Monday, February 19, 2007

Mini adventure … and I only wanted to change the wipers

You’d think that changing your wiper blades would be a trivial exercise. No.

15 or so years ago I heard a story that suggesting that Ford Sierra’s were built to last for no longer than ten years. Although the technology was available to manufacture quality parts and put together a car that would last for twenty or thirty years, it wasn’t in the car industry’s interests to slow down the buying cycle.

I wonder if BMW have taken this approach with the new Minis? Mine passed it’s third birthday in January, and immediately all the windscreen wipers broke. Now the frost has something to do with it, but within days of the inclusive three year warranty expiring, the plastic on the wiper blades tore leaving big sections of the front and back windows untouched. (The service warranty may not even have covered wipers anyway, probably classing them as consumables.)

So on a Saturday afternoon, I called in at Halfords to buy some new blades. For £3 extra, they’ll even fit them. £3 to save getting your hands dirty? What has the world come to!

But the fellow in Halfords wouldn’t sell me them for the Mini. Oh, they’re listed, but too fiddly to get on yourself. We won’t even do it. Nip up to Bavarian and get the real thing. Note to Halfords – consider incentivising your sales staff, or at least sending them on a sales course.

Half a mile up the road, and the Mini showroom and main Bavarian garage was closed. Saturday afternoon of course. No one would be free and want to buy something.

Went back round on the Monday afternoon. The Mini showroom is surrounded by colourful Minis. It has a big sign beside the door saying “Mini Parts & Accessories”. But inside, can they sell you a wiper? No. There are some on display (apparently justifying the “parts and accessories” sign) but you have to go up the road to the main Bavarian garage to purchase them!As I left, it was tempting to lift (no make that, steal) some off one of the mass of colourful Minis that surround the little showroom.

Up to Bavarian. The Customer Service desk could arrange for them to be fitted, though the guy was too embarrassed to quote the full price. But you need to talk to the parts department if you want to buy them and DIY.

Twenty five pounds and three plastic0bagged wiper blades later. At least it was no dearer than Halfords.

Fiddly little devils. Finally gave up trying and consulted the car’s instruction manual. The front ones were easy enough. But the back one doesn’t get any easier when you follow the instructions. “Pull back to the stop.” What stop. Should read “use brute force to pull old wiper off”. Finally got them changed, though a plastic tab went flying off in the process. But it doesn’t look like the wiper will fall off anytime soon.

So thank you Halfords. You were right. They’re awkward to fit.

And thank you Bavarian. You were as efficient as usual. (My measure of efficiency is the Customer Service call that they make every 6 months or so. “Are you happy with your Mini”. “Yes, except that the boot doesn’t always close properly, and although you changed the catch within the first year, it’s really no better.” “Oh, I’ll get someone in the service department to phone you back.” And no one phones back. Twice they’ve taken my story. I can’t be bothered to chase it. And neither can they.)

And the biggest, most genuine, thank you to Cornell Finch for the accompanying picture that’s released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 license.

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