My car was busted into the other night

Normally I’m pretty blaise’ about crime, like most people – until, of course, it happens directly to me. I mean, I ignore certain things that most other people ignore, like speeding when I think it’s safe to speed, etc., but the other morning I noticed a shopping bag on the sidewalk when I was walking to my car. I was heading out to work and I stopped and thought, “That’s one of the cloth shopping bags I got for my mom for Christmas.”

And immediately I knew that my car had been broken into. Walked up to the car, spotted that there was no window and the passenger door was ajar and saw the glass on the ground.

DAMMIT! The second time, as well.

The first time was when I’d left my wallet and phone on the center console of the Fiesta I had at the time, it was a simple smash-and-grab. I would say it was my fault, but you don’t really expect some fuckwit to be walking along the sidewalk and smash your window just because he saw something he wanted, right? But that’s what happened, and I sold that car soon after.

And this time, I may be ‘losing’ this car again, too. As soon as I had glanced around the car to see what had been taken (stereo, of course – I’m sure I had left the front of the stereo on, which you’re not meant to do but oh well) and saw how the glove box had been emptied and strewn about the car, I called the police, got a reference number and drove to work. Well bundled up, too, because I had no damn window and it was just above freezing. That is, just above freezing if you’re standing still – at 60mph it’s a bit colder. Luckily it was the passenger window.

So I called the insurance company when I got to work and they arranged for a window replacement company to come out the next day (today). When I got home that day, I made a plastic window from some firm plastic sheeting I had and cleaned out as much of the glass as I could by hand. As I was putting stuff back in the glove box I noticed there was a lot more space in there than there used to be, so obviously he’d taken more than my stereo and my mom’s shopping bag. I was missing a few CDs, a road atlas of Britain, my girlfriend’s sunglasses, car chargers for mobile phones and one of a pair of racing Momo gloves I’d bought ages ago at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Plus I noticed the hood/bonnet was loose – funny that, I certainly didn’t open it, so I’d been driving around with it like that all the way to work and back. Luckily it wasn’t fully open!

First the window guy couldn’t lower the electric windows – some sort of electrical fault. He tried the fuse box but all the fuses looked OK. He tried the ignition lock in all the various positions, no joy. Then he noticed there was smoke coming from the engine, from under the hood. GREAT.

All I could think at the time was that this asshole had, for some reason, screwed around with my engine and it was damaged somehow. Later on I realized that maybe he’d just been grabbing at all sorts of things inside the car while looking for the trunk release and pulled the hood release, making it pop open a bit. At this point that’s what I’m hoping is the case and the smoke the window guy found is nothing, because I can’t afford a big deductible to pay for repairs, and I need my car to visit my girlfriend this weekend, and for Christmas.

Anyway, the car has been towed to a garage for a full estimate and I’m supposed to email my insurance claims agent as full a list as I can come up with of everything that’s missing and the approximate value. Off the top of my head, including the stereo, there’s at least £300 worth of ‘stuff’, so that leaves a lofty payment of £100 payout, plus the repairs which would be covered. Whoopee. If the repairs are TOO much, then they’ll just buy out my car, because it can’t be worth much – it’s a 13-year old car with 188,000 miles on it (it literally just turned over 188K on Monday).

Best case scenario is that the engine is fine and I’ll have to pay to have the electrical problem fixed before the window can be replaced. Worst case is that the engine is actually damaged somehow and the insurance company buys me out of my car, minus a £200 deductible.

What a ball-ache! (I’ve really become attached to this British phrase)

The best thing about the whole experience is dealing with the insurance company – you never know how good a company is until you have trouble, and the people I’m with are really good. I get calls from the window people and the towing company within minutes of reporting things to the insurance company, and I’ve already got one guy that is my main point of contact for everything. In case you’re wondering, the people I’m with are Liverpool Victoria, I’ve been with them for years since choosing Which? Car insurance (Which? is like Consumer Reports, but every issue they do is about one particular item, like Which? Car and Which? Hi-Fi, etc.).

So, big thumbs-up to LV and Which? Car, really.

Going to repaint my car

My car (the White Lightning Mark II, a ’95 Saab 900 S) has some pretty knackered bumpers, several rust bubbles and well-worn paint, and I was thinking today while I was hand-polishing it that I should sand down the bumpers, repair the rust bubbles and repaint the car.

I did a test case with the rear spoiler, which had gotten badly scratched up with my bike when I would drive it halfway to work to cycle in, so last week I got some wet/dry sandpaper, primer and satin black paint to give the spoiler a makeover. It came out reasonably well (needs one more coat to finish) so I’m going to do the same with the bumpers, which have their share of plastic filler and horrible paintwork. Basically I’ll sand them down by hand, shoot some white primer and then choose an easily-found white spray paint at the local auto parts store. It’s a big chain but they don’t have any Saab colors other than black, so I’ll pick a color, from, say, Ford or Vauxhall (General Motors Europe basically) and get a few cans.

Exact color matches from spray cans are really hard to get anyway, so as I fix the rust bubbles panel-by-panel I’ll be stripping the paint back, cutting away the rust, repairing the hole, shooting primer then shooting white. Some rubbing compound and maybe some lacquer and I’ll be set, I hope.

Some inspiration was found at the site of the guy who did the $50 paint job, but I’m not exactly able to keep the car off the road for a week while I repaint it, so I’m going to do one panel at a time while the weather is nice and sunny, and see how things go.