Doctor Diesel

Oh, we did laugh!

Web05Reference your article on electric handbrakes locking up wheels when travelling, I have a 2012 Vauxhall Meriva with an electric handbrake, and the handbook informs me that, if the handbrake lever is held on when travelling at speed, then it will cause the brakes to “progressively decelerate the car”. (I wonder what they mean by progressively? It could hardly stop it instantly, could it?) I have not had the courage to try it yet. Unfortunately, the car does not have hill assist, so the handbrake instantly releases when the engine is revved. This makes it difficult to judge getting the clutch to bite, such as when on a slope parked close to other vehicles, and to prevent rolling. I have contacted Vauxhall about this because they do have hill assist on some other vehicles. I also had a Citroën Grand C4 Picasso, with electric handbrake and which did have hill assist. Anyway, when the car became three years old, I took out an extended warranty (for about £700) and shortly afterwards I tried to drive home from a meeting. I say “tried”, because the handbrake refused to release at first, then it eventually appeared to release, but the parking light kept flashing. I drove the short distance home and put the handbrake on. I then tried to release it, again without any success. It was lunchtime and I had another journey to make, so I phoned the local Citroën garage. No-one was available, as it was lunchtime. I then phoned the AA. “You don’t have Home Start” (£80) the man said, so I paid them the appropriate fee, to which the man then replied “I am afraid that there is no one available for an hour and a half!” While I was waiting for him, I again rang the garage just after 2pm and was informed that if I went into “the menu”, I could turn off the brake’s automatic operation, and do it manually. Guess what! The handbrake came off!

The AA man then eventually arrived and escorted me to the garage, where I waited while they did a test which showed no fault! They then reprogrammed the ECU and charged me about £70. So I protested that I had an extended warranty, but was then informed that it did not cover the problem as no fault had been detected! I sold the car soon afterwards!
Eric Maggs

We’re not supposed to laugh at others’ misfortunes, but how I did laugh! Although my current steed has an electronic handbrake and also hill assist, that I almost grudgingly admit both work very well, I cannot say that I felt there was ever much wrong with the conventional handbrakes that I have managed to cope with for the previous 45 plus years of my motoring life. I guess that we “old farts” must adjust to the fact that driving, and driving skills, are now relegated as secondary to communicating with the outside world and listening to music, and that traditional driving skills are no longer all that necessary. Once you have had a few not-too-serious accidents and been saved from any serious injury by crumple zones, airbags, and safety belts, people can actually develop an attitude of invincibility, they tell me. Very good to have your letter Eric, which I am quite sure will entertain our readers! Keep taking the pills, and the Millers!

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