Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life: Melissa Kite

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life: Melissa Kite

Article excerpt

Credit: Melissa Kite

The mechanic hooked the Volvo up to his special laptop. He had kindly offered to come to me in order to diagnose the different warning codes that were flashing on the dashboard. After about an hour, I asked him if he was sure he didn't want a coffee.

'No, I'm fine,' he shouted from inside the car.

'Is everything alright?' I asked. Silence.

I knew there were a lot of warnings. I had counted about ten different messages on the dashboard from 'Transmission Service Required!' to 'Engine Service Required!' to the terrifyingly ambiguous 'Immobiliser!' which had been flashing for the past few weeks.

This was in addition to the usual running commentary. 'Driver door open!' it says, every time I get in or out. 'Passenger door open! Right rear door open!' it bleats whenever anyone else gets in.

It's capacity to make an issue out of everything makes me feel that one of these days it is going to flash: 'Your Hair Looks A Mess!' or 'No Make-up Again? Do You Seriously Think You Are Going To Meet A Man Looking Like That?'

In the end, Karl the mechanic shut the laptop and pronounced: 'There were 72 warning codes on there.'

'How can that be possible? Are there even 72 things that can go wrong with a car?'

But nothing had gone wrong. He had cleared all the warnings, and none of them had been real. The Volvo had been faking every single last one of them. Everything it was complaining about, from the transmission to the ABS 'anti-skid' facility, was absolutely fine.

The Volvo was just having a moment. Either that or its brains were fried. At the risk of turning into a motoring column, I have been told that there is a fault in the XC90 54 and 05 models which means that rain gets into the computer, allegedly. I know this because I was once parked in a London street and a builder, who was working on a house next to where my car was parked, stopped me as I was getting back into it and told me. He had an XC90 05 plate himself, you see, and he liked to have a good old chinwag about the pros and cons of it.

I thanked him and thought no more about it. But now I wonder whether my 72 warning codes might not be something to do with my car having 'wet brain'. …

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