I can at last breathe at least a partial sigh of relief. Pascal the transporter driver delivered my car to my local mechanic here in the Dordogne just after 10.00 am yesterday. I was surprised that he arrived so early thinking that he’d driven down from northern France but in fact it transpired that he lives down here in Bergerac, that he’d driven north to pick it up on Thursday and had brought it back the same day.

Apart from a little nick in the plastic trim on the lower part of the driver’s door it appears to be none the worse for its sojourn of a month in Paris except that when we started to dig deeper, we found that the battery was too flat to get a proper reading on my mechanic’s diagnostic software. But closer examination revealed something much more concerning.

The garage in Paris had told me that the car needed a replacement turbo and if not for the exorbitant price quoted, it would have been the easiest thing in the world to tell them to go ahead in order to bring matters to a close. However, I just didn’t trust them and it turns out my suspicions were totally justified.

It didn’t take much for my trusted local mechanic to find that (a) the turbo had never been touched let alone diagnosed as faulty and (b) when he did get access to it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. So the Paris garage would have had me pay for a replacement and then informed me that unfortunately other problems had been encountered along the way.

As soon as we pulled the dipstick, we found immediately what had gone wrong, because the oil level was some way above the full mark. I had assiduously checked all of the fluid levels before heading north back on 25 June as I always do before a long run so knew that whatever the reason was, it had occurred during the engine incident. The answer, of course, was that the level was higher than usual because of the ingress of diesel fuel.

This explained why in the moments before the engine let go I had smelt diesel that I thought was coming from the vehicle in front but evidently wasn’t. It also explained why my ‘low fuel’ warning light had unexpectedly come on – fuel was being pumped out of the tank into the engine.

So it seems that the problem has nothing to do with the turbo and is almost certainly something to do with the ECU (engine control unit), fuel pump or most likely the DPF (diesel particulate filter). The latter removes the larger soot particles from the exhaust before it is emitted into the atmosphere and does so at high temperature fuelled by burning a limited supply of fuel fed into it direct from the fuel pump.

This is known as ‘passive regeneration’ as it’s a totally automatic system requiring no direct driver itervention of any kind. If the ECU delivers slightly too much fuel for some reason or another, then there’s a return tube from the DPF direct into the engine where it apparently (so I understand) mixes with the engine oil. Not ideal I’d have thought but as it usually works, who am I to criticise the design aspects.

However, if as a result of some failure in the DPF itself or the ECU or the fuel pump a grossly excessive amount of fuel is sent continuously to the DPF, then you can have big problems. In the worst case scenario, if the engine is not shut down in time, it can start to run by burning its own oil supply and become uncontrollable. If this happens the engine cannot be shut down at all and can end up blowing up.

So this is now where we are but it just goes to show what scum the garage in Paris actually were. They had no idea what the cause of the engine problem was and therefore no idea how to repair it. All they had wanted to do was take my money.

My trusted mechanic tells me that it all depends now on how long the engine was running with its lubricating oil becoming more and more diluted and therefore how much internal damage might have been caused to pistons, bores and bearings.

Without pre-stripping the engine, which could not be justified economically, we’ll only know when the cause of the problem has been traced and rectified, any new parts that are needed have been fitted, the oil has been drained and replaced and the engine run.

But thank God it’s being done by him and not the bunch of crooks in Paris into whose hands my car had been delivered by the breakdown company there. 😐

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