07 May 2006

Italian cars, bungee cord and tow trucks...

For a while, my Fiat Multipla sort of forgotten that it’s an Italian car, and remained problem free* since the start of 2006 (the longest problem-free stretch ever).

    * Note: If you have an Italian car, your expectations on what constitutes a ‘problem’ will eventually sink. Rattles and squeaks? No problem. Faulty electrical wiring on headlamps? It’s fine. Melting plastic fittings on dashboard? No worries. Shagged shock absorbers? I’ll live with it. Leaking sunroof? Well, a little water never hurt anyone. As long as I can start the engine and proceed from point-A to some other place within 500 metres of point-B, there’s no problem.

A couple of nights ago, the Multipla finally came to its senses and became it’s old self again. Which meant I had a problem.

After a long day at work, which was the end of a bloody long week, I stumbled out of the office at 1AM and into my car, turned the key and heard a loud “CRUNCH!!!”.

Engines normally go “Vroom…!” (Or “BRAMmmm! Bum bum bum bum bum…!” if it’s an Alfa Romeo).

“CRUNCH!!!” followed by “Snap! Crackle! Pop!” should only happen during breakfast.

The battery sure-as-hell wasn’t dead since I’ve just changed it and I don’t think electronics make bone-snapping sounds so something must’ve broke in the engine. It was late, I was completely knackered, I was bloody hungry and everyone I knew was probably sleeping by then so I walked home (I can now confirm that the office is only a five-minute walk from my house).

And cooked some Shin Ramyun, which I promptly ate. Yum.

The next morning, the scale of my problem started to become more apparent with each sip of Brand’s Essence of Chicken (some Chinese placebo, if you’re wondering).

My car was parked in a basement car park. It needs to be towed to a workshop.

Tow trucks don’t fit in basement car parks – they’re too tall.

I called AAM (the Automobile Association of Malaysia) and they sent over a mechanic to see if he could fix my car on the spot. He couldn’t.

The problem was that the little gear that connects the camshaft to the timing belt broke! It’s a shame that I didn’t take a picture of it. You see, normally the timing belt would break first (since it’s made of rubber). The reason this happened is that, unlike other car manufacturers who’d have a solid metal gear, the one on the Multipla's diesel engine looks like a sport rim, hollowed out with thin spokes. Ah…

At least it looked nicer than a solid wheel. Gotta love those passionate Italians…

The dude from AAM told me that my car couldn’t be fixed on the spot (which I already knew), that a tow truck wouldn’t be able to come down to the car park (which I also already knew) and that the AAM only had one pickup truck with a tow hook that could pull me out (which surprised me, quite frankly).

He said that I’d have to wait until the truck was available, which may take a few hours.


Oh dear… I had originally woken up at 7am so that I could get the Multipla to the FIAT service centre by 1pm – before it closes on Saturday. It was now about 10:00am, which wasn’t good.

Thankfully, I happened to know someone else with a pickup truck and a long cord for pulling other cars:

"Did someone call for help?"

Yup, Paul Si came to the rescue in his Ford Everest and brought along one of those elastic cords used to pull other 4x4s out of a sticky situation.

“It’s a Saturday morning… So I thought ‘What the hell, I’ll give it a try…’”, he said.

First, we tied the two vehicles together at their tow hooks.

My car

Paul's armoured truck

After pulling the Multipla out of its parking spot, we had to connect the cord to the front so I could steer it. However, Paul’s Everest only has a tow hook at the front, so he had to reverse all the way out of the basement.

Negotiating a tight corner

Going up the ramp…

Going through another tight corner.

Light! I see light!

Yay! We were finally out. Paul looks rather pleased with himself...

"Hmmm... Let's do this again."

Now that the car was at surface level, I called AAM to tell them that I had already pulled the car out of the basement car park and didn't need their pickup truck. They said "Ok!" and that they'll send a towtruck in about an HOUR. It was about 11:45am, now.



So I had lunch with Paul and after wishing him many thanks, he went off to continue the rest of his Saturday. Meanwhile, I waited. And waited. At about 1:30pm, there still wasn't any sign of the AAM tow truck. "Fine... I guess I could leave the car at the service centre over the weekend," I thought.

I gave the AAM office a call to see how my tow truck was doing and, for some reason, they seemed completely surprised. Apparently, someone said that my problem "...had already been settled!"


So why the hell did they say they were sending a tow truck? Gee... thanks for wasting my time. The lady at the other end of the phone told me to contact the tow truck, and she gave me his number but I said, "NO! Why the hell should I call YOUR tow truck? Can't you call him yourself???"

She grumbled and spurted a few noises which vaguely resembled a "yes".

    "How long?" I asked.

    "About an hour" she said.



I waited till about 2pm and received a phone call from one of the AAM's staff. He said:

    "I apologise for the delay, sir. We're still trying to get a pick-up truck to pull your car out of the basement carpark. You see, a tow truck won't fit and..."

    "BUT I'VE ALREADY PULLED MY CAR OUT OF THE BASEMENT!!!" I said in a very loud but calm manner.

    "Eh? You did?" he asked.

    "YES! I got a friend to help me, and I've already told your staff... TWICE!"

    "Erm... ok, I'll send the tow truck, then"

    "How long will it take?"

    "Erm... about an hour"

So I had some tea. And some Coca-Cola. And more tea. And then I looked at my watch and it was already pointing at 3:20pm. No tow truck in sight, I called the AAM again.

    "Hi, I've called about three or four times earlier - since 9:30 this morning - and my car still hasn't been towed," I said.

    "Oh, that case. The car in a basement car park?" replied the operator.

    "No, it's already at ground level," I said again.

    "Is it?" he asked.

    "Yes. For heaven's sake can you send me a bloody tow truck."

    "Sure... but it'll be about an hour."

    "Thank you."

Eventually,the tow truck appeared at about 3:45pm (which was the first time the AAM had ever come earlier than they'd said they would).

Now, I guess it's their way of making up for their blunders all day, but it was kinda cool that AAM sent the biggest bloody tow truck they had in their arsenal. It wasn't so much a tow truck than a lorry which you could put your car on top of. Cool.

Finally, at about 4:30pm, we arrived at the Fiat service centre in Jalan Hulu Klang.

Note: Cheap camera-phone shot

I'll have to go to the centre to sort it all out tomorrow morning, since the staff had already gone home that day.

Malaysia BOLEH!!!


Mel said...

Poor you. Meanwhile, I had a good Sunday. Just to rub salt into your wounds :)

Btw, Have a safe trip to Germany. Don't drink too much beer and don't eat too much meat. You know what happened the last time :P

Emily said...

You drive a Fiat Multipla!? I like the car's design! Is it a good drive?

Chris Chong said...

Mel: But... but... it's GERMANY! Well, I'll be having a fantastic week so, nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah! :P

Emily: Yes, the Multipla's a fantastic car to drive, with a really communicative steering wheel, good road-holding and a very perky engine - at least when it's working.

Anonymous said...

Actually most engines have that style of cam pulleys. With the exception of Proton, probably. They're lighter, hence less internal losses and better this-and-thats which also mean less aluminium cans are needed to produce them.

Your favourite dolphin might also live a little longer too during the timefime of your Fiat.

However Fiat probably borrowed these from the parts bin of a petrol engine hence the inability to sustain your diesel's torque? Just athought anyway.

Btw dude Aloy might bring the bass amp home :)))

Chris Chong said...

Max: It is you, right?

Anyway, word is that the CAMSHAFT broke...!!!

Just came back from the test drive. It was fun...

Looking forward to seeing the bass amp again. Ah, nostalgia.... ^_^

The Wanderer said...

dude, what a farked up day. my condolences.