Problems, Problems.

It has been a busy but inauspicious end of 2019/ start of 2020 for us.

We made a New Year’s Eve trip to the beautiful, pristine beach at Portrush’s East Strand.  It was crowded with surfers and walkers, many of who, like us, had brought their dogs out for a romp in the clean Atlantic air.  Half the population of the town must have been scattered along the two and a half miles of golden sands between Portrush town and the start of the chalk cliffs at Whiterocks.  Credit is due to all those people because despite the number of dog walkers, I didn’t spot even one un-lifted dog poo.  Since the weather was mild, a few groups of kids were even sledging down some of the larger dunes behind the beach.

It was on our way home that things started to go wrong.  While there is no ideal time for car faults, being 80 miles from home on a New Years Eve evening adds a little more spice to the mix.  The engine warning light came on closely followed by a misfire that increased as the miles went by.  A stop at the Applegreen services outside Ballymena let me have a quick look for anything obviously broken under the bonnet; nothing was visible so we simply had to struggle on.  By the time we made Belfast the car was running very roughly, yet still managed to tick over on whatever cylinders were running normally, so it was with some relief that we eventually made it home.

OK, I admit it, the car is ancient, but since the bike is my primary transport, I don’t care so long as it can be maintained cheaply and gets through its MOT every year.  Its primary functions are trailer towing when tree pruning or whatever, bringing home larger shops, and taking Tilly and the rest of us for outings.  For that purpose, the back seat is permanently covered in a hammock that pretends to keep her hair and muddy paws off the car’s upholstery.

MY OBD  (On Board Diagnostics) reader, a must have tool when maintaining any car these days, showed a misfire code for cylinder two.  This potentially could have covered a wide range of issues from the engines fuel injectors, to an electrical fault.  The car is due a service soon anyway, and since I already had bought new spark plugs for that task, I fitted them, then checked, and cleaned any wire connector blocks in that part of the cars electrical system. I got lucky with this, a test after doing these things showed that the fault code had cleared, and the engine was running normally again.  All was well for a day or so, until the engine warning light cam on again, even though the car was still running normally.

This time the fault code was for the cars EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) valve.  These valves pass exhaust gasses through the engine for a second time when a sensor detects too much nitrogen oxide in the cars emissions.  The old car has had this fault before, and the fix is a simple replacement of the valve.  Just two screws and one wiring plug are involved, and the valve is even easy to get at, so the fix isn’t a big deal.

Then my wifes car, which is a much newer and more prestigious model than my old heap, blew a headlight bulb.  I would never have believed that it was possible to make a simple bulb replacement so difficult!  Inaccessible does not do justice to this task on an MX5!!!

Hopefully that is the end of our 2020 car problems for a while.


  1. Enjoyed this post Cas as it neatly parallels my own experiences. I don't have a diagnostic tool but our village garage does. My ancient RAV 4 failed its MOT due to an electrical problem. The problem was easy to diagnose, the part was cheap but actually getting at it was hard and the labour cost was expensive.

    My wife had a Mk2 limited edition MX5 and had a number of intermittent problems with the crank angle sensor, normally some distance away from home. Amazingly, the replacement expense stopped when I imported a Chinese knock-off sensor which was a quarter of the OEM cost!

    1. Hi Geoff,

      Thanks for the comment.
      Basic OBD readers are pretty cheap these days. Mine was about £50 off Amazon. If you do buy one, make sure that it is capable of resetting the codes as well as just reading them. The professional quality readers allow you to perform more sub system tests to narrow down the problem, but I can’t justify that sort of expense for the 2 or three cars that I use it on. The cheap one is still a very useful tool though.
      I’m with you too on cheap Chinese parts. I have found them to be very good.
      I envy you both the weather and the scenery out there. It must make for damned good biking. Enjoy your summer.
      Best wishes,


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