Your Memoirs – “Moteur Mal”

I liked the old Volvo: its seats were comfortable and the large boot accommodated a family’s luggage. Driving through France for a family holiday, the temperature gauge edged into the red. We pulled off the road, and I found that the plastic header tank for the radiator had swollen considerably. Driving on, slowly, we found a garage in Reims where a mechanic removed the thermostat, believing that it had stuck. 

We continued our journey with the outside temperature about 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and without air conditioning in the car. The temperature gauge started to climb again, and we stopped by an SOS phone in a woodland lay-by. I rang through to a man who didn’t speak English, so I had to use my rusty O-Level French to explain as best I could that the engine was overheating and the radiator seemed to be blocked. Eventually the man turned up in a battered van. He couldn’t say what was causing the problem, but gave me a large plastic container of water and told me to drive with the radiator cap loose so that, although the car would lose water by evaporation, the loss could be managed by regular topping-up, and we would avoid pressure bursting the cooling system.

The overheating limited us to about 60kph: we would clearly be very late arriving at our stopover in Chalon-sur-Saône. I used masking tape to put MOTEUR MAL on the rear bumper to indicate why the car was going so slowly. Using the car’s heater on full blast as an emergency radiator, we trundled on to Chalon through the scorching afternoon with the windows wide open. We arrived after midnight, by some miracle having found our way through the city to the hotel.

Next day we continued in the same manner to La Clusaz. Fortunately the air was cooler in the mountains, and we got to our accommodation with only occasional stops to top up. We toured the region as we’d planned, before returning home having nursed the car for some two thousand miles. I was quite proud of the achievement.

Submitted by Martz Yorke, 70, Manchester

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