Do Say (a)Gain

DSG – three letters to strike fear into the heart of anyone likely to be held financially responsible for a litany of repair costs, best thought of as ‘We’re gonna need a bigger printer

I am not one of those people,having secured the gearbox in question as part of a lease deal which allegedly transfers the risk of mechanical catastrophe back to Skoda, which is – I think you have to agree – beautifully ironic.

My very new and still quite shiny Yeti is festooned with these mysterious acronyms stuck usefully between the tiny engine and the driving wheels. It was a happy – if naive – bonding experience where I pressed the accelerator and all manner of shafts, pulleys and bearing slotted perfectly into line offering up the next gear with zerodriver involvement, other than a happy nod to the advances of automotive technology.

Until the point at which the hidden, efficient and – importantly – entirely silent mechanical genius began to exhibit an audible tick. Press accelerator, receive gear and a click, ease off the loud pedal and a rather noisy second click would suggest all was not well in the world of elves and magic underneath my seat.

I ignored it for a while hoping it would get better* but obviously it didn’t. So a quick Internet search predicted a range of outcomes from ‘they all do that sir’ to ‘take cover immediately, explosion imminent’

Schlep over the garage then to leave the bloody thing in the care of the experts who wield spanners and laptops with equal competence. The very next day I receive a call explaining all is well, and the car was ready for collection. Being an inquisitive sort,I made enquiries on exactly how this mechanical issue had been so quickly resolved. I feel a transcript is required here:

Workshop: “We upgraded the firmware on the ECU and rebooted the gearbox”

Me: “What? Why?”

Workshop: “No warnings off the ECU, we couldn’t find a problem so that’s what we always do

Me “Yeah but it’s a mechanical click, it’s not a software problem. Trust me I know about software problems. I’ve been responsible for hundreds of them

Workshop “No sir, really that’s all it needs, when you pick it up, we’ll put the mechanic in the car with you to put your mind at rest

Me: “My mind is never at rest, especially now it appears the fault resolution protocol for modern cars appears to be ‘turn it off and turn it on again

With a mind opened no more than a crack, I collected the mechanic, jumped in the car and was ready to turn the key, when he carefully enquired if I had the slightest inkling as to how aDSG actually worked.

I started to explain that a man of middle years, steeped in all manner of mechanical tomfoolery, would obviously have a working overview of all things automotive. Then I looked at his questioning face and admitted I really didn’t.

We then passed a happy few minutes ashe dropped into layman’s terms and explained exactly how two gearboxes mesh together in a whirling engineering dance, before engaging exactly the right ratio even before you knew you wanted it. He looked at my face for understanding and I winged it while silently admitting he’d lost me at ‘Now Sir, the DSG is really quite simple…’

But, I whined, rebooting it? That just seems, well, to lack ambition. You wouldn’t I continued- warming to my theme – stroll up to a knackered old Cortina and politely ask it which bit was hurting would you? No you’d lay out the Landrover Maintenance kit** and give it a good twatting until something moved or shattered. Either of which would suggest a way forward.

Times have changed he told me. Somewhat pityingly it must be said, with a face that was striving to be ‘customer focussed‘ but to me was more ‘spotty and barely out of short trousers‘. Apparently – and he did become quite passionate at this point – the new top spec Audi’s used the SatNav to preselect the next gear depending on gradient, corner arc, temperature etc. ***

This, he told me, was ‘our future’. It’s not my bloody future I can assure you. We’re sleep-driving into cars that don’t need us to direct them. Even my low rent Skoda has an auto setting which turns on lights, wipers and all sorts of other useful things I’d previously prodded random buttons to activate. Leaving me just to turn the wheel – so basically trapped in a rubbish computer driving game without the chance to reboot, which again has an ironic reek to it.

Anyway the test drive was absolutely fine, the journey home was also fine. A further journey later that evening was not fine at all. The clunk is back with a vengeance . And so will I be to the garage in order for the mechanic todiagnosethe noise, and probably recommend a further software upgrade.

I think it needs a hammer instead. If only to show it who is still the boss.

* Because that’s what blokes do. Interventions are for those who have time, rationale and entirely better things to do than grab a beer from the fridge.

** 8 hammers. Different sizes. Toughened steel.

*** I refer you back to my previous comment re: software. One glitch and it’s a 100 MPH plunge over a mountain pass because the SatNav and Drive-by-Wire throttle were having an electronic barny.


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