December 23, 2010

New brakes = broke for Xmas

About a month ago I bought myself another car.  It's a 1990 Ford Fairmont Ghia.  It was only $2000 and looks pretty good for an older car.  It has climate control, electric windows...all the mod cons.  And so far its been a nice drive.  The electric windows don't actually work but the car dealer I bought it from is supposed to be doing something about that, in fact, it was a condition of the sale.  I haven't  heard from him in a while but that's okay, I'm going to ring him and be annoying today.  Not just about the windows though. There are a couple of things I need to 'discuss' with him.

On Wed the 15th I drove down to Sydney to visit with my Mother and Sister for the day.  It was my first long-ish (about 200km from my place to my sisters) drive in my new car and I was looking forward to it as I really enjoy long distance driving.  I left at 5am thinking I'd avoid the crazy Sydney morning rush hour traffic.  Unfortunately so did everyone else.  I obviously miss-timed it so I drove all the way to Sydney in fairly heavy traffic.  I got off the free way at 6.45am to find myself right smack in the middle of peak hour.  So I settled in and prepared myself for a long annoying drive through North Sydney so I could make my way over the harbour and over to Rockdale which is where my sister lives.

All in all the drive went reasonably well.  Until I got to the harbour tunnel which is when my brakes made a funny click and went all spongy.  That was a bit worrying but the brakes were still working well enough to slow the car down if needed.  But each time I depressed the brake pedal they got more spongy and it sunk closer and closer to the floor.  By the time I reached General Holmes Drive and was heading past the airport I was feeling decidedly panicky.  And then some moron cut me off, which is fairly common in Sydney.  So, as you do...I stomped the brakes.  They failed.  I even got a high pitched alarm and a nice little red 'brakes fail' warning light on my dash.  I aged thirty years on the spot.  

Luckily I didn't hit anyone and I made it to my sisters place alive but it was VERY scary during those last 15 minutes and needless to say when I finally pulled into her driveway I was a total mess.  I called my partner and told him the brakes had failed and we agreed I'd need to do something about it...just as soon as the panic receded a bit.

Obviously I couldn't drive home that night (as intended) with no brakes so I took the car down to a brakes specialist that my sisters partner recommended.  They were pretty nice.  They agreed to look at the car straight away and get back to me.  They looked over my brakes (while I sat at my sisters freaking out) and then called to calmly inform me that it was going to cost $790 (including GST) to fix them because of how much actually needed doing.  Apparently the master cylinder was gone ($300), the brake pads were all down to metal ($218) and the rear handbrake caliper ($200) had been seized up for quite some time but had had a nice metal tube inserted into it somehow to disguise this fact.  

So I rang my ever patient partner and he came up with some money and we got the brakes fixed.  This, however, meant I had to spend the night at my sisters.  With her and my mother.  I love my mother and sister but together they make a very...shall we say 'uncomfortable' experience.  It was hell.  And it only cost us $900 (including the $100 fuel I'd put in the car to get there).  Worst. Night. In.Years.

So...I'm clearly not happy about the whole thing.  The car yard sold me a car with dangerously bad brakes that had been deliberately dodgied up to hide the fact that they were dangerously bad.  They even gave me a pink slip (so I could change ownership with the RTA) for the damn thing...knowing the car wasn't actually road worthy.  They could lose their dealers license for that.  And today, when I call them to let them know just how unhappy I am that my brakes failed on the way to Sydney, and that they STILL haven't fixed the electric windows and the friggin thing now apparently has an oil leak, I'm going to point out that they probably shouldn't have given it an illegal pink slip and if they don't make me suddenly VERY VERY happy I might just decide to make their Christmas as difficult as mine is going to be after having to spend all that money. 


  1. OH! That was just horrible!!
    I hope you have recovered from this.

  2. Sandra, it was indeed pretty horrid. It's not an experience I'd like to repeat. Ever. I haven't driven to Sydney since this incident and have no immediate plans to.