Monday, February 15, 2016

CAR REPAIRS THE FRENCH WAY - PART 1

My working theory concerning private personal vehicular transportation of the four-wheeled variety is that cars are composed of bodywork surrounding disposable drive trains. Specifically, if the body parts of a car are in good order, without rust or corrosion, you can always replace the mechanical parts. Think about it. A rebuilt engine and transmission might cost a considerable wad of money to purchase and install but usually less than buying new and you come away with warranties and extra years of hassle-free driving.

It's the way I've rolled for years. Seldom have I given up on a vehicle that had less than 250,000 miles (400,000 km) on the clock. But that's in the United States. That's where I had a mechanic in my home town that I knew and trusted on speed dial. That's when both Cathey and I worked, so we had two cars...plus my scooter.

This is France. There isn't a mechanic in our little village and I have yet to form a relationship with one anywhere else. We're retired so we only maintain one car. I've yet to buy a scooter. So when the clutch blew out on our 1999 Citroen Xantia, life became more than a bit complicated.

Fortunately, I was only a couple of blocks from home. I managed to get the car off of the road and I walked home. We're insured through AXA, home, supplemental health (to pick up the percentage that the French system doesn't pay for inpatient hospital care), and auto. The auto insurance includes roadside assistance. I called. As I usually do as a matter of course, I apologized for my poor French. 

"Vous etes Anglais?" asked the operator. 

"Americain," I said.

And in a few moments, I was transferred to an English speaking agent. Score one for AXA. I told the agent who I was, where I was, and what the problem was. After verifying my creds, and a couple of minutes on hold, I was advised that I had a 45 minute wait for a tow. Not bad. Within about twenty minutes, I received a call from the driver. He was on his way. Not bad. And in another twenty minutes, the rollback came into view. Forty minutes all told. Not bad at all.

The driver was competent and businesslike. My car was up on the bed of the rollback quickly. No fuss. No muss. Now came the big question: Where did I want to go? As I said, I don't have a regular mechanic. The nearest full-service garage is about 5 kilometers away at La Croissade (The Crossroad), where two relatively busy secondary roads meet. So we went.

"15 days!"

That's how long it would take to schedule a clutch replacement. No chance for anything sooner. Shoot. The driver asked if he should call his people. I was leery. His people were Garage Bernard & Fils, a Citroen dealer. That was a plus. But a friend had warned me against them. In his experience, they found things to service that didn't need servicing.

What alternative did I have? 

None.

The driver called. 

"They can start work next Wednesday." Less than a week. OK.

So the driver dropped me off back in Quarante and I waved good-bye to Xandy (my nickname for my Xantia). In spite of letting me down, I'm still very fond of Xandy. When we bought her, she had 135,000 kilometers on the odometer. We only paid 2,500 euros. In the 20 months or so since, we've logged another 30,000 kilometers, hassle free. Not a hiccup of any consequence. Yes, we had to spend some money on the air conditioning. And yes, we had a problem with the electric window on the driver's side. But neither of those were what I would call a running problem. We could work through them. So we really can't complain.

Just wait...

Stay tuned for Part Two: Houston, We Have a Problem.

 

2 comments:

  1. I as on the edge of my seat ! excellent .... I got stung after a breakdown for 500 euros ..for a motorbike, & had to return it as they "Forgot" to put an essential bolt in the front braking system . next time ..tow HOME Ira .

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    1. That's a thought. Towing it home would have given me time to sort things. But I'm not certain that AXA would pay for a second tow and I'm not certain that the result would have been any different. Still, that IS a thought. Thanks.

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