet needed to be open. I assumed he was extra vigilant and had disconnected the battery ... despite there being absolutely no reason to.
It was at this point that we discovered the first issue we had as a result in poor communication. He had the sub axles off and showed us that actually, both UJ’s either side of the diff needed replacing but he was expecting us to turn up with them. I had thought that he could easily source them but apparently not in less than a week.
This is the point where TR reg help was at hand and as that thread concluded, we ended up ordering from the UK for next day delivery. What actually happened was we were both calling and begging at the same time in different rooms of the apartment and had both managed to secure delivery for the next morning. My wife with Moss and me with Rimmers. Rather than cancel a set, we thought ‘let’s have all 4 delivered as it must improve our chances of having one set by the next day’.
So, a walk back to the garage to explain this to Mr Mechanic... who had gone to lunch ... at 3pm.... so, we were left to speak to what would appear to be the young apprentice. Our conversation was a struggle. He too had no English ... actually, I’m not sure he had French either and what we had to say didn’t warrant him removing his headphones but we thought the main message had got through .... Two deliveries, use the first two that turn up and the spare two we’ll keep. Car left on the ramp .... we’ll return tomorrow.
With no way of tracking the UJ’s we thought we’d leave it till 1pm to call by and see if they’d arrived. We were greeted by Mr Mechanic and he had a tray load of parts .... way too many for me. Four UJ’s had apparently arrived at 10am. Great news ... however, he clearly never got or understood the message as he thought - We ordered 4 so ‘clearly’ we wanted him to change four. Yep, he changed two UJ’s that we’re only 6 months old and had done about 1500 miles max.... oh well, no harm.
We were told to rerun at 6pm when the car would be complete. We did & it was. Then the bill......
Well, we knew the hourly rate was €55 and that was acceptable .... but 10 hours to change four UJ’s ? Well I’m no mechanic but I’ve done them and I’d say 5 hours max. It had to be cash and no receipts, etc. At this point there was really nothing else we could do but pay and leave. So once escorted to the bank we came back and paid the €600. We argued a bit more and got a 100Mph explanation in French that my wife understood about 50% of but the one bit I picked up on was the extra €50 ... He had ‘serviced’ the car and that was why it was 10 hours
This service included adding 2 lites of oil....at €50 ! Now I knew it would have been a little low on oil after the last trip and had planed to check and top up before the next leg. Top up with the 20W/50 oil it likes to run on and I had brought with me. Now we have 2 litres of **** oil that I can smell burning off because it’s too thin. Hmmm thanks for that.
He also said he’d put more air in the tyres and water in the rad. My TR doesn’t loose any water and I keep it just at the right level as taught on this very forum. He overfilled it so when we next stopped, we had a nice puddle ... no harm ... I guess.
Now for the most frightening bit. As we were running very late and our planned route was a 6 hour drive, we opted for the motorway route instead that reduced the mileage to 230 and the time to 4 hours. As soon as we hit the motorway and got to over 50MPH the car was floating across the road. I don’t ever recall bing so terrified driving a car. I didn’t want to slow down to 30 and be a target for the lorries but anything over 50 and it would drift across all the lanes.
Fortunately, there was a service station only a few miles up the road. I quickly realised the tyres were over inflated. To be precise we now had 45psi in all four ! I let these down to about 32 and the car was good to go.
Once we reached the mid-Pyrenees destination the car was running awful. We had also used a huge amount of fuel. I just parked it up as it was midnight and visited it the next morning. It started, just but with bonnet up I could see fuel going everywhere. Somehow one of the fuel hoses to the carb had mysteriously come off ..... some fuel was going in but most was running down the wheel arch.... I still can’t understand why he even had to open the bonnet !
We decided to head off up the mountain for a hike but as we drove off, there was this really unusual noise out of the back wheels. It sounded like they were squelching ! So, back to the car park the and wheels had to come off. What I found were two splines completely cleaned off any grease. They used to be well greased but now we had zero. Once grease was added.... the noise was gone.
So to conclude ... €600 gets you 2 UJ’s you didn’t need, oil you don’t want, water you don’t want and air you don’t want and it removes the fuel you did want and grease you really needed ...
However, It also got us 2 UJ’s fitted that we desperately did need and after inspection they look to have been done correctly and for that, I am grateful. He did squeeze us in and that let us enjoy the rest of the trip with minimal delay and no extra hotel costs. So, although I know we’ve been a bit ripped off and he did try to kill us ... It could have been a lot worse.
Two more legs left and then back in the UK .... where I can drain the oil, replace the filter and replace the oil ...Oh, and wash the car ... greasy hand prints all over it ..