But another interesting experience to savour as I’ll go on to explain. The Spanish seller of the Kia engine did eventually come back and confirm that it was tested before it was removed from the donor vehicle and found to be in good running order, so that was enough for me and I then arranged a direct bank transfer to buy it. However, this then left me with a problem.
I’d already ordered a towbar kit for the C-Max and I’d hoped to fit it last Thursday, albeit without electrics as I’d discovered that it didn’t come with a relay module that the C-Max needs, and then pop down to Spain to pick the engine up on Friday. Then two setbacks occurred. Firstly I found that one of the securing nuts on the C-Max’s rear bumper was tightly seized and the stud that it was on appeared to be turning in the plastic of the bumper. I wanted to remove the rear wheel to get a better look at what was going on but then found that the wrench in the car wouldn’t fit the wheel nuts and that in fact there was no way if I had a puncture on the road that I could take any of the wheels off!
Although the C-Max has Ford factory alloy wheels, no locking nuts are fitted so obviously they must think that the level of theft is lower in France than in the UK. But that’s another issue. The wheel nuts all have stainless steel metal caps on them that appeared to me to be removable as some were already off the nuts on one of the front wheels and I’d had to crimp them a bit in a vice to get them to clip back on again.
However, even with the caps off, the wrench supplied with the car still didn’t fit and I thought that probably some kind of adapter was needed that had perhaps been lost. I phoned the previous owner who wasn’t much help, as he said that he’d never(!) had to remove a wheel in the 4½ years that he’d owned the car and wheel and tyre changes had always been done by a professional. I couldn’t help but wonder how lucky he’d been not to have a puncture away from home!
But that didn’t help me. By this time I’d had to put the towbar and bumper problems to one side as it was clearly imperative to get to the bottom of how to remove the car’s wheels and Victor and I were looking at the problem together. Victor eventually managed to get through to the nearest Ford dealer at Trelissac who dumbfounded us both by telling us that the caps were never intended to be removable and they and the nuts were only ever sold together as single items.
When we checked, we found that the nuts with caps in good condition accepted an 18mm socket which could then be used to loosen and tighten the wheel nuts in the usual way with the caps left on. This meant that the car’s wheel wrench should also fit over the caps and be able to unscrew the nuts but it was evident that (a) the hexagon of the wrench was grossly over-sized compared to the caps and this was why so many of the caps had become distorted and (b) a goodly proportion of the caps had been so damaged that the 18mm socket would also not fit onto them.
To cut a long story short, we then had to spend an hour or so reshaping and recrimping the damaged caps so that they were then non-removable and would also accept the 18mm socket. This was achieved in the end but it meant that I will have to always carry an 18mm socket and bar in the car in the future in case of a puncture as if I try to use the wrench supplied with the car’s limited tool kit, it will only do the same damage to the caps and wheel nuts all over again.
That still left me with the problem of not being able to fit the new towbar, but what about the second setback? This took the form of an email that I received from the Spanish engine seller saying that Friday 12 October was Hispanic day, one of Spain’s multifarious public holidays, and their yard would be closed. So that seemed to be the end of it, at least for now.
However, I started thinking. Victor had suggested that as time was needed to solve the trailer problem, an alternative would be to drive down and have the seller drop the engine straight into the back of the C-Max. I hadn’t been keen on the idea at all but when I thought about it again it seemed to me to be feasible so long as the interior of the car was fully protected.
That gave me an idea. I had a spare roofing sheet left over from when I built my last garden store which, if cut to size, would make an excellent box in which to place the engine. But not only that. I also thought that if I worked quickly enough, I’d be able to fit it into the car and get away in time to head down to Spain on Friday (yesterday) afternoon, overnight in a convenient hotel and be at the engine seller’s yard when they opened this morning (Saturday) which they were scheduled to do from 9.00 am to 1.00 pm.
And things went like clockwork. The box went together in double-quick time as the following shots show.
And I drew up at the hotel that I’d managed to book in St-Jean-de-Luz in the bottom left-hand corner of France and, according to my satnav, only a 20 minute drive away from the engine seller’s yard in Hondarribia, just before Reception closed for the night at 9.00 pm.
The hotel and room were both a cut well above the Premiere Classe establishment that I’d stayed in on my way back from Paris even if the room was a little drab with its dull brown colour scheme. However, it was clean and smart with an excellent bathroom and shower and I slept well despite there being a road outside that I could actually hardly hear a sound from.
The young Slovenian lady on reception advised me to walk across to the adjacent Courtepaille Grill where I’d be able to get myself a good meal after my afternoon’s drive. This was the first time that I’d been into a Courtepaille restaurant but she was indeed correct. The rumpsteak that I ordered was cooked to perfection by a chef on a flaming grill in the restaurant itself and I enjoyed an excellent demi-pichet (50 cl) of local rosé with my meal for under 8€, which couldn’t be bad.
The only distracting feature was the hideous 1980’s decor, as you can see from the shot that I took after my meal while waiting for my coffee. Such a shame, although I don’t know if all of the Courtepaille chain are fitted out in the same way!
So then on to today. I tapped the address of the seller into my satnav, which it recognised immediately, so as it was only a 20 minute drive away, what could possibly go wrong? I whizzed over the border into Spain and turned off as proposed by the satnav only to be confronted immediately by a Spanish toll booth! No big deal, it wasn’t much and I was eager to press on to find the engine seller’s yard.
I was then surprised to be taken off the main road and into a gorgeously forested park which evidently covered quite a large area. And it was what I can only describe as a millionaires’ housing estate, as here and there among the trees were dotted the most splendid of houses, all with fine big gardens and security gates. Nevertheless, my satnav led me confidently on until it eventually exclaimed that I’d reached my destination outside one of the fine properties.
This meant that either one of the wealthy property owners was running a breaker’s yard in his back garden, which I thought unlikely, or my satnav, not for the first time, was hopelessly confused. The latter was obviously the case and that left me with the problem of finding the yard’s real location with my almost non-existent Spanish. I learnt Spanish for two years when I was in my mid-twenties and have not used it since, so little or nothing of it remains.
What didn’t help was that not unexpectedly for such an area, there was nobody around who might be able to help me. I had a phone number for the yard but knew that as they couldn’t speak English, phoning them wouldn’t be much help in terms of obtaining directions. So what to do? As I drove back through the wooded parkland, I then happened to spot a chap jogging. With nothing to lose, I waved him to stop and asked if he could speak English, which he couldn’t.
I showed him the address that I was looking for, which meant nothing to him, but he said that actually Hondarribia was some way away from where we were and tried to explain in Spanish how to get there. I’d already entered ‘Hondarribia city centre’ into my satnav, so that was an option that I had in order to try to get closer to the engine seller. But then, by a stroke of luck, he spotted the seller’s name on my sheet of paper and amazingly, that did the trick.
He began to explain that if I carried on down the road through the parkland that we were on and then headed in the opposite direction from Hondarribia towards San Sebastain but kept off the motorway, I’d eventually see the establishment on my right. He even then said to follow him as he jogged back the way he had already come so he could show me what he meant. And he was right. I did what he suggested and sure enough within two or three minutes there was a large sign advertising the engine seller’s yard.
It seemed that not only had I managed to find someone who could help me but that I’d probably also stumbled across the only person who knew the exact location that I was trying to find. Amazing or what and I don’t know how I’d have managed without him.
But sadly my troubles didn’t end there. Victor had suggested that with Friday (yesterday) being a Spanish public holiday, there was a good chance that the yard would remain closed today. And he was right. I wasn’t the only one caught out though, because while I waited for an hour to see if it might open up, several locals also drove up and then left. Unfortunately however, I’d come much further than they had and now I’d have to drive all the way back without what I’d come for.
The only saving feature was that I had to fill up with fuel before heading back and I guessed, quite rightly as it turned out, that I’d be sure to find a garage if I continued on towards San Sebastian. The big surpise for me was that whereas the price of diesel has rocketed in France from around 1€/litre at the turn of the year to around 1.50€ now, in Spain it’s still going for only 1.375€, quite a difference!
I then selected my home as my destination from my satnav’s history and turned back to start heading there. Or so I’d thought. Unbeknown to me, it hadn’t accepted it and had retained my previous entry, namely ‘Hondarribia city centre’! As I drove I thought that the route was a bit weird especially when I realised that my satnav was taking me around the wrong side of a large bay and a beautiful beach. Once I’d realised what had happened, it was too late and although the view from the hillside above it, that was swarming with walkers, joggers and cyclists, was superb in the morning sunshine, it was time to correct my satnav entry and really head for home. But for anyone interested, I found Hondarribia itself to be a really lovely place 😉
On the way back I stopped at a garage to buy a snack and while sitting in my car, I spotted what is shown in the following pics.
I don’t know much about electric cars and am not a big fan of them, actually, mainly because of their limited range as much as their cost. I’m also not in touch with what’s happening about charging points in the UK but read an interesting article last weekend about a lady writer who wanted to drive her Nissan Leaf from London to a book signing in Scotland. She had to eventually abandon it en-route when it ran out of charge and had to be recovered, due to limited charging points along the way and some of those that were there being out of service.
It looks from the above that France is making a concerted effort that’s jointly funded by EU money to deal with that problem. I’d be interested to know whether the same is happening in the UK… why is it that somehow I doubt it?
And talking about range, I had an extremely pleasant surprise concerning the C-Max. As well as being comfortable with its 2 litre engine and brisk performance, it also proved to be what I consider incredibly economical. Over the roughly 500 mile/800 km round trip, it averaged 5.5 litres/100 km compared to nearly twice that (about 10.9 litres/100 km) for the Kia. This meant that I got to San Sebastian and back for under 65€ which I regard as very acceptable.
The downside was that tolls etc added 41.95€ to that (including the 0.95€ just to enter Spain) which would have been slightly higher had I not turned off the autoroute between Bordeaux and Périgueux in order to enjoy a splendid drive through the wine country with its autumnal shades and colours.
Mind you, doing so immediately added well over an hour to my driving time which shows why paying the tolls compared to driving on untolled roads on long journeys is a matter of Hobson’s Choice. Such are the pleasures and pains of living and driving in France 😉