June 2010

IMG_0080_4c27c843aeff6-lightboxTo visit, you understand; I wouldn’t want to live there. Any country which produces newspaper editors who emblazon their front pages with the headline ‘USA Wins 1-1’ clearly has issues. But they have an ingenuity and can-do attitude which I find quite heartening. And besides all that, they also have some of the most powerful air-conditioning systems in the world.

There are many inventions for which we should thank the Americans (although not, perhaps, as many as they would claim) but given the recent weather, I am very grateful to the late Willis Haviland Carrier for the theory of air-conditioning, which he first patented in 1906. Born in New York, Carrier invented the world’s first ‘Air-treating Apparatus’ and it is him we ultimately have to thank for being able to drive around in little fridges whenever the sun pops out in the middle of summer.

Why the history lesson? Try living with a pregnant wife in the month of June. If you have, then you’ll know the importance of air-conditioning, and why Carrier was a genius. Pregnancy and hot weather are a combustible combination, so imagine my dismay at the commencement of the current hot spell when I started the M5 one morning and immediately noticed the absence of fresh air emanating from the dashboard vents. Pressing the air-con button elicited the familiar compressor sounds from the engine and change in engine note, but no movement through the vents, irrespective of the speed setting on the fan control. Recalling a previous conversation on this with OSC Motorsport, in response to some irregular behaviour exhibited by the demister fan (it would alter its speed setting seemingly at will, although not very often and only temporarily), I suspected either the heater resistor had packed-up, or the fan motor itself had seized or otherwise lunched itself.

Demonstrating his knowledge of the E39 M5 generation when I phoned-in my SOS, Onkar suggested it was probably the resistor that had gone. Fan-motor failures were rare, he said, whereas the resistor was a known weak point and was easy and cheap to fix. So the order was duly placed with BMW and the offending item was whipped-out one Saturday morning by Dave, one of Onkar’s cheery mechanics. Outwardly, there were no signs of any failure, but it was still possible that the internals had burnt-out, so we progressed and Dave went at it with his typical enthusiasm. I’ve never known a man to be so happy in his work. Doubled-up under the dashboard of the M5, contorted into all manner of weird shapes in an effort to persuade the replacement resistor into its new home, he finally reappeared triumphantly, declaring ‘Aha – Done it!’. Ignition on, hitting ‘max’ on the dashboard brought a veritable gale through the dashboard and I was able to drive home in my own little fridge. The chilled air was sweet too, as the warranty company agreed to pay £112 of the £145 invoice (consisting of £95.18 for the resistor and the rest as labour and believe me, he earnt it). Quite why they couldn’t manage the other 33 quid is not important as life really is too short.

Never happy of course. Now that it works, it seems to be stronger than ever, so I’m constantly turning it down before my knuckles freeze in the arctic winds…

Other than that, I’ve had a new windscreen fitted to the M5 this month, thanks to a high-velocity projectile which struck the screen just below the header-rail on the A40 one morning. At first, the crack was small but as is always the way with these things, once a crack starts it doesn’t stop and in a few short days it had snaked its way across the passenger side. Onto the insurance company, who were very efficient and had Auto-Windscreens at my offices within only a few days. Five-hundred pounds of screen were duly fitted and the AW chaps were sent on their way with my cheque for the £75 excess. Nice screen, too, although my valeter moaned a little that they’d left a load of dust and general detritus across the top of the dashboard.

We’ll be back at OSC in a couple of weeks, as I suspect the top-mounts on the rear need replacing. There’s a definite ‘thonk’ coming from the rear whenever traversing a sharp ridge, pot-hole or other road imperfection. This requires removal of the rear seats, although it’s still only an hour or so each side, so I’m hoping OSC can work their magic on another Saturday morning. The parts themselves are only about £30 each it would seem, but combined with the labour we could be looking at a £200 bill, so I think I’ll once again be calling upon those nice people at the warranty company. Brake-reaction control arms on the front are needed too, and an inspection 2 service is due in a few months, so the ‘big car, big bills’ maxim will be wheeled-out I suspect in order to appease the accountant.

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Mark Williams