Climate Control – It’s not Rocket Science

Simple Mini heater controls

There are many things in life that wind me up, amongst them are drivers that don’t understand the Climate Control function in their car.
Early heating systems in cars were fairly rudimentary, water from the cooling system flowed through a matrix located near the front bulkhead controlled by a valve.  As this matrix got warm a fan would blow air through it, gathering heat, and then distribute it through the cabin utilising various outlets up to the screen and down to the footwell.  Variations in the valve and the fan speed would alter the temperature; after a fashion.  Journeys usually involved lots of fiddling and trial and error to get and maintain a satisfactory temperature.
Of course in the summer cars became unbearably hot and windows needed to be open to cool the vehicle down whilst moving.
Air conditioning was the answer and this was developed first in the USA in 1933, and then in 1939 Packard introduced the “Bishop and Babcock Weather Conditioner” which also incorporated a heater. Cars ordered with the new “Weather Conditioner” were shipped from Packard’s factory to the B&B factory where the conversion was performed. Once complete, the car was shipped to a local dealer where the customer would take delivery, with quite a large bill.  Air conditioning is now standard on almost all cars however lowly.

Climate Control is a smart form of air conditioning in that a desired temperature is set and then the system will work to maintain that temperature regardless of external weather conditions.

Merc Air Con
Typical modern Climate Control

This may be by increasing the fan speed, or the heat from the engine, or the amount of cooling from the compressor or a combination of all of them. Essentially, set the temperature (say 22° C) and LEAVE IT ALONE! A possible and rare exception may be to direct a little more air to the screen in the event of frost or condensation but otherwise LEAVE IT ALONE!

Being a passenger in a car driven by a Climate Control Denier is the most frustrating experience.
One driver of my acquaintance would start the journey with the whole system off, after a couple of miles the screen and side windows would steam up due to our breath. He would then turn on the fan at full blast, wind up the temperature knob and switch on the aircon, of course the screens would clear fairly quickly and then he would turn it all off again only to repeat the procedure several miles further on.
Many drivers seem to think that when the car is cold turning up the temperature knob to full will heat the car quicker, after a while it is now too warm so they reduce the setting to cool. Repeat.
Some get into a cold car, set the system to manual so that cold air is blowing across a cold heater matrix into an already cold footwell whereas an intelligent Climate Control would wait until there was some heat in the system.
Countless drivers seem to think that opening a window of a carefully streamlined and aerodynamic car will be more efficient than using ‘expensive’ air conditioning. It has been proved that you can use 30% more fuel simply by opening a window.

It’s really quite easy, set the desired temperature when you first purchase the vehicle then LEAVE IT ALONE!

Fighting Talk – The MGB is Rubbish!

Contentious argument here: The MGB GT is rubbish, and always has been almost from its inception. I just cannot understand why they have become so revered. I recall a friend buying one in the seventies less than a year old and I thought then that the crinkly metal dash was a tad out of date. At the time he could have had a Datsun 240Z for around the same money – crazy.

The MGB was a car introduced in 1962 and to be fair it was a good car at the time. Still in production in 1980 and way past its best, it should have been shot in 1968. A limited production “revival” model with only 2,000 units made, called RV8 was produced by Rover in the 1990s, the ultimate example of trying to polish a turd.

Examples abound of cars that were rapidly outdated after their initial production outliving their ‘raison d’etre’ and becoming sentimental memories. Morris Minor, Jaguar XJS, Austin Cambridge (and similar derivatives) and the Mini to name but a few. Have you noticed that all the examples I have mentioned are British? It may be that I am looking at this from an English perspective, but I am not sure that Europeans or the Americans have the same fascination with their own poor quality cars.

Feel free to disagree….

Flappy Paddles?

manualboxBeing rather idle by nature I have generally preferred automatic cars to the manual variety.  In years gone by the usual automatic gearbox was a three speed ‘slushmatic’ in which gear changes were slurred and sometimes quite slow.  In general an auto was only any good with a big and powerful engine, smaller cars were usually manual.  Kick-down, for overtaking manoeuvres, was done by pushing the throttle to the floor, this pulled a Bowden cable connected to the gearbox that then dropped a gear.

As technology and cars improved manual gearboxes moved from 4 speed to 5, although an early Ford Prefect I used had only 3 speeds.  Automatics stayed the same generally until the advent of electronic control systems and it was possible to use more gears.  Autos moved to 4 speed, then 6, 7 and some now have 8 or 9 speeds.  The manual, by contrast, has 5 or 6.  I am sure they could have more, but it would involve much unnecessary gear changing.

autoboxThe next development was to allow ‘manual’ changes with the auto control, generally holding the ‘box in a lower gear for better response in traffic, and this progressed to using the lever to change up and down and similar to a manual but without a clutch.  Then in a nod to F1 the controls were put on the steering wheel and the ‘flappy paddle’ was born.

What a waste of time!  In my case when I get a new automatic car I try the flappy paddles once and then never again, what is the point?  Either you want to drive a manual car or an automatic.

My last auto, the Mercedes C350, had seven speeds and being a 3.5 litre petrol had plenty of go.  I loved that car and we did over 50,000 miles together in around 18 months.  It did let me down in the gearbox though.  It developed a niggling fault in that it would not change gear and the only way to ‘cure’ it was to stop and restart the engine, this reset the electronic control box and all was well for a while.  However it became more frequent and a call to the garage informed me that the fix was a new control unit.  As this unit was inside the ‘box it was a £750 fix!  I thought that was a little excessive and assumed that I could go on just restarting the car at intervals…..

I was slower than this!
I was slower than this!

One day, returning from Doncaster, it failed altogether and was stuck in 1st gear, no amount of cajoling would make it change, and so I started the long journey home.  I avoided the A1 route and used fairly minor side roads but still I was slower than a fully laden tractor; there was a huge queue of traffic behind me, and those cars that overtook would stare at me as though I was some geriatric buffoon who shouldn’t be on the road.  I had fair share of rude gestures and open hostility particularly as I just ambled along with a stupid grin on my face.  Three hours, 40 miles and a tankful of petrol later I got home and booked the car in for repair.

Motor Insurance (again)

Motor Insurance (again)

Once again the crusty subject of insuring one’s car rears it’s ugly head.  I cancelled the insurance on the Merc and with 7 days free insurance from BMW I started the process of finding the best, cheapest, quote.  Usual suspects of Compare the Markets, GoCompare and others were queried and the cheapest was (No, me neither).  They came in at £222 and a few pennies.  InsurePolicyRight ho, we’ll have that, and I clicked through to their site only to be met with a message that the site was down and could I please ring a 0844 number.  Okey dokey, I rang the number…..

The young man at the other end confirmed that the site was down, that they had received my application and there were one or two questions before we went ahead.  He then proceeded to ask every question again with a few more besides which was OK but very tedious.  However we got bogged down on the question of the date that I passed my test, the exact date mind, not how many years ago.  I said that it was in 1972 but beyond that I couldn’t say, he said not good enough, an exact date please!  I suggested September 9th, why not?  Seems a very nice date to me.  He suggested that I call the DVLA and then get back to him.  I said that they were unlikely to a) answer the phone within a week, and b) they were unlikely to have that information.  Not good enough he said, an exact date please; we settled on the 9th.  I asked that if I had an accident, and they subsequently found out that the date was in fact the 8th, for example, would my insurance be invalid?  Yes, he said.

One of the questions not on the web form was whether I did any voluntary work.  Yes, I work at Henshaw’s School for the Blind, one day a week, unpaid.  Ah ha! the insurance went up by £50.  Whoa! I said, that’s a trifle unfair, but he was adamant, the price went up.  InsuranceEasyRight, I exclaimed, I resign, I shall cease working as a volunteer, it’s not as if I’ll miss the income!  You can’t do that he said, yes I can, I shall resign immediately and confirm it in writing to you.  He went off the talk to his line manager and returned to say that that would be fine, the rate would go back to what it was, but if I had an accident whilst in the vicinity of the place of volunteering the insurance would be void.

What a load of Bollox, I went and got AXA insurance instead for a similar price.

Insurance Song and Dance..

It’s that time of year again, car insurance renewal. Why is it always such a hassle? I know that websites such as and those annoying Meerkats are very good but I just can’t help thinking that I am not getting the right price or deal and that if I ever need to claim then some box I inadvertently clicked several months previously will give the insurance company the excuse to not pay.

In the old days I used to ring my trusty broker Andrew, answer a few questions on the particular car I was then Insurancedriving and leave him to it. At the time there were a couple of companies doing a telephone service but I took the view that I was happy to pay Andrew the Broker a few quid over the odds confident in the knowledge that if I ever needed to claim then he was on my side. There are few Andrews around now, the margins have gone and we are all ‘on the net’.

So why are all the quotes so wildly different? For my car I have quotes ranging from £280.00 to £1100.00. How can the figures vary so much? Insurance is just mathematics, a series of variables set against tested formulae to arrive at a calculation of probability. I am sure that all insurance companies must use the same data garnered over many years of statistics and that their actuaries have honed their skills to produce the risk of a 57 year old married man living in Harrogate and driving 8000 miles per annum etc ect….

“Why is that?” I asked the helpful call guy at of one of the insurers call centres. He tried to explain that different companies viewed similar risks in a different way, and that they ignored certain segments of the market. “So” I said “does that mean that, for example, you could have decided that left handed chefs from Islington driving a Subaru Forester are a bad risk, yet another company could say that they will gladly insure them for a fraction of your price?”
“Something like that.” he replied.

The reason all this comes about is that for the last two years I have used a multi car policy from Admiral, and initially it was a very competitive price. This year their renewal premium has gone up by a large amount and so the annual song and dance begins again.