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Shoe-string motoring: getting the Fiat Seicento through the NCT

Shoe-string motoring: getting the Fiat Seicento through the NCT Shoe-string motoring: getting the Fiat Seicento through the NCT Shoe-string motoring: getting the Fiat Seicento through the NCT Shoe-string motoring: getting the Fiat Seicento through the NCT
Published on: September 25, 2012
Published on: September 25, 2012

Shoe-string motoring: getting the Fiat Seicento through the NCT

It passed! First time. Straight through and no advisory whatsoever. The few checks beforehand to make sure all the lights (including the often forgotten rear number plate lights) were working probably helped to ensure it wasn't going to fail on any silly points such as a bulb out or no screen-wash in the reservoir.

I also put on two new front tyres at €40 each as they had about 1.6mm of tread depth left - the limit - so better safe than sorry there and it would be a false economy to leave them while that worn anyway. They were cheap enough so rather than risk it they were replaced. The tester even commented when handing me the NCT by saying "Good car that". Having bought it for what most people would pay for four tyres to be replaced, I left feeling pretty smug...

However, the little Fiat has not been all good news. The crunching into third gear was getting worse. Then, one evening on my way home, it happened. It got stuck in third gear and no amount of clutch wiggling or gear stick waggling (my technical terms) would see it free. Not the worse gear to be stuck in, but to get home I have to travel up a very steep hill at the bottom of a junction with a fairly busy road. So trying to keep engine speed up, while slowing in the hope the oncoming traffic will have passed before I make my turn at the junction was not easy.

Of course it was doomed and I was destined not to get home in time for tea that evening. Making the turn and flooring the accelerator pedal to try and get up the steep slope was in vain. It made it a few metres before shuddering to a halt. Being unable to get it out of gear meant it couldn't be moved, rolled backwards, pushed or towed. Stuck, and still a good bit from home with no breakdown service number stored on my phone. Then it started to rain. Brilliant.

Huge thanks however to the two lads in their Nissan Almera from the '90s (another great bangernomics motor incidentally) who gave me a lift back home, and for helping me move the stranded Fiat right over to the side of the road. Once home I called the rescue organisation to arrange getting it recovered.

The recovery guy that turned up, some two hours later, managed to get it out of third by working some mechanical magic on the linkages. Having first and second again was enough to allow me to drive it back home. It has no third gear at all now, meaning it has to be revved hard in second, without mechanical sympathy, before going straight into fourth gear. It has also started to make slight crunching noises sometimes when going from second to fourth. All this has done nothing for my plans to improve my economy figures.

Some luck did come when I managed to source a second-hand gearbox from another car that has covered just 54,000 kilometres. Finding the right gearbox in itself was no easy feat due to the different transmissions Fiat used on these with no definite changeover date to go by. It seems more the case that whatever gearbox was closest to hand when the car was being built - in it went. The second-hand gearbox will be fitted next week, and probably a clutch too as it makes sense to put in a new one while the gearbox is out. With fresh gearbox oil and the new clutch all should be well in this rather enduring little Fiat.

With the other cars on my bangernomics fleet continuing to perform well it has been the newly acquired Fiat that all the time, attention and troubles have come from. But then I never got the Fiat thinking it would all be plain sailing - that was why the Lexus was bought. Even the Renault has been giving sterling service of late, although it needs two front tyres now, but that will have to wait after the recent expense with the Fiat.

Luckily for me, third gear isn't required for an NCT, so apart from that it continues to be a 'good car that'...