Starting Out Part 2: The Dashboard Christmas Tree of Doom!

I am reasonably ashamed to say that I have never quite got my head entirely around electricity and the way it behaves, and cruel irony has decided that the theoretically reliable MR2 shall be beset by yet further electrical infidelity.

I last wrote about this topic a couple of months back, with the MR2 abandoned on the drive in a cloud of smoke and a broken (brand new) alternator belt. Well the problem was eventually diagnosed as a seized alternator (rather unsurprisingly). A few new parts later and we were back up and running and I rather naively thought that would be the end of it.

As I while away the days waiting for the 2016 season to kick off, I am constantly on the lookout for ways of playing with my toy in a slightly more liberal environment than the open road, and an opportunity presented itself with a charity drive.

MR2 with rather more impressive company!
MR2 with rather more impressive company!

Every year the property industry in Birmingham have a drive out (technically classified as a reliability run – maybe more apt for me than most) in aid of a charity (This year was The Starlight Foundation who grant wishes for seriously and terminally ill children – they’re wonderful people, check them out

Every year a group of industry petrol heads will head for a drive out and end up at a specific venue, such as Mallory or Donnington or wherever, via a series of check points. This year the venue was Shelsley Walsh – obviously providing me with an incentive to actually get the car repaired!

The only draw-back to all of this was managing to embarrass myself quite impressively in front of the members of the MAC (of which I am also a member) and assembled industry peers…oh, spiffing.

I blame Phil Nuthall personally*.  He did mention with a cheery smile as he placed the chock under the rear wheel of the Toyota – ‘I don’t need to tell you what to do, do I?!’

Maybe I shouldn’t have decided to try and show off.  Maybe I should have been more circumspect and played myself in. Maybe Phil shouldn’t have jinxed it (it can’t POSSIBLY be my fault after all).

I'm ready - clutch isn't
I’m ready – clutch isn’t

Either way, I built the revs up to 5,000 RPM and did such a lazy job of releasing the clutch it over heated and slipped its way up through first and second gears, thereby treating the assembled to the majestic sight of a very loud (and by now quite smelly and smoky) departure with no really discernible forward motion.

Eventually I found third and some actual progress was made – but by now I was too busy trying to hide my face from marshals and make my way up the hill without really being noticed – as much as that is possible when being pursued by a cloud of your own burned clutch.


It cast something of a pall on my afternoon really. I dropped the car to the back of the group to try and extend clutch cooling time. Though it didn’t stop Phil chiming in on the start line with ‘would you like a push this time’ – you could argue I deserved it.

Anyway – by now I expect you think that the next tale of reliability woe will be clutch based, but no! It’s that great and continuing unfathomable, the car’s problematic electrical system.

The Dashboard Christmas Tree of Doom!
The Dashboard Christmas Tree of Doom!

It focuses the mind when you start the car and every single warning light stays on – and produces that ‘oh, what now?!’ feeling that I last truly experienced with my Alfa Romeo GTV (paragon of reliability that it was…no, wait).

Whilst a flick though the manual just told me to go to a dealer (useful, thanks), a quick glance at the dipstick told me that the low oil light (at least) was telling porky pies – and so the rest probably were as well. Not really having time to spend, the car ended up parked for a couple of weeks, sat on top of life’s ‘too hard’ pile.

In the naughty corner...
In the naughty corner…

When I finally looked back at this weekend – I found the battery flat as a pancake and unwilling to accept any charge. Having delusions of being Colin Chapman, I replaced it with the lightest battery that my meagre budget would find – thus making it also the most gutless!

Now, here is where it gets confusing and why electricity is the work of the devil and its maintenance best left to his minions.  I was hoping, in my ignorance, that the new battery would be a sort of automotive ‘Ctrl Alt Delete’ for the car, and the ECU’s confused state would be alleviated.

And it was. Sort of.

If anyone here has any clue, any at all, why every single warning light should be illuminated below 1,500 rpm, but not above it, I would welcome answers on a postcard.


I have a theory, but not being electrically minded I am too embarrassed to share it.

Either way. My pursuit of a consistently working car continues. I was also passed by an RX8 the other day.

Smug git.

(*Obviously none of that can really be blamed on Phil, but let’s keep that between ourselves, eh?)

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