I bought a car for £250 from Auto Trader.
I wanted to know whether it was even possible to buy a car for that sort of price that would start and work (also, it fits the engine size requirements for the Mongol rally… or at least, it did before they revised them again. Fuck it, maybe I’ll drive the car to Mongolia without putting my name on an official list. ANARCHYYY!!!). It was being sold by a complete stranger. Getting a car for that price from a friend isn’t the same. Before I left home, I took out £30 insurance to cover 24 hours, ample time to get the car home, from where I could assess how bad this car was. Then I took a friend with me and we went on the bus (I don’t currently have a car) to inspect this car. There was literally one bus a day that went to where the car was for sale, so we took that one. If the car hadn’t been able to get us home again, we would have been in a pickle.
My friend helped me check that all the lights were working, then I took it for a test drive.
Reversing was almost impossible, because the steering was in serious disrepair, and it was worse at low speeds. The front door doesn’t close unless you reach around the door and push down the external handle while you close the door. It was too dark to really see any of the mechanical stuff so after verifying that it did, in fact, start and drive, I gave the former owners my £250 and took it off the premises.
The petrol light was on when I got the car, so my friend and I took it straight to the nearest petrol station and put £15 in the tank. I never fill the tank on a new car; I prefer to hedge my bets in case it breaks down halfway down the road (as happened a few years ago with a £399 car, which to date is the lowest amount of money I’d ever spent on a car, and it didn’t make it 10 miles away from the place I bought it before the oil pressure switch exploded).
Getting the car manouevred to the petrol pump was entertaining; some jackass had driven in through the exit and thought I in my crappy Seicento should get out of their way. Joke was on them because I was unwilling to reverse due to the steering issue. They literally waited, glaring at me, until I had fueled my car and I ended up driving around them to get my car out. Even with a steering issue, that Seicento had a very small turning circle; I was impressed. There were like five more cars behind me at that point and they were all facing the same direction as me, so jackass got boxed in by them pretty quickly. I circled the road around the petrol station to get to the air, as one of my tyres was virtually flat, but there was no way I could get to the air because of the angle and position of the air machine, so I gave up and went the 15 miles home without seeing to the tyre.
I dropped my friend off where she wanted to go, then I took my car home and parked it on the drive. I was so excited – I got my driveway re-designed in October and this is the first time I’ve gotten to park on it, as I haven’t had a car since June (the choice in October was fix the drive or buy a car). Then I slept and had a series of anxiety attacks as I’d run out of mental energy for anything. The next afternoon, in broad daylight, I decided to tackle the most urgent job: getting rid of the stickers that were obscuring the rear window. After ten minutes with a jug of boiling water, a scraping knife and a generous helping of Fairy liquid, I finished the stickers. The whole time I was doing that job, I could smell a very strong scent of petrol, so, after taking care of the flat tyre with my trusty footpump, I got down under the car.
I wish I’d taken a photo of the fuel tank (and the stickers on the back window), but I was too preoccupied trying to get the thing to a garage after I saw what was down there. The petrol tank was leaking like a sponge, and some genius previous owner had encased the tank in some sort of latex rubber. Everywhere that the latex had torn, the rust was fatal. This was a job for the professionals. I tried to stem the bleeding with some Leak Fix – that two-part putty that you mix together then cover over holes in the petrol tank after cleaning them up – to give me some temporary relief before I could get it to a garage, but there were too many holes.
I’ve tried to fix a petrol leak on a previous car, I got as far as removing the petrol tank from a donor car and discovering that the donor car’s tank was nearly as bad as the one on my car, before I had to admit defeat. I know the fuel system, how it works, etc, and I have never seen such a ridiculous kludge of a fix as the latex around the petrol tank of this £250 car. I don’t know who thought that was a good idea or why but I want to shake them, hard. And the previous owners must have known about that leak because I lost 1/8 of a tank of petrol overnight. The worst leak was right at the place where it goes into the fuel line (that carries petrol to the engine), so there’s no way you could miss that.
It’s been at a garage for over 24 hours now and I don’t have a quote on the petrol tank or steering repair yet.
I thought this could be an interesting project to keep everyone updated on: The car that cost less than my iPhone. And my iPhone was second hand. I’ll let you all know when I find out what’s happening with the car. Hey, if we can get it fixed up, maybe I’ll take it to Mongolia! Or something.