The clutch had been making a slight whirring noise for a while. Slowly but surely it became more noticeable. No oily spots under the parking space or other signs and portents. Just a little bit of a noise.
(For the children in the audience, the clutch is the device that you use to change gears in a car with a manual transmission.)
And then the noise took a quantifiable leap in intensity on the way out of town one day.
And then on the way back into town that day, the clutch went all the way down to the floor and wouldn't come back up.
As we left our 1999 Citroen Xantia named Xandy in Part 1 of our story, she was on a rollback headed for Garage Bernard & Fils in the town of St. Chinian. This was on a Friday. I had been promised that the work would begin the following Wednesday, important to keep in mind because the reason that Xandy was in St. Chinian in the first place was because the garage at La Croissade had said that the work could not be scheduled for 15 days. I take some blame for the delay. I have yet to create the kind of relationship one needs with one's mechanic when owning an older, well-worn vehicle.
And now the story becomes decidedly French.
Those of you who follow these ramblings know that I do not generally subscribe to the theory that all things French are overly complicated, take too much time, lack Anglo get up and go, and are in general too prone to obfuscation and delay. I have generally found the French to be timely and responsive.
Wednesday came. Wednesday went. On Thursday, I wrote an email. When will the work begin? On Friday, I received a reply. No subject line. No text. Just an attachment, an estimate. Just over 900 euros. I have some familiarity with the cost of full clutch replacements having driven standard transmission vehicles for decades and having a propensity for driving them into the ground. So, given the 20% VAT, and given the fact that Bernard & Fils is a Citroen dealer and not an independent garage, 900 euros was not outrageous.
A trip to an interesting website that provides estimates on mechanical work based on make and model added to my belief in the reasonableness of the estimate. Click HERE to check it out.
I emailed back, authorizing the work.
The weekend came and went. On Monday, I called. Call back Wednesday. On Wednesday, I called. We're having trouble getting a part. Maybe Friday. On Friday, I called. Next week.
By the time that the following Monday rolled around, we were past 15 days. But the work had begun. Hope springs eternal. A friend agreed to drive me to St. Chinian to meet face-to-face with Bernard or his Fils. When we arrived, I didn't ask questions. I just walked into the service area behind the office, spotted Xandy on a lift in the back with two mechanics on the job, and walked on over. In a minute, an older gent appeared. Bernard? Fils? In any event, he seemed to know his stuff. An internet parts distributor had sent the wrong part, wasting time. But that had been corrected and the car would be ready tomorrow. Probably in the morning. Call first.
After further pleasantries, we left. The next morning, I called. Not yet, but soon. Come at 4:00 PM.
I came at 4:00. Xandy was ready. I paid. The mechanic who handed me the key let me know that the suspension could use replacement. Yes, Xandy has always been a bit bouncy. But we'll see in a couple of months when the controle technique (biannual safety inspection) is due.
I drove away. All in working order. Perhaps a bit more free play in the clutch than I'm used to. I might adjust. Otherwise, mission accomplished...the French way.