Detonate The Focus

No, this is not the latest battleplan from my gaming group, but instead what seems to have been the danger posed by my car the last few days. I’d be the first to admit that I’m not really a petrol-head (that appellation definitely belongs to Lady M), but I’ve had a bit of a steep learning curve recently. In times gone past, when I earned a lot more money, I just had my car serviced several times a year and let the mechanics at the dealership worry about oil levels and coolants. I don’t have that luxury these days, and so I’d completely forgotten to check the oil. I say ‘I’ as I’m the main driver, even though the car belongs to Lady M.


Prompted by various odd noises made by the car (a Ford Focus, hence the blog title today), we checked the levels on Friday last week, and I bought some extra oil when I realised that there didn’t seem to be any oil on the dipstick at all. On Sunday, just before heading out to go see Demonic for lunch, we topped it up. Well, I say topped up – as the levels didn’t seem to be rising on the dipstick when I tested it, I ended up overfilling the reservoir. We only noticed this when we got flashed by another driver about five minutes into our journey and I realised that I could only see white smoke out the back window. There was also a rather worrying burning smell.

Reasoning that this was a small overfill and that it would eventually burn off, we nevertheless doubled back to the flat and swapped over to Lady M’s hire car. This has been provided by her work place to cover her until her company car gets delivered. We duly sped over for Sunday lunch with my brother and his family, and I spent some time in the evening trying to burn off the excess.

By Tuesday there was still no improvement, and the burning smell kept coming back (obviously, because it’s oil that’s getting fried off as the engine heats, leading to a last minute cancelling of our usual evening jaunt to the pub because I didn’t feel safe driving down busy roads in a cloud of partially burnt oil and water vapour. So this morning I steeled myself to call the RAC to come and have a look. By now we were half convinced that we’d done permanent damage to the car, possibly cracking a gasket, and that we’d either need to buy a new engine, or a new car.

My relief, when the engineer arrived and confirmed that there was no permanent damage but we really had very much over-filled the oil reservoir, was immense. Almost as immense as the three excess litres of oil that he had to drain off. I’ve now spent a reasonable portion of the afternoon running the engine and quietly driving around the estate and the local carparks to finish burning off the excess still in the pipes.

The ultimate test has been driving over this evening to see the Charleesi, using the heavy spray from the rain to disguise the vapour and enjoying the relative anonymity of the autumn evening light. I’m only slightly exaggerating, as the smoke seems to have largely subsided. I’ve also been encouraged by how many other vehicles have been pouring forth equivalent amounts of smoke from their exhausts on my journey. Hopefully this means my confidence will start to reassert itself soon – I’ve felt rather more shaken by the whole experience than expected.

Oh well, I’ve at least had the opportunity, while peering over the engineer’ shoulder, to learn a bit about my engine’s layout. If I ever need to rev my car’s engine from the outside, I now know what to pull on to make it happen.

What’s the worst that could happen?

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