Thursday, 26 November 2009

Frustration (V/VI)

Written 25th November

So, we are still in La Rochelle until tomorrw when our new airfilter will arrive in the shop, and having seen the sights, we are getting on with the many van improvement projets currently on the go - well Will is, I am largely watching him, passing things and making sympathetic noises.

Yesterday was characterised by glorious sunshine whilst we were in the van doing things and by breaking things, today has been characterised by success and failure in buying things and by torrential rain whilst out on our bikes doing so... frustrating

We got impatiently kicked off our campsite pitch by some extremely on time french motorhome drivers - there wasn't even time for Will to pair his clean socks up, how is he going to manage??? (I personally believe that life is too short for pairing socks, especially when they are all black, so refuse to do it in principle - I know, I am a terrible wife).  And in the hurry, I managed to smash Will's china campervan mug which had been given to him by our neighbours as a thankyou for taking their elderly dad out for a spin in the midget as a 90th birthday treat (apparently every time he stays there, he gets up specially to watch Will drive to work as he thinks the car is cute :) )  Not the end of the world, although out of the three mugs I was carrying, I obviously had to drop the smashable one :(

Stuff stowed (sort of, stuffed in at least), we set off again in search of free internet and found some accompanied by a nice panini but ran out of battery at the same time as we ran out of sandwich but before we had got near the blog or the pictures.  As the sun was shining, we parked near the marina for Will to get on with installing up his new lamba sensor (by means of stuffing it in the exhaust, clamping it and stuffing the wires through the back door and I caught up with my Ile de Re daisy painting.

All very nice until we came to leave and the battery warning light came on as well as the EGR light - very very bad news as this is an alternator failure indicator.  After some panicked checking of things, the problem fortunately turned out to be a broken wire which Will could temporarily fix by disconnecting the leisure battery - fixed the battery light but not the EGR one - these dashboard lights are a roller coaster ride of emotions!  So we set off to the supermarket and when we got there found that the expensive lamda sensor had worked its way loose, fallen out and smashed on the road - just when it was all starting to look like it might work as well... :( (although inital readings look surprisingly like we are running lean not rich as we first thought (I am using "we" in the loosest sense here of course ;) ) so we need to find out if that is really what is happening...)

hopefully broken things do only come in threes...  oh, I forgot, later on the soldering iron tip disintegrated from over use...  oh, and whilst in the engine bay he found that the coupler for the brakes servo is cracked so he has fixed it with self-amalgamating tape - well as the Volksworld Camper and Bus magazine says 'any self respecting original VW camper has at least one bit of engine held together by tape'...

Taking ourselves back to our favourite car park, Will set about once more duckdiving into the engine bay to fix the wiring and change the fuel injector seals which he didn't get round to doing when the engine was out - not an urgent thing but as we had new ones, why not... and at least he can get into the engine bay without having to be outside! - whilst I cooked delicious bolognese.  (the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall River Cottage recipe from the chanel4 website - v v yummy!)

Whilst down there, and after the fuel injector seals but before the wiring, the throttle "accidentally came off in his hands" and whilst his fibre glass and bike innertube airflow sensor connector was setting, he spent the rest of the evening working out how he can install the citroen saxo 1.4l throttle which he bought in the scrappy in Sandwich, erroneously thinking it might have an airflow sensor in it, and which we have been carrying around ever since (our throttle is apparently leaking air past when it should be off, which is apparently 'not a good thing').

The wiring is still not fixed so the leisure battery won't charge but as we haven't driven anywhere yet, this is not so urgent, and we now have a shopping list of bits which includes solder, a new soldering iron tip, more components, impact adhesive, spade connectors, 2 part epoxy putty, engine sealant and a tealight...

In the morning, with the engine still (by choice) missing vital pieces and deciding that La Rochelle is actually smaller than we first thought, we set off under a lightly cloudy sky on our bikes, back to the components shop.  Initally the plan was good although at the last moment, when in sight of the place on the other side of the motorway ring road, the cycle lane suddenly disappeared so we ended up for one junction probably not strictly legally on a motorway (only 100yrds or so, don't worry...). 

 Unfortunately our experience was not so good this time round, we managed the capacitors, the spade connectors were really expensive (so we left them), we couldn't find a soldering iron tip to fit (although they sell the same brand in the shop) so Will has had to buy an new one (which does at least run off 12v so one more smaller drain on the battery by by-passing the massive inverter) and they didn't know what a stepper motor driver was and wanted a component reference number.  Slightly disheartened, we headed to a halfords type place, where glue and spade connectors were even more expensive and eventually ended up in Carrefour where to our surprise, we found all the connecting/sealing/gluing things we wanted for only small amounts of money - hurrah! - , some bike brake cable which we can use to modify the throttle cable to work with the new throttle (just need something to fix it with) and a nice vanilla scented candle in a glass pot (more on that later - suffice to say, it is part of the plan, not decoration)

Will thought he had a cunning plan to negate the need for a stepper motor driver (the motor is used to adjust the new throttle idle in case you are wondering) so we had a nice petit cafe whilst he plotted circuit diagrams and did complicated maths.  Unfortunately during this time, it started raining and when we went back to the components shop, sure enough, they were shut for their two hour french dejeuner - so we returned to Carrefour to waste an hour and a half with baguette and salami and an apple (which didn't take 1.5h!) - even the mythical Darty was shut for lunch so we still haven't actually been in it - I guess we should be at least grateful that Carrefour staff don't down tills for a three course lunch...

By 2pm it was raining even more heavily but success was at least within our grasp as they would surely have these much more simple components (4 part opto isolator and mosfets) unfortunately no, it seems they do not.  or at least, they might, but if you can't tell them the component number, they can't find it IN THEIR OWN SHOP!!!  It took a good while for them to understand what it was that we wanted and once they did, there was a gallic shrug and a helpless indication towards the many little drawers of things and the regret that without knowing the component number they sadly wouldn't have the first idea where to even begin looking.  I asked for a catalogue and was told "but that will only tell you the price" and stupidly I thought that if there was a price, there must be a component number - so close but yet so far - only half the components have pictures, the rest, including the opto couplers and isolators, of which there are about 50 listed, are just listed by component number - many of which start with a different combination of letters - and price, with absolutely no indication of what they actually do and in looking at them Will spotted that there were many things incorrectly listed with the same reference number but a different price. 

Using their till computer and internet connection, we tried looking up the datasheets for different reference numbers at random and eventually found one of the thing we wanted, only to be told that they didn't have that particular one, it would have to be ordered which would take 5 days. At this point they told us that they didn't only have the things that catalogue, there was another catalogue of equivalent things (with different reference numbers) and they also have other things in the shop which are not in either catalogue and which they can find if we give them the reference number.....

So, if they have lots listed, but ony a few in stock, why they couldn't just pull out the drawers of the ones they did have so we could look, I don't know, and WHY THE F**K they have a shop full of small things with reference numbers but no way of finding out what the reference number for the thing you want is I DON'T KNOW.  I mean - IT IS YOUR SHOP - I TELL YOU WHAT I WANT AND YOU TELL YOURSELF REFERENCE NUMBER WHICH YOU REQUIRE OF THE THING I WANT AND THEN I WILL GIVE YOU GOOD MONEY TO BUY IT FROM YOU..... THIS IS HOW SHOPS WORK!!!!   Eventually we bought a €0.70 bipole switch thing, instead of the €many mosfets and bits, which coupled with the one Will inadvertantly bought in Maplin (where at least when the spotty youth looks at you gormlessly you can point at a picture of the thing you want in the nice shiney catalogue of things which have reference numbers and descriptions and he will trot off obediently fetch it for you - I am feeing more well disposed towards Maplin now - it only makes me bored, not irate) should allow him to cobble a manual solution together.   As you can tell, we are bit frustrated.

To make matters worse, it was raining harder when we set out for home and, due to significant lack of cycle route signage and after therefore nearly ending up much more seriously on a motorway, we found ourselves in an unknown area of town with no map, and did I mention it was raining???

We did of course find our way back and made delicious hot chocolate (we have bought new chocolate which is even nicer) to warm ourselves up.  Will is now making his thing to fit the new throttle - new one has a flat face and the bit it fixes to is a cone so he has filled the neck of the old throttle with melted candle wax (after sealing the important inner workings off with loose change and bluetack)

and is using that as a form around which to mould his epoxy putty to make the requisite concave cone which, when set, he will then fit to the flat face of the new throttle with engine sealent - see, obvious really.  He has also hacked together his stepper motor driver and has found that we will be able to adjust the idle very, very, extremely finely indeed (ie slowly) by the alternate switching of the two bipole switches. Needless to state the leisure battery wiring is not yet done but we're not going anywhere until tomorrow...

I have calmed myself down somewhat by spending an hour making a venn diagram of our component buying experience as illustration.

Obviously the "All the components in the entire world" class should be bigger but you get the idea....  and yes, I am quite sad but it is raining out and I don't fancy going for a walk into town just right now and I am quite calm, although that could be down to the scented candle.

 I'm going to reheat the leftover bolognese and drink wine for a bit now and hope that tomorrow is more successful - what was I saying the other day about bags of patience and encouraging yourself to get lost.... ;)

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