Archive for Motoring

Expanded ULEZ Consultation Response

Living in Central London I recently submitted the following response to the consultation on expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone from the congestion charging area outwards to the boundaries of the North and South circular roads. While I strongly believe that greener vehicles alongside reduced car use is essential for the improvement of our health and environment, I feel it’s not right to impose such things at a local level in such a way as to cause those who are already doing their bit to end up paying a pseudo tax.

While the rationale behind these proposals is extremely laudable, the financial implications for residents living within the proposed expanded ULEZ zone who own non-compliant light vehicles is simply unacceptable. For car users in this category, many will be faced with the prospect of borrowing large sums of money to replace perfectly serviceable vehicles or paying a pseudo tax every time they drive their existing car (the word pseudo is used here because if there is little choice in the matter it equates to a tax). The daily charge is most likely then to be paid by infrequent car users as such a cost would be significantly less than replacing their vehicle and yet these infrequent car users are the ones who should be supported; though infrequent car use they necessarily use public transport where possible and in turn will be at the bottom end of the scale in terms of contributors to pollution and congestion amongst the car owning public. These issues are compounded by the fact that there is no proposed sunset period for expanded ULEZ area residents which might have allowed for either a period of saving for replacement or natural wastage in terms of eventual expensive repairs necessitating replacement anyway. Despite the undoubted health and environmental benefits for such residents, the uncompromising nature of the proposals make it impossible for these individuals to support these plans which is very great shame.

Having shared my response, I now feel that I should explain my position in an attempt to solicit a response from readers. I own a car, but use it infrequently – primarily for visiting friends or family out of town at weekends or to facilitate hiking trips. It is an old car, but as current electric vehicles are not capable of the kind of range I would require, I’m retaining my existing car until such time as technology improves to allow me to make the switch.

I feel this is the greener option; if I was to switch immediately, it would likely be to another fossil fuel vehicle which I would then keep for much longer on account of the investment cost and thus would, most probably, end up contributing more negatively to emissions. Insight and opinions from those with a better knowledge of these matters would be most welcome!

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Stiff Gearbox

It appears my car is not all that well. At the start of this week the gearbox was a little stiff, but then we had a cold snap and that sometimes happens. On Thursday I knew I had an issue. I could barely select first gear and the other gears were getting stiffer too.

I contacted my local VW garage in Swindon to book the car in to investigate and they couldn’t fit me in for diagnostics until 21st February which is quite a wait. Given that I had little choice but to accept the date and hope for the best in the meantime, I did so, and I’ve been limping round town since.

Over the weekend I had cause to drive a little further. I collected Shweta from the railway station on Friday evening and had the delights of pulling out of the station in 2nd gear, up a hill. Then we travelled to Avebury for dinner (more on that in a later post) and mercifully, despite the distance the drive was easy as it was country roads 5th gear most of the way.

Sunday was showdown time as I headed up to Milton Keynes to do some skiing practice at the snow dome. The journey there was fine, little traffic made gear usage easy but on the way back I got stuck in traffic on the M40 and almost simultaneously found I was unable to get second gear as I had been unable to get first.

Needless to say it was a painful experience but the old girl got me home. I doubt however that I doubt she’ll be going much further than to the office from now until the garage appointment.

As luck would have it I picked up my skiing technique again very quickly and so don’t feel the need to ensure I go back to the snow dome every weekend before my trip. Good job too, wouldn’t want to have to get back on even fewer gears!

Now for the mechanics amongst you. I’m able to cleanly select all gears when the engine isn’t running. It’s only when I start up the car that the gearbox is stiff and refuses to engage. When it does engage however it does so cleanly without “crunching”. Any ideas most welcome, and of course reassurance that the repair costs won’t be sky high is always appreciated. Paying for a new gear box wouldn’t make my week it must be said!

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