From being load with bikes for trips to Clumber Park to bring home both Dottie and Duke when we got then, to an epic trip to Scotland – our Vauxhall Zafira has been through it all with us. But now is the time to say goodbye to a member of our family that we’ve had for over 7 years.
My history with cars is well known in our family and despite Zaffy being the car I’ve had the longest, it’s not been without its traumas.
Replacing the Pug
Back in 2011, I was driving a Peugeot 806. It was a lovely big van with seats but it had issues. After an expensive radiator replacement (which had to be flown in from Germany!) it developed a power issue that just wouldn’t go away. It had mechanics baffled and mean driving up any significant incline was challenging, and slow. When I started my new job that meant lots of motorway miles the Pug just gave up. It wen bang on the junction 40 exit slip on the northbound M1 while on my way home from work. Home was a 5-minute drive from there but I had to await recovery.
I needed to replace it, and fast. So I headed for (the now defunct) Car Craft in Leeds – a huge car supermarket type place. The Zafira was selected and after being kept waiting for hours on the finance I was set to go. At the time I didn’t realise I had been duped by Car Craft into buying a warranty cover plan that I didn’t need.
Zaffy was the youngest car I had ever had, it was just 4 years old when we took it home. It sure was a far cry from my first car – a rusty 10-year old Vauxhall Nova that was nicknamed “Eddie”. With keyless entry, it had a couple of features that were a little higher-end that I was used to. But essentially having a car was my lifeline to work.
Problems Begin to Surface
Only a couple of weeks after getting Zaffy I was leaving work in Rotherham and something wasn’t right. There was no power and it was just limping along. Once again I was calling the AA for help. Eventually, Zaffy was jooked up to a tow and we were on our way. I asked the AA man to drop the car at Car Craft directly – I was not happy.
Car Craft didn’t seem impressed at my method of delivering the faulty car back to them. When I pointed out the warranty I had they relented and got on with diagnosing an electrical faulty in the accelerator. It was fixed and I was back on the road.
I am lazy with car maintenance, something I have vowed to change with every car I’ve ever bought. The timing belt changed when it should and in 2014 it snapped while I was on my way home from a photoshoot and I was stranded at a busy set of traffic lights in Huddersfield town centre.
I knew immediately this was going to be costly.
The Major Repair
My niece’s boyfriend was a trainee mechanic and he was almost qualified. He offered to rebuild the engine in his own time at a fraction of the prices I was being quoted by the small number of garages prepared to take on the job. I paid him the cash, trustingly and waited.
Getting to work from Dewsbury to Rotherham and back every day became a challenge. I cycled it but at 26 miles each way it was too much with an 8-hour working day between the journeys. So I adopted a cycle-train-cycle routine that helped to keep the costs down. Developing a trapped nerve in my back made this a rather painful method of getting to work too!
The repair on Zaffy was taking longer than I had hoped. I knew he was doing it in his spare time but I was still getting a little grumpy about it. He started getting really rude with me when I called him, and he was even ignoring my calls. At one stage my brother-in-law phoned me tell me to leave him alone. A stupid thing like a car was starting to make family relations strained.
Eventually, I gave up waiting and had the car towed to a garage. I had to beg and borrow the money to pay for the repair all over again. It was good of this garage to take on a half finished repair but much of the work had to be done again as they needed to know it was done correctly. Within a week of getting the car to them, they called to say ti was ready.
Interview Travel & House Move Delmas
While I was car-less I was offered an interview for a new job. However, the interview was quite some way from home and getting there on public transport would have been a nightmare. Thankfully, another brother-in-law came to the rescue and drove me up for the interview. I was offered the job, and a house there and then so went home to tell Helen that I got the job and that we were moving!
We had quite a lot of work to do in our current house to make it ready for letting and without a car I had to be a little creative in bringing supplies home. I was cycling back and forth to Dewsbury with a bike trailer fetching tile, adhesive, wood and all sorts of bits and bobs. It amazing what you can achieve when you put your mind to it.
As we were moving we had some family trips to the new town and I was grateful to my employer for hiring a people carrier for us. I was paying for it, but business rates so much cheaper.
When the car was finally ready to collect I drove it straight from the garage to Kirkbymoorside for a day meeting people at my new job. It was lovely to be back in my own car and it felt better than ever.
Then came the infamous Zafira-B recalls due to the fire risks. I awaited my recall letter and took it to the Vauxhall deal that, luckily, from just metres from the front door of our new home. It was December when I handed the car over and March the next year when I got it back!
The issue was that it looked as though ours had actually caught fire as the plastic around the heater motor was melted. This meant then would not give it back until it was all replaced. But that meant a long wait for the parts. A very long way as it turned out.
Vauxhall arranged a hire car (at their cost) and I insisted on at least a 7-seater given that’s what I had. We got a 9-seat VW Transporter! It was a fantastic car for almost 3 months until Enterprise wanted it back. They replaced it with an 8-seat Ford Tourneo which, while a great car, wasn’t quite the same as the VW.
I was a little sad to get Zaffy back this time. Plus, the seed of doubt about it being safe was firmly planted in my mind.
There are so many memories wrapped up in this car. But it was the car that drove us to our new home. Since the move, it’s not given us too much to worry about really. I’ve done most of the maintenance myself, such as brake pads and disks, and ever the rocker cover gasket at one point when it was leaking oil everywhere.
A couple of summers ago we had a weeks holiday in Ayr. The car was our chariot and it didn’t let us down at all. Even the rough drive on track around Lock Doon was well within it.
But, with four daughters that are getting bigger and more grown up by the day, the 6th and 7th seats in the back of Zaffy are getting a bit cramped. Add this to a niggling gut feeling that a big repair bill and car death is looming (despite lack of evidence to suggest it) and it was time to think about replacing Zaffy.
I have rarely replaced a car until the old one dies. But living in the country that could be a risky tactic. But also, living opposite a Kia and Vauxhall showroom means that I am seeing potential cars on my daily walks past.
I knew Kia did a 7-seat car that was similar to the Zafira – the Carens. But, they never seemed to have any second-hand ones on the Kia forecourt though. When they did they were out of price range for us. Then I realised that their SUV Sorento, was also a 7-seater.
All of a sudden it seemed like they had then on the prominent road-side position on the forecourt almost teasing me daily. Then I would see more and more of them out on the road or around town. But could we afford one?
Eventually, I plucked up the gumption to enquire, tentatively, about one they had for sales at £15k. The monthly fees quotes were just too much. We could probably have stretched to it, but who wants to stretch and struggle all the time for 5 years?
Then, a slightly older one appeared. A 2010 model at just over £8k. Was this to be it? A few days passed and I eventually went to talk about it last night. I’d done my research so already knew that it was an 8-year-old car that had done just 60,000 miles with a full Kia service history. That’s just 7,500 miles a year – similar to what I do now. I was handed to keys to have a look around.
It may seem odd but I started at the back. I need to know that the 6th and 7th seats had plenty of room. I worked my way forward to the driver’s seat and it felt very good. The height was fabulous and it was comfortable. Having to put a key in to start the car felt odd though having not need to do that for some years.
I went back into the showroom. Before I knew it I had been approved for finance and I’d bought a car!
The only downer was that the best they could offer for Zaffy was £200. The car, to us, is invaluable but in today’s market for that car with the high miles and lack of servicing it was all they would offer. It was even sadder to hear that Zaffy was most likely to be destined for scrap.
So, it’s goodbye to Zaffy. You really have been a great car and as a family, we have so many happy memories of our trips in you. Yes, you have dints on the bonnet where yobs bounced you. Yes, there’s dint the in the driver’s door that, to this day, I have no knowledge of how that happened. You have scratches up and down each side from the girls squeezing their bikes past. You seats are worn and I don’t think anyone could ever remove the dog hair now. To others, you could be viewed as a bit of a shed, but to us, you are our Zaffy.