Be kind to your Herbie

10 Apr 2019 / 11:10 H.


DO YOU believe that your car knows beforehand that you intend to let it go because of its old age, or that you want to upgrade to a newer model?

And that it will even ‘fix you up’ for just thinking about disposing it?

I do – and so do many of my friends.

They tell me that cars have ‘emotions’, and whenever you want to get rid of them, these vehicles tend to give you ‘trouble’ once you utter the word ‘dispose’ in their presence, meaning while you are driving them!

Recently, I experienced this first-hand with the car I bought some 10 years ago for my son. Things started to go wrong when we wanted to trade it in for a new vehicle.

However, it wasn’t that old car which gave me trouble. Instead, it was a newer car I owned that showed its ‘displeasure’. My son reasoned that it may be a case of ‘empathy’ since their number plates were close enough – 1018 and 1028.

The incident happened when I had to drop off a document at a government-linked utility in Kuala Lumpur with rather tight parking spaces.

When I reached the place at about 10am, I decided to park in a tiny space by the side of a road near the reception area.

Being somewhat physically-challenged due to my knee-caps, every inch I save on walking counts!

I put on the hazard lights to warn others of the car’s temporary presence.

When I came back to it after five minutes, it refused to start! The hazard lights seemed to have given the battery a knock-out punch.

Luckily, I had the presence of mind to phone a company that specialised in supplying batteries to ‘stranded’ car owners. I was told that it would take two hours for help to arrive.

In the midst of all this, I remembered that I had to be at another place by noon. I called my son who happened to be free that morning.

He came from about 20km away to relieve me of my waiting duty. I took his car before someone slit my throat for being late!

After the battery was replaced, the technician cautioned that the alternator may be the cause of the problem, and should be fixed right away.

My son enquired over the phone if he should bring it to our favourite workshop, near a petrol station. Left with no choice, I said yes.

Unfortunately, the foreman had gone away for two days, and I had to leave the car there first.

Later when speaking to Thong Kok Wah, one of my buddies who knows a bit about cars, it dawned on me that I hadn’t exercised the five-year warranty concession provided by the car company!

I blame myself for forgetting about it since I had not had any problem with the car for four years.

Additionally, the car salesman then wasn’t very forthcoming. Still, the onus was on me.

The next day, I immediately brought my car to the dealer’s service centre instead. After listening to me, the service adviser gave me a rundown of the things that needed to be done.

A few hours later, Arifuddin Saad, the helpful and friendly service adviser, came back with a shocker: the plastic coolant tank for the radiator had been dislodged from its original position, and had slid down towards the fan belt area, and been burnt by the heat!

Luckily, I had brought the car to the service centre in time. Imagine the potential disaster and an eventual deep hole in my pocket to rectify the matter!

In the end, there was no alternator problem. How the plastic tank broke free, God only knows. No one could pin-point exactly when it happened.

Lessons learnt: read the fine print on your contract, your phone must have important emergency numbers and be fully-charged upon leaving the house, and your car does have a “heart and soul”!

Jeff Yong, after making his mark in the twisty maze of mainstream journalism, has finally decided to enjoy what he does best – observing the unusual and recounting the gleeful. He can be contacted at

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