Oakley Wheelwright is a serial sh-tbox buyer and the current owner of Miles, CT’s now-legendary 400,000+ mile Skoda Octavia
As the long nights draw in, our thoughts turn to warm evenings spent inside with our nearest and dearest. What about our four-wheeled family though, what do they need to weather the harsh conditions of winter. Well, in my case, running a fleet of slightly bedraggled old cars means the approach to winter is a busy time. Christmas comes early for my sheds, in the form of a big tin of wax oil.
The first and most pressing item on the agenda was to coax my daily, Miles the Skoda Octavia through his MOT. The tester, Mr Marshall, had flagged several points vying for my attention; a small hole in one sill, two holes in the exhaust, headlights impersonating candles and an emissions failure. Nothing too scary but niggling concerns that needed addressing. Monday morning rolled around, and I loaded the boot with tools and headed to my rented corner of the barn to set to work.
Starting with the basics - I drained the oil and replaced all the fluids and filters. A service was overdue anyway, and it couldn’t hurt to have clean oil coursing around. That done, I crawled underneath to investigate the exhaust. I discovered two tiny holes, one on the downpipe and one just behind the catalytic converter. Neither warranted any major remedial works, a couple of strips of exhaust bandage were more than sufficient. Likewise, the corrosion to the sill was barely noticeable in reality. An insignificant little hole was swiftly patched, painted and crossed off the list.
All that remained was headlights and emissions. The headlights were the easiest of the lot, cured by new bulbs and a good polish. The emissions required a bit more work. Coupled with the service, I swapped the EGR valve out for a new one, added a splash of fuel additive to the tank and blasted up some steep hills. The engine suitably warmed, the time had come to return for a retest.
I was kindly allowed to shadow Mr Marshall during the procedure and he was, thankfully, complimentary about my fixes. It’s always nerve-racking seeing the nether regions of your daily, but in testimony to Miles and his previous owners, the underneath is looking as good as ever. On the retest, Miles scored 0.50 on the emissions readout, an incredibly healthy figure according to Mr Marshall. A clean bill of health was duly issued, and the total bill ran to no more than £80 all in, a win in my book.
While I was at the barn and already coated in a fetching combination of grease and pigeon muck (from the floor I might add), it made sense to crack on with the rest of the fleet. Alongside Miles, we’ve done some good distance in both the budget campervan and the Citroen Saxo this year so they were crying out for a little TLC.
They all enjoyed the same treatment, starting with a good wash of both the bodywork and the underneath to remove any stubborn road dirt. Once clean, I could get going with the wire wool and a stiff brush, enough agitation to remove any old flaking underseal and any signs of corrosion. Once I had successfully transferred all of that gunk from the cars to my overalls, it was time to crack open the box of preventative measures.
We all do battle with rust, and living by the sea with a fleet of aged motors I am particularly well acquainted with it and the local body shops. My favoured tactic now is prevention over cure, with various mystical sounding products gracing the shelves of my shed there’s a product for every occasion, from cavity sprays to underseal and everything in-between. Not often does a job require so little in the way of specialist DIY skills and yet offer such gratification.
As the afternoon transitioned to evening, I gathered my tools and began the laborious task of cleaning up. I’d be lying if I said I unpacked the boot immediately, I may have gone several more days with a branch of Halfords rattling around in the back. I was satisfied though - Miles was legal once more and had another trouble-free year firmly in his sights.
That’s not to say there’s nothing left to do, of course. On the list for the long months ahead is new bushes for the Saxo for one. The headlining in Miles desperately needs my attention too - it’s currently doing a very passable impersonation of a haunted manor-style curtain, blowing in the wind. Oh and, there’s a lovely Volvo 850 for sale locally, perfect in every way apart from needing a new clutch. Watch this space.