For part 1 of the saga, see this post…
After the van was left at the VW dealer on Monday afternoon, awaiting “diagnosis” and attention, communication dried up somewhat.
Throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, we called ADAC periodically – to be told that the dealer either hadn’t diagnosed the fault yet (or, rather, hadn’t even bothered to look at it) or that ADAC were just about to call them then would ring us back. Three guesses how often that actually happened?
So, by the end of Wednesday – with just one more night of ADAC-funded accommodation left, and no news – we were quite surprised to be called and told that the dealer had indeed got back to ADAC. But that the bits weren’t available. ADAC had apparently also tried sourcing them in Germany, with similar lack of joy. Well, excuse me, but you could try…Oh. Well. Umm… Did I want to order them, then? No problem. Order them for delivery to the dealer, who’d fit them. And if that didn’t happen by the end of Thursday, then we could invoke the repatriation clause, get transport for ourselves back to the UK, and await the arrival of the van to a garage in the UK in about – oooh – three weeks or so.
Umm, no. Sorry. I’ve got a better solution. Why don’t we stop fiddle-faddling about with a dealer who I wouldn’t trust to give me the time of day, and instead of paying for flights and transportation across the Channel, just put the van on a transporter the 200km or so to some 2cv friends in the Charentes, who’d kindly offered workshop facilities in their barn? The ADAC rep couldn’t agree to that, but thought it sounded reasonable. They’d have a word with their manager, and call me back.
Surprisingly, they did indeed call back. Yes, that’s all agreed. And, yes, they’d confirm it in an email.
You know what’s coming next, don’t you? Not an email, that’s for sure…
So, Thursday morning arrives. We check out of the hotel, and call ADAC. Yes, they’ve got the details of the previous evening’s conversation – and no problem at all. We can get the van transported to the Charentes – all we need to do is to organise it ourselves, pay for it, and ADAC will refund us. With, of course, a limit.
Hold on a mo. That’s not what we agreed. Tough. That’s what’s on the table.
So – after several hours, and a couple of mobile credit top-ups later (don’t even ask about the price of French PAYG calls – I’m not sure it wouldn’t have been cheaper to make roaming calls from a UK mobile), we’re no further forward. Actually, that’s not quite true. We’ve had one quote, €1,300… Several friends had kindly put time and effort into trying to hire trailers, but hit stone walls due to the weight of the van or insurance issues.
Back on to ADAC. We’d more or less given up on getting the van shifted outside Brive, so let’s find a better solution in Brive. ADAC would have a look into the options and call us back after lunch. (No, of course they didn’t. Do you need to ask?)
Meanwhile, the real fourth Emergency Service came to the fore. Never having met them before, I’d dropped John a line on the VW forum – being about an hour from Brive, he might have some suggestions.
John’s son, Steve, was on holiday from work, and before we knew it he’d pulled in some favours to get their local garage to collect the van, well within ADAC’s budget. Not only that, he was in the car and on the way to us – our accommodation problem for the night was sorted, and he’d have a good look at the problem to see exactly what was going on. Time to jump in a taxi to the VW garage, then, and try to extricate the keys and paperwork from them. When we arrived, it was not a great surprise to see the van exactly where it’d been on Monday. The one consolation was that they held on to the keys and logbook with the same diligence and enthusiasm that they’d applied to working on the van.
Within minutes of slithering under the rear of the van, Steve had figured out that the problem wasn’t as serious as we’d thought – the new joint hadn’t broken up, but the bolts had all worked loose and escaped. In to the workshop, and would they mind putting the van on their ramp and just rebolting it. Nope. No way. The joint was definitely broken, and the bits weren’t available. OK, fine… Could we at least borrow a couple of tools (not in our own toolkit)? Begrudgingly, yes. After a few attempts, Steve removed the entire driveshaft – only to find that whilst the joint was definitely still intact, it was the wrong one – and that the reason it couldn’t be bolted straight back on was that one bolt was bent right over (and our friend in Salbris had thoroughly butchered the heads on several others, somehow). No problem. A hacksaw will quickly solve that. Except that being hardened bolts, our small hacksaw wouldn’t touch them – and the dealer didn’t possess such a high-tech and specialist piece of equipment.
As the afternoon was drawing to a close, it was easiest to head to John and Steve’s place with the shaft – within minutes the bent bolt was removed, and the shaft ready to be refitted, so we could spring the van from its imprisonment. But first, Thursday evening happened to be the village’s weekly evening market. Local food producers had set stalls up on the grass behind the Mairie, whilst the yard between the stalls and building was full of trestle tables – and a stage, barbecues, frite stands and a bar. How dreadful. We hated every second of having to buy paté, sausages, cheese and honey direct from the farmers, then have the sausages cooked for us, whilst we tucked into cheap bottles of good red wine and excellent chips. But we had to force ourselves to do it, you understand. It’s a hard job sometimes. Especially with the entire village singing and dancing to such an excellent live band.
Eventually, the morning had to be faced. Steve and I headed back to the van in Brive, fitted the shaft with ease, and drove the van away – to the surprised glares of the dealer mechanics…
And here, back at the house, we sit.
The right parts to do the job properly are on order. After spending some time giving the van the service it’s about due – including a good once-over of the brakes and a set of tyres (the set of off-brand Thai-made all-seasons which came on it didn’t much like 35 degree Celsius Portuguese weather, and rapidly developed alopecia of the tread) – we’re going to shift the van to a barn (with a service pit) belonging to a friend of theirs, then remove both shafts to give them a thorough overhaul once the parts arrive. Sod’s law, of course, says that today is a public holiday… After all that, we’ll be ready to hit the road again. Delayed, emotions having run the full range, pockets thoroughly hit – but our spirits are unbroken.
There’s one thing we must do in this post – and that’s to publicly repeat the thanks already given in private. Steve, John, Paul, Mark – you are all total and utter heroes. Then there’s all the people in Brive la Gaillard who did their best to smooth our wait and to lift our spirits. Their kindness and generosity – even if all they could offer was some sympathy and encouragement – helped no end. The staff of the hotel La Crémaillère, particularly – we couldn’t have made a better choice. The kindness of the lady running the Lady Leone tearoom. The sheer entertainment value of the guy in the SFR mobile phone shop. The above-and-beyond-the-call service of the girl in the tourist office. If it had happened anywhere else, it would have been even more trying.
Let’s just hope that reclaiming from ADAC just some of the expenses incurred goes a fraction as smoothly…
So are you still in the Dordogne? We’re currently 20k north of Bergerac. Could meet up for a drink?
Indeed! Ellie’s dropped you a message on Facebook with our French mobile no.
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