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“Oi darlin’, yer lights ain’t on!”. If it wasn’t for that shout at the traffic lights when driving back from the gym I would have been none the wiser, until maybe driving down a dark road and having someone violently shunt up my bumper. . . I got home, checked around my car and yes, everything else worked but my tail lights were dead. I tried to access the bulbs via the boot but could not for the life of me get the carpet screw plugs out. Boyf then tried to ‘help’ by telling me to switch on the car interior light to look for the “over-ride switch”. I don’t know quite what he was thinking; my car is a Rover and not the Starship Enterprise. I grabbed the driver manual, my Haynes manual, locked up the car and went indoors. . . Next day, I went to my car and the immobiliser light on the dashboard wasn’t blinking so the key fob bipper didn't work. I then made like a Russian Gymnast and accessed the fuse box under the steering column (and whoever decided to put it THERE should be hit repeatedly with a monkey wrench). According to Haynes and the Rover manual "it is incredibly rare for both lights to blow at once. If both bulbs fail, check the fuses for a blown fuse" or words to that effect. After contorting myself for 20 minutes and then concussing myself on the steering wheel when Boyf suddenly appeared, yoinked open the drivers door and said "Are you ok down there?" I cussed violently and gave up, the fuses were all fine so I stomped indoors, quite miffed at my motoring independence being snatched from my hands. . . I rang my trusted garage the next day, but they were stumped and said as I couldn't start the car, I would have to get it towed there at a cost of £50 and as they were snowed under it could take a few days for a full electrical check to be performed to find the fault and they could give no indication of any final price. . . I then rang a dedicated Rover mechanic - there are still a few about! - and he said the immobiliser had activated and nothing I did would have any effect until I de-activated that, as it was quite a common fault with Rovers for the tail light wiring loom to become chaffed, blow the fuses and fuff up the immobiliser. Oh, and £150 please to tow you here if that's what you decide, plus extra for the diagnostics then more for the repair. Argh. . . . Saturday and I tried to deactivate the immobiliser using the 4-digit EKA code. No joy. Engine fuses all fine and dandy, wiring un-chaffed. Me, stressed. I then finally gave in and ring RAC. I’ve been with them for years but never used then and as is S*ds Law, when I renewed a few months back, I cancelled my "Home Start" policy, instead opting for the fraction of the cost "Road Side" and that only covers breakdowns a quarter of a mile from your home and I didn't fancy pushing my car as knowing my luck, there would have been no parking spaces and I would have had to have looped and pushed it back home. . . A kindly call centre person said that for £61.50, I could upgrade to Home Start and a £20 surcharge would be applied as I would be calling them out straight away. Usually there is something like a 14 day wait between being covered and being able to call them out for free. The work done would be free but any parts used would be charged for. . . I agreed to this. I was put on hold, then was told that due to me being a long-standing member, they would waive the £20 fee. I thought this was very kind of them. I was told that as I wasn't strictly an emergency (my not being pregnant / incredibly old / on a motorway / at midnight), I would have to wait about 2 hours as they were incredibly busy in my area but they would keep me informed of progress by calling my mobile. . . We’d had lots of heavy rain recently and Epping, Loughton and the surround bits do tend to get a bit waterlogged - after a heavy Summer downfall you can actually hear the grass slurping and gurgling which freaked the heck out of me the first time I heard it - so I guessed the wait was due to lots of drivers going through a shallow puddle and finding themselves stuck to their wheel arches and flooding their engine. . . I made the call at 12 o'clock then set about anxiously hoovering and polishing and doing laundry (seriously, the house never looked cleaner). I had a call saying "Big delays, you’re looking at 90minutes wait". I agreed.... then not even 10minutes later at 1pm, the bright orange RAC van appeared and I literally skipped to the door. . . I'd barely explained the problem to the guy when he was popping the bonnet and connecting a portable battery charger to my car. He then looked at me, said "Totally flat battery. You left your internal car light on". "Argh" said I. "Y'know, I had a niggly voice saying ‘battery, battery’ to me, but I ignored it". He looked at me with a combination of understanding and pity. . . I didn't know but as I'd switched the internal light to 'on' and even though the light went off when I shut the car door, the circuit stayed live with lots of electrical current whoosing about - and in the space of 24hrs or less, this totally flattened the battery. . . The portable charger was doing its stuff, my engine was now ticking over and yes, my tail lights were still dead. RAC man effortlessly removed the boot carpet - easier when you do these things day in day out I suppose - and found that both rear bulbs had blown plus my right reverse light. Luckily I'd bought spares (a little voice that I actually listened to told me to do this on Friday), these were put in and job done. . . I was told to keep the engine running for an hour to fully charge the battery and that was it, RAC man packed up, waved goodbye and he was off to rescue some other driver in distress. . . I kept the engine running but then Boyf said driving it would actually charge it better, so I drove us to Woodford for lunch - all the time petrified that the engine would cut out at traffic lights. It didn't, we got there....and back safely and the car has been driven several times since. Infact, it is actually driving quieter than before - and I haven't a clue how or why!
April Update...... I'd finished my gym workout, got to my car and thought my driver side front tyre looked saggy. Crouching down I could hear it hissing but decided to quickly drive my car to the outside overflow carpark that no-one uses, thinking this would give me more space to deal with the tyre. After faffing for a bit, I couldn't do it. I rang the RAC feeling pretty useless at myself. They said it would take about 70minutes to reach me which I was a bit shocked at but I settled down to my fate, getting the spare out of the boot all nice and ready. Ten men drove past me, gawked, and drove off. One man helped but sadly neither of us could work out how to remove the locking wheel nuts so had to admit defeat. Cut a long story short, as I live a 10minute drive from the gym, we pumped up the leaky tyre and I drove home (my kind helper even offered to follow to make sure I got home safely). I got home and by now 35minutes had gone. RAC man rang, said he'd be with me in 20....and he was. Took him all of 6 minutes to change the tyre to the spare (and yes, I made him show me exactly what he did so I'm better prepared should it happen again!), and then with a smile and a wave, he was off. . . . Recommended? Yes. I know that for me it was a quick and simple fix but flat batteries, no petrol and flat tyres (and now having experienced two out of three!) make up the main portion of call outs. I know when it is time for renewal I won't be opting for RoadSide, I'll be paying that bit extra and going for HomeStart, it really is worth it. . You can check out the details on the RAC website, so I won't quote everything there as they often have the odd on-line promotional reduction plus you can often get special offers from those little mobile pitches in shopping centres and car parks. . My Roadside cover was £28, this covered me for breakdowns ¼ mile from home and towing my car to a garage within 10miles if it couldn't be fixed. The additional charge of £61 for 'At Home' bumped my cost up to a total of £89. The current (April 2010) reduced price on-line for Roadside & At Home Cover is £79.63 so all in all, not too bad a deal and you are permitted 6 call outs a year so providing you don't get four flat tyres, no petrol, a flat battery and something else - you should be A ok! (and if you do experience all those, maybe you should consider taxis or rollerskates).