2012 has sucked so much it ought to be called the Year of the Dyson.
I’ve owned four Alfa Romeos.
The first was an early 1980s Alfasud Sprint. It was a terrible car in the way that most early 1980s cars were terrible. Everything was shoddy. It wasn’t the Alfa’s fault, per se. It just hadn’t been looked after and I couldn’t redeem it.
I’ve had two Alfa 33 16V’s. One was absolutely fantastic. I’d buy that car again in a heartbeat. The other wasn’t so good. It was an impulse buy, a poor decision against my better judgement.
My current Alfa, a 1984 GTV6 has been absolutely wonderful……. until today.
I took my car into the workshop yesterday for some standard service work. Fluids, filters, brake pads, a thermostat, etc. Nothing too onerous.
Late in the afternoon I got a call saying there was a problem. It was late in the day and they hadn’t figured the problem out yet, but I should wait an extra day before coming in to pick up the car.
Today, I called them and the car still wasn’t running. I called in at the workshop on my way home and things were much worse than I figured.
When I first bought the car, the hydraulic cam belt tensioner had a small fluid leak. A common fix is to replace the hydraulic part with a mechanical tensioner from the later model Alfa 164. I got this done. It seems there’s been a problem with this part – we don’t know why yet – which has led to the belt being loose yesterday when the mechanic tried to start the car.
I should emphasise here that there have been no problems at other times. The car has driven beautifully for me and drove perfectly when I took it to the workshop.
When the mechanic had done his work, run the car briefly and then shut it off, there was a loud clicking sound. Whatever that was, the end result is that the car wouldn’t start afterwards. The mechanical tensioner seems to be involved and the working theory right now is that the belt got loose enough on the re-start for the belt to skip a few teeth, thereby putting the timing out. (I think I’ve got that correct)
End result – cylinder #3 now has bent valves.
We can go ahead and replace the valves, but there’s a deeper problem here that needs to be solved. What caused the tensioner to fail on this occasion? It’s still in one piece, it’s still in position and it’s an original part that doesn’t appear to have any defects.
Steve’s giving it some more thought and I’m fretting over the potential argument that might ensue about cost and responsibility. These are good guys and I like to believe that I’m a good customer. There is an element of ‘shit happens’ here, but on the other hand, I delivered a functional car for routine service work and I’ve only ever followed their advice on repairs and maintenance (including the installation of the tensioner).
I just want my car back and running again. It’s been such an enjoyable drive, everything I’d hoped for when I bought it, and more.
Top Gear used to say that you couldn’t call yourself a true gearhead until you’d owned an Alfa Romeo. It’s not a theory I subscribe to, but I can understand why they say it. It’s the exhilaration and the frustration. I guess I’ve got both of those in plentiful supply with this car.
Here’s how I’ll try to think of it over the next few weeks. I really hope it doesn’t take longer than that!