… Sump Sprockets, Sloop Valves and the MOT.

My car is due its MOT in January.

And for the uninitiated, with the technical terminology, unfamiliar equipment and the code of secrecy, I imagine it can feel a lot like a trip to the doctors.

But a few weeks before the MOT I had noticed a worrying symptom. 

The chest pain of the internal combustion engine. 

The Orange Warning Light had started to flash.

Like my patients do, I googled the symptoms and came up with the worst possible scenario. 

Google suggested that I have a fault so dangerous that I have to run like mad and dive into a ditch just as the car explodes into a ball of flames behind me, like The Rock would do if he was a portly provincial GP.

And like a typical bloke… I ignored it.

But eventually I had to turn up at the garage, and sheepishly admit that I was here for an MOT, but while I’m here they might want to look at the Orange Warning Light.  

Now, you may turn up for your MOT with a square wheel, a leaky radiator and a door dangling off on one hinge.  But if the OWL is blinking at them: that’s a straight fail.

“What do you reckon it means?”

I don’t know why I even ask these questions. I’ll never understand.

“So.  You know the sump sprockets?”


“Well, they should sit flush with the barking plates.”

“Uh huh.”

“Well if they’re flat to the mandible the steering differential only looks East.”

“Oh yeah!  Steering!”

“Don’t know.  Just that there’s an engine fault.  We can’t pass it unless we know what’s going on.”

I can’t complain.  I have blood tests that are the same as this.  A raised C-reactive Protein tells me you have high levels of inflammation.  It doesn’t differentiate whether that is because of your appendix surgery, your chest infection, or your fall down the stairs.  Just that inflammation is going on and that the wise old OWL (ironically, the symbol of the Royal College of GPs) is blinking at us, and more investigation may be required.  

I toyed with asking them: of all the things that can set the OWL off, what does he think is most likely, how likely is it that that’s the cause on a scale of 1-10, and if so how much is it likely to cost to put right? 

But what was the point?

Since it couldn’t pass its MOT without it, and would therefore become , instead of a usable car, a very cumbersome, not especially beautiful, eight year old, Japanese paperweight, I asked him to crack on.

Now I reckon I could save a few quid here. 

Obviously, like a human body, there are some bits of a car that are vital:  engines and brakes, hearts and lungs.  And then there are some parts that are nice but a bit of a luxury (heated seats, electric rear window demisters, or a second kidney). 

But like a human body there must be some bits that don’t serve any function and ONLY go wrong.  Head gaskets only blow.  Fan belts only snap.  Appendixes only burst.  Spleens only rupture.

If it’s a problem with one of these, I’ll ask them to leave it.

I walk back a couple of hours later.

The mechanics were huddled together in the back office speaking in hushed tones.  As with medical wards this is can only be a bad sign.

They send one softly spoken engineer over.

His badge says he’s the palliative mechanic.  This is never going to be good news.

I ask nervously what the engine fault was.

“You won’t believe this.  But your engine…”

“Tell me the worst!”

“Well. Your engine mate. It’s…. errrr…. It’s missing!”


“How is that even possible?”

“Well, me and the lads were wondering that. And we’ve looked at your sat nav, and we reckon we’ve worked it out. It looks like, and we might be wrong, that with the routes you’ve taken, and the time of day you drive, and the rotation and curvature of the earth, you’ve spent the last two years literally only driving down hill. We reckon as long as you keep doing that, you’ll be fine.”

 “And that’s what the OWL was for?”

He looks shifty and covers over the additional seventy pounds on the bill with his thumb.

“Emmm.  Not really.”

“So, what was the warning for?”

“I’m afraid that was a warning to tell you…”


“That there was a fault with your Orange Warning Light.”

2 thoughts on “… Sump Sprockets, Sloop Valves and the MOT.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: