Friday, February 10, 2006

Automotive Hypochondria

I still bear scars from driving "$500 cars" during my salad days- and lest you find the expression "salad days" as being completely hackneyed, it is from Shakespeare. Actually, one of the better cars I have owned cost a mere dollar- and now that I think about it, I am not sure I actually paid it. It hasn't helped driving the gasping Mazda- which, by the way, is no longer. Lise's brother was rather skeptical of our experience with the car until it stalled on him on his way home from a ski trip. We thought he was insane for even attempting such a road trip in that car. When he called for help, he was fortunately less than a kilometer away. He has a company vehicle, which afforded him the opportunity to loan us his Mazda. He is changing jobs and will no longer have a work vehicle. But the Mazda required constant hypervigilance, and ever-present fear that it could die on the road at any moment. I felt like I was 20 year old again. I hated that feeling. I vowed years ago to never be in a position where a machine had that kind of anxiety provoking power over me.

So we purchased a car- a used car. You never really know where a used car has been, or how it is driven. Presumably, this is a car chosen by a more mature driver, and it is immaculately cared for. All this leads to a strange phenomenon I have noticed when I have driven it alone. A few times the warning bell has "rung." It just rings once when it happens. The first time I thought I was hearing something on the radio, as I noticed nothing else. The second time I caught something flashing out of the corner of my eye- and I became obsessed with catching it flashing in the act. The next day I noticed it was the outdoor temperature flashing for a few seconds at 3c. This made no sense to me. I was worried there was some electrical problem with the driving computer. I was paranoid.

The owner's manual offered no clue- which is in part due to the fact that it is wholly written in German. I googled it, and discovered that some mini Cooper owners have experienced the same vexing events. Apparently it occurs when the temperature drops to 3C (or 37F) and it is an ice on the road warning- that there could potentially be black ice. Apparently this is undocumented by BMW. Again, this is one of those features that I could live without- and yes, apparently it is a "feature" and not a problem. Typical German over-engineering.


Anonymous said...


Sparky Dog said...

Thats freaking hilarious, I had my BMER for 2 years and I always wondered what in the hell it was. It would "DING" at 38 degrees F. I was in my realtors BMER when his did it, and I exclaimed... WHAT IN THE HELL IS THAT... and he let me know.

At least it didn't take you two years....