Tim Davey A motorist's life is complicated enough
The night was full of anticipation. There we were heading for the late evening ferry out of Portsmouth bound for France and a few days in Normandy.
Everything was going swimmingly.
The autumn light faded and darkness descended as we headed along the A36 between Warminster and Salisbury.
Then it happened.
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Suddenly I found myself staring at a rapidly flashing warning light on the dashboard.
"DPF" it said repeatedly and so brightly there was no way of not noticing it.
In the middle of nowhere we pulled over into a handily placed lay-by and sought the large tome which passes for any car's manual these days.
Finding the "Warning lights" section our hearts sank in tandem as we read the contents.
Now I have driven cars for decades and regularly check the tyres, oil, water, screen washer... but I know precious little about the inner workings of the machine.
Even less about diesel-powered motors of which this was one.
Anyway, it transpired the "DPF" warning was rather serious. The letters, as all garage geeks know, stand for the "Diesel Particulates Filter." I didn't. Until then.
Reading on the wording was ominous to say the least. A main dealer needed to be sought out, it declared. Summing up you could say that it cautioned us to be very, very careful, indeed, lest we damage the moving parts beyond repair.
So, with the prospects of catching the ferry looking about as likely as Rovers or City winning a game, we turned around and crawled along into the night back to the welcoming glare of what passes for a service station on the edge of Warminster.
Here a pleasant fellow from the breakdown service arrived, looked up my vehicle on his computer and said sometimes these filters blocked and needed a sort of foot-on-the-pedal blowout to clear the problem.
We tried it but still that light kept flashing. More on-screen checking came to the conclusion that, with the French trip already in tatters, it was best to head for home, going very, very slowly.
So we nursed the car back to whence we had left with such optimism some hours earlier, unpacked the boot, locked the car and called it a night.
Next day, not wanting to risk things, a breakdown truck came and towed it to the main dealers where it remained all day.
The ominous silence just made me more anxious but, finally, late afternoon came the call that I could go and collect the car.
I did so apprehensively and enquired whether it had been a difficult job.
No. Apparently not. The "DPF" warning light could sometimes indicate a problem but in this instance was merely telling me a service was due and that I could have driven on regardless.
Life's complicated enough as it is. So, why, oh why, could it not have said just that? Either on the dashboard, or in the manual.