You may remember my rant two years ago about the idiotic design of the headlamp cluster on the old style Ford Focus – the article is by far the most popular on the site, and still gets comments two years later.
The bulb, following on from the fragile windscreens (the Focus currently has it’s fifth windscreen), and the general feeling of instability caused by the combination of tyres and suspension, oh and not forgetting the misfire, was ultimately the final straw that set me looking for a new car that in the end became the Golf. Now that has had one or two problems, but it still has the original windscreen, although it does have a small crack on it thanks to a stone chip – unlike the Focus, it has stayed a small crack. It also has the annoying dashboard light problem when it is cold, and of course it has that weird feature with the windows, but ultimately it is much better to drive.
Just in case I was starting to think that maybe the Focus isn’t that bad a car – the passenger side headlight has blown, almost exactly two years after it was last replaced, so I guess it’s another Â£40 headlight change from Reg Vardy – and a timely reminder of why I didn’t buy another Ford.
Almost as much fun as watching paint dry – watch the crack slowly creep across the windscreen!
Well the windscreen guy has just been and gone. As the weather is so poor today – varying between heavy rain and mild drizzle, and there is nowhere under cover that I can put the car at the office, he can’t do the windscreen here. (Note the clear blue sky in the picture of the crack I took yesterday!)
The only option he could offer is to take the car down to their depot, which is in Portsmouth, but as everybody else will be doing that as well, he can’t say when it will be done. Even once it is complete, it will take several hours before the car can be moved to allow the windscreen sealant to dry. He has offered to rebook it for next week, when hopefully it won’t be raining, and he has also said that they will talk to Reading depot and see if it can be booked in there tomorrow. Of course although it would be tight, the other option might be to put the car into the garage at home and they could do the work there.
He did say that the windscreen was perfectly safe, as the problem is not with the glass. Although there is a small hole in the glass near the edge, the crack is not in either of the glass layers in the laminate, it is in the inner layer of plastic, so no danger of the windscreen falling out!
Oddly enough, it was also the same guy who came out earlier in the year, hence when he called, he’d already found the car in the car park, recognising it from last time! First thing he said when I came out was “You’re not having much luck with windscreens are you!”
So windscreen number four is about to be replaced, taking the average windscreen life on the Focus down to about six months.
Much to my annoyance it happened on the same stretch of road as the previous impact â€“ the B3349 between Alton and Odiham, and the same cause, loose chippings from the centre line. Hampshire County Council use a technique called â€˜surface dressingâ€™ to extend the life of their roads. In the past the technique would only be used on low speed side roads, but now Hampshire are using it even on national speed limit roads. They also try to minimise disruption by not closing the road when they do the work.
The general principle is that they lay a layer of tar, and then cover it in copious amounts of loose chippings; they then let normal traffic back onto the road, the idea being that the traffic embeds the chippings into the road surface. A few days later they then take a road sweeper truck out to clear the remains of the chippings.
The big problem with this particular stretch of road is that it is windy and fairly narrow, and most of the traffic is going at 60mph, as a result the sweeper truck has cleared loose chippings from either lane, but not from the centre, as with the road open it was never safe for the truck to drive down the middle of the road. As a result, whenever someone overtakes, as the Audi in front of me did this morning, there are still loose chippings down the middle of the road that lift. This morning it happened that one of the chippings lifted and hit the edge of the windscreen, and for the rest of the journey to work I could hear, and see a crack growing on the edge of the windscreen. Anyway, RAC Autowindscreens are coming out tomorrow morning to replace the glass. It will still cost me a Â£60 excess, but thankfully, as it is only a windscreen, my no claims bonus is in tact.
To change a headlight bulb cost the grand total of Â£38.62 including VAT, from the official price list for servicing that Ford give them. The girl in the service department said that both the new Mondeo and the new Fiesta have similar problems.
Incidentally, my worry over cheap Ford plastics that led me not to want to force the grille seems well founded, as the front grille is noticeably not as secure as it once was. It seems to me that in an ideal world, the better way to do it would be to remove the battery and the tray and not the headlight (as that would probably have been how it was put together), however by doing that you run into all sorts of problems with the security systems and the Engine Management System, both of which would be affected by disconnecting the battery.
Why is it that Ford can’t make a car now that has a bulb that the owner can change?!?
Anyway, after about an hour sitting around at Reg Vardy having the bulb done, I went down to Basingstoke to test drive a new Skoda Octavia, an all together more pleasurable experience. I test drove both their 1.9TD, and the 140bhp 6-speed 2.0TD. I have to say that the 2.0TD has a pretty frightening amount of power, enough that I’d probably end up wrapped around a tree at some point. The 1.9TD seems perfectly adequate for the kind of mixed driving with occasional long motorway runs that I do.