Servicing a car that barely gets used

Somewhat to my surprise, I’ve now had my car for almost three years.

This means the dealer warranty that came with it is just about to run out, which in turn means I don’t have to keep driving it across town to Alan Mance to keep it current. Good.

I’ve only made use of that warranty once or twice, and of course it didn’t wipe out the cost of a service/repair, merely reduced it. (At one stage there was a problem with the engine stuttering, and another time one of the electric windows failed.)

I’m actually wondering how little servicing I can get away with. Consider this: I barely drive during the week. It’s not uncommon for the car to sit in the driveway from Sunday morning to Saturday afternoon.

Apart from long drives such as this past weekend (up to Marita’s parents and back; a total of about 320 km) and suburban jaunts, I reckon I’d normally do less than 50 km per week. So (and I haven’t checked this) I might drive about 3000 kilometres in a year — a long way from the Australian average of 14,600.

So I’m thinking for the basic twice-a-year checkup (including oil change) I’ll probably just start taking it to the local Ultratune, which is closeby (in Mckinnon) and in fact is closer to a railway station than the nearest Holden dealers at Elsternwick, Oakleigh or Glenhuntly.

Occasionally they might need to order a part and wait a day or two, but given how little I drive during the week, it’s unlikely to matter.

(By the way, Ultratune is one of several companies that sell roadside assistance, for $65/year — cheaper than RACV’s basic rate of $86 plus $46 establishment, and you don’t see Ultratune out lobbying for more freeways, do you…)

driving transport

By my calculations, I fill up my car with petrol every 27.5 days

With the usual media coverage of petrol price rises over Easter (yes, that’s how the market economy works… when demand goes up, so do prices…), I was pondering how much money I’ve been spending on petrol.

The car barely goes anywhere on weekdays, and even on the weekends I’m doing perhaps around 50 kilometres.

Given I never pay cash at petrol stations, I had a quick skim through my credit card history to see how often I fill up. And the answer is that the median number of days between fills is 27.5 days. (Usually I don’t bother going in unless the tank is under about 15% full.)

Sometimes it’ll be as short as a week or so between petrol visits — such as over the Christmas period when there’s often a trip or two up to the country. But at other times I’ll go as much as 42 days between refills.

Days between petrol station visits

I also worked out that I’ve spent $716.26 on petrol in the past year, and my median petrol cost per day is $1.71… so I suppose about 1.3 litres at current costs.

But I’m lucky enough that most of the time, I simply don’t use much petrol, because most of my trips each week are either on foot or on PT.

Be nice if more people had that option.

Morons on the road

Oh, bravo

Oh bravo, yes. Just block the whole road.

Bravo #RoadMorons

And I might note this guy was happy to park himself there while the light he was blocking was still green.


Mini for Christmas

Marita may never own a car (she doesn’t need one), but she likes (new) Minis. Always spots them on the road.

So I got her one for Christmas.

Mini Cooper

Well, for a day. Hertz offer them as part of their “fun collection“, so I reserved one and went along on Wednesday to pick it up. Despite the posters on the wall at Hertz saying “Every second counts”, they had a very long queue due to computer problems, but eventually I got it and drove over to Marita’s to pick her up.

I had told her to expect me at 11:30, but hadn’t told her what I would bring, and it did manage to catch her by surprise.

We jumped in and went for a spin to see her brother and his girlfriend fiancée down in Cape Paterson, which is past Wonthaggi.

If you’re driving to Cape Paterson, be aware that Mr Google doesn’t know about the roundabout outside the Wonthaggi hospital. If you think that’s the roundabout referred to, and follow the directions and take the third exit, eg turn right, you’ll end up near the Desalination Plant and the nearby wind turbines, which are impressive, but not where we wanted to go.

Wind farm near Wonthaggi

We had a nice afternoon tea, a walk around the beach, and then drove back into Melbourne.

The next morning, before returning the car, we had a nice little drive around the place… up Beach Road, through Elwood, along Acland Street, that One Sweet Promenade, then around Albert Park Lake, back to Beach Road and through Port Melbourne, over the Westgate and back again, and along St Kilda Road, before filling it up and taking it back to Hertz, where for the second day in a row, they had a queue out the door (which fortunately we could avoid this time).

Marita driving the Mini

The Mini is a heck of a lot of fun. Very nice to drive, very zoomy, and seems as economical as my Astra (eg, very). And of course it looks great. Quite comfortable, too… at least in the front.

On the down side, there’s virtually no room in the back seats, unless you’re going to limit yourself to carrying only amputee midgets. In practical terms it’s clearly a vehicle for 1-2 people max. Ditto, very little room in the boot. The speedometer is in the middle of the front console, so you have to keep looking across to check your speed. This version didn’t have cruise control, though I would assume some do.

I don’t think I’d want to own one (it just wouldn’t be practical), but it was great fun for a day.

News and events

Lord Jesus Christ hit by a car

No, really.

‘Lord Jesus Christ’ struck by car in Northampton

Police responded at around 3:40 p.m. on Tuesday to investigate an incident where a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle while he was in a Main Street crosswalk, Savino said. The man was hurt, but conscious, and handed police his identification, Savino said.

“He was identified from a Massachusetts ID card, so that is his legal name,” Savino added. The card listed his name as Lord Jesus Christ, Savino said.

The hospital said no one named Christ was a patient there today. Efforts to find a home phone number for Christ were unscuccessful.

The Boston Globe

It’s not hard to see why this was considered newsworthy, at least in the Quirky News department.

The Boston Globe couldn’t track him down, but the CBS News did manage to interview him.

Given Christ’s Very Large haircut, the car driver (who was in the wrong) must have really zoned out not to spot him.

(Found via Probably Bad News)


Understandable reaction

A Melbourne “miracle baby” who escaped death when his pram rolled into the path of an oncoming train has celebrated his first birthday.

No doubt, the baby was incredibly lucky not to be killed. If you haven’t seen it, check out the video — it’s just amazing. I hope the train driver, who I would think must have been traumatised, has also recovered.

But this paraphrased quote from the mother caught my eye:

Despite the positive outcome, Shweta has not taken her son near a train station since the accident and is now learning to drive.

The Age

It’s an understandable reaction. Such a traumatic incident would have anybody wondering how they could possibly avoid such a situation in the future.

But the implication here is that driving is somehow safer than catching a train. It isn’t. Not by a long shot.

While what happened to Shweta and her son must have been an absolutely horrific thing to live through, as I’ve written before, driving is far more dangerous than rail travel: about 5 times as dangerous, whether measured by passenger kilometres or passenger hours.

(Indeed, passenger rail fatalities are so low that the debate of safety on trains is concentrated almost solely on personal safety and crime.)

driving Morons on the road

Hello, Sunday drivers

I’ve become something of a Sunday driver since I no longer generally drive anywhere on weekdays. But I’d like to think I’m better than the stereotype.

Out and about yesterday, I’m just staggered by the number of people not paying attention, or wilfully ignoring the rules, or apparently ignorant of the rules.

Ms Old Bomb — if you’re going to turn across my path, you need to give way. That doesn’t mean crawling out of the side street so I have to slow down to avoid hitting you.

Mr 4WD — pausing coming out of your driveway on North Road was a good idea. Leaving the back of your car out in oncoming traffic was not. Yes, your arse does look big in that. At least you noted my beep and moved out of the road.

Mr Mercedes — this is not a complicated rule: If you are doing a U-turn, you give way to EVERYBODY. Yes, even if you drive a Mercedes.

Mr Little White Car — you obviously didn’t notice the “Merge right” sign. That means your lane is ending. That means you merge into the lane to your right. The one I was in. You don’t just try and overtake me as your lane vanishes. I’m glad I saw you coming up behind and to the left of me. (My driving instructor Andre always taught me to keep checking my mirrors.) I’m not confident you even saw me before I beeped at you. Please don’t merge your car with mine.

Mind you, I wonder if the line markings could be modified to more clearly show the merge.
North Road, Oakleigh South
(Pic from

Mr Bogan on Monkey bike — no, the driver of the car correctly turning right on a green arrow is not the “f—ing idiot”. You are, for (a) illegally choosing to ride your stupid monkey bike on footpaths, and (b) for ignoring the red man and almost getting yourself mown down. (Why did you even press the ped button if you were going to ignore it?) Dickhead.

I suppose all you can do is keep your eyes open, give people some space, and be prepared to give way, and to use the horn when it becomes dangerous that they haven’t noticed you.

Unfortunately there’s no mechanism to transmit details of someone’s transgression (complete with photos, diagrams and a cite to the relevant road law) direct to their vehicle. Well, you can try shouting at them, but that is unlikely to do any good.

Who’s taken a defensive driving course? Are they good?


Ready for takeoff

One of the neighbours down the street from me has one of those souped-up Commodores. Bright red, low to the ground, and with a rear spoiler (or “bum enhancement” as Marita calls them).

Unlike one of those stupid grunty cars, I can’t hear it from inside my house, but still makes a noticeable amount of noise if I’m walking past at the time.

In fact when I see him slowly moving down the street towards the main road, it reminds me a little of a jet taxiing for take-off, particularly as when he’s going to work he tends to wear a shirt and tie and a Bluetooth mobile device in his ear, so he looks a little like a pilot.

I wonder if he’s saying to his kids (when they’re in there with him) that they should ensure their seats are upright, and seatbelts on, and asking his wife in the passenger seat to point out the exits and “arm doors and cross-check“.

I’m sure he’s not the only one who chooses to drive markedly slower than the 50 speed limit in his own street. It seems to be a common side street thing — some kind of indefinable respect for one’s neighbours and neighbourhood. It’s not universal though; some people few doors up in the other direction regularly fire up their stupid grunty car and roar off somewhere at 10pm-ish.


A drive in the country

It was a lovely day for a drive up to Nagambie (and beyond), apart from the cruise control oddly deciding not to work. Sigh.

But off the beaten track we encountered a swarm of grasshoppers. The grasshoppers came off second best. Ewww.

Car 1, grasshoppers nil

driving Morons on the road transport

This is the law

I’ve written about this before, but just so it’s absolutely clear, I’m going to include a picture[1] with the text:

When turning left or right at any intersection (except a roundabout) you must give way to any pedestrians crossing the road you are turning into.

Give way to pedestrians when turning

— source: VicRoads: Driving in Victoria — Rules and Responsibilities, pages 35 and 39.

I’m pretty narked off that a 4WD owner[2] I encountered yesterday not only didn’t know this, but when challenged said it was not true.

I was in a hurry, and in no mood to give way to vehicles I was not obliged to, if I could possibly help it. I signalled him to stop, which he did. I then crossed in front of him, and since his window was down, told him he had to give way. When he claimed otherwise, I didn’t swear, but I did get a bit shouty, and told him to check his road rules. He drove off.

I hope he does check the laws and gets educated. It annoys me that some people are out there, driving around, ignorant of basic rules.

[1]The picture actually comes from a later section which talks about T-intersections, but appears to have been drawn to illustrate the point for other intersections as well.

[2]With a bullbar fitted. Because you really need them driving along Centre Road.

Update Sunday morning: Similar situation with a VW Golf driver yesterday afternoon.

Note that different rules apply to vehicles coming out of streets you’re crossing (peds should give way) and on roundabouts (peds should give way). On entrances/exits to private property, such as car parks and shopping centres, drivers should always give way.

Most importantly, always use your common sense — no matter what the law, if the other person is not going to stop, don’t put yourself or them in danger.