What an expensive month July has been thus far. No, the Renault hasn't gone on strike - well at least not yet. Tax was due on the Clio, so having paid the princely sum of 366 for six months use on the roads I also decided to have the timing belt done.
Being a highly tuned belt-driven engine with 16 valves it's not a chance I wanted to take and with no hard evidence of it having been done I didn't want the horror of a snapped belt and bent valves rearing its head one evening miles from home. It is a cost I factor into all my cars if there is no history of the belt having recently been changed.
As this particular engine uses a variable valve timing system the change actually requires a special locking tool most garages don't have. In addition it also has another belt that drives the ancillaries and if that snaps it often takes the cambelt out with it. So both belts and water pump it was then.
The full kit was done by Deerpark Motors, a long serving Renault dealer in Charleville, County Cork. After phoning up three Renault dealers before for prices, I went with Deerpark Motors as it was clear the service manager knew his Renaults and was inclined to provide a customer service experience worthy of my business. In addition he also managed to quote for the correct job and parts - unlike three other main dealers that continually quoted for a 1.2 Clio despite being given the details and a prompt of "Is that price for all models and engine sizes?" Confidence in such poor knowledge is a little concerning to say the least. Hence Deerpark Motors got the chance to relieve me of just over 1,000 including a new throttle cable and a full throttle body clean to try and cure the occasional high idle the Clio has developed.
Told you my wallet and this little French number would become very familiar didn't I?
Usually I would not use a main dealer for work other than, perhaps, ordering a part that could not be obtained from another source. However, due to the special tool required and the possible damage that can be caused if/when a cambelt does break it's piece of mind having the main dealer invoice for the work having been done to the manufacturer's standards.
So other than that how is the Clio getting on? Well my 'better half' loves it - even naming the car Chloe. Chloe the Clio still occasionally idles high, usually when hot - further investigation and money will be required. The remote unlocking feature has gone on strike so it's back to using the key to lock and unlock doors as needed. No big deal - I could do with the exercise. The electric passenger wing mirror has stopped working also - maybe it has taken an extended holiday with the remote locking feature. A minor annoyance all the same. Oh, and the front tyres are getting alarmingly low on thread already. Price I will pay for running such a high-powered little car I guess.
Fuel economy wise though I have been surprised. With the Clio being the most recent addition to the 'banger' fleet almost every journey has been a blast, using that blistering acceleration and the seemingly impossible cornering grip to the full wherever possible. It's a riot. Driving everywhere with silly grins seems to be standard fare. Despite all this thrashing it has been returning a consistent 31mpg. This has mostly been on country roads and the occasional runs through town for the weekly shop and other such exciting chores.
Meanwhile the Lexus has also had some attention. One of the front tyres was shredded after hitting a pothole at the side of the road. I say pothole, it could have been used as a swimming pool for the upcoming Olympics...
As this particular crater was on the very edge of the road and on a bend, with on-coming traffic, there was no way to avoid it. That loud thud is such a sickening noise to hear. Almost immediately the steering feel changed and the flutter of lose rubber was heard from the nearside front wheel. I will elaborate more on the Lexus another time.
Did I mention it has been an expensive month?