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Snow chains, frustration and the X-type

I now realise that I was lucky to get home from Dundee on Saturday. By yesterday, the A9 was closed in both directions and the chaos around Dunblane was on BBC Breakfast, with lots of vehicles stranded overnight near the Keir roundabout. Why the police didn't attend until this morning is unclear, but for people in unheated vehicles overnight survival must have been a challenge.

The snow at Landrick is of course deeper than that down in Dunblane, and the hill impassable to all but high ground clearance 4x4s. So I couldn't get the X-type up the hill and although kind neighbours took it into their driveway late on Saturday night, I was determined to get it out of their way yesterday. So I hiked down the hill with snow chains in my rucksack, and tried to fit them.

I had bought the Klack-and-Go chains online from a British company last January. After a struggle which I attributed to inexperience, I had fitted them to the X-type's front wheels, where they did an excellent job for weeks until I took them off (easy) once the snow melted. Given the advantages of daylight, plenty of time and a previous success, how hard could it be to repeat the process?

Three hours later, humility had set in. The chains were still not fitted, and I had learned some painful lessons:
a) like the stock market, past performance is not a reliable guide to the future: somehow since January the chains had become mysteriously an inch too short, or the tyres had mysteriously grown, impossible though this may seem
b) don't listen to anybody that tells you to try fitting the bottom before the top: this led to the chain wrapping itself around the axle, the disc brake and other expensive bits, then getting stuck fast and creating an urgent need to remove the wheel in the hope of sorting it out
c) the bottle jack may be a dream to pump up, but if it isn't tall enough, you end up with a car jacked up, the chain still wrapped around expensive bits of hub and the jacking point being occupied makes it hard to deploy the car's own jack
d) after a further two trips back up the hill to collect various tools including said useless bottle jack, the whole afternoon is beginning to wear thin, not helped by kind neighbour Malcolm volunteering that he had fitted chains only once and it took him five minutes (!)
e) once the car was fully lifted on its own jack, and I had failed miserably to distentangle the chain, the only thing that redeemed Malcolm from his 5-minute boast was that he freed the chains in a casual, gentle flick; by now I am too desperate to feel irritated
f) with darkness falling, I am finally ready to give up and phone the chain supplier next day to try to negotiate a swap for a larger size of chain. Since the other cars were going nowhere, mine being in the way no longer seemed so devastating. Enough already.

This morning, the chain supplier insisted that the size was correct, but suggested that the least little kink in any of the links would make the chains seem too short. By now I have watched the glamorous female on their website video fit these chains inside two minutes 20 times over: infuriatingly, she doesn't even get her long fingernails soiled. But her chains are a very slack fit whereas mine still seem a fatal inch or two too short. Nonetheless, now desperate, I spend another couple of hours lying in the snow, struggling to flake out the chains and eventually, hallelujah, after endless fiddling, both are in place.

The only trouble is that the snow is too deep for a saloon car, so this victory only lets me move the car from one inconvenient parking place to another, a very modest form of progress.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 29, 2010 10:20 PM.

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