Getting car savvy

I’d never had a car until I got to New Zealand. Sure… I’d been driving my parents’ car and I’d had a rental in South Africa, but I’d never had my own car. At the start of my stay here I decided I wanted one and went for it. In Christchurch I bought my old Toyota that would take me around the country. What I didn’t realize was how much work it would be.


I was ecstatic when I started driving my very own car. I’d done the registration, insurance and WOF check, and was ready to hit the road. Then the oil change light came on. Google became my friend and told me it was nothing major. Every so many km’s a car will need an oil change, but it’s nothing urgent. So I kept driving and wondering if I would ever change it. Just in case, I bought some motor oil anyway, if I wanted to refill it. Three months later… I still haven’t done anything with it.

From Queenstown I decided to go on a little trip to Wanaka. It’s not super far, but when my car started overheating I got very worried. What if I get stranded on this windy road? There is no place to stop! By slowing down occasionally I kept my motor barely cool enough. Back in Queenstown I called a garage. Explaining that I’m a girl and haven’t the slightest idea where to refill anything, the owner invited me to come over.

Twenty minutes later I am at the garage. “Let’s check your water.” Yeah… empty. I felt like such a girl! My parents’ car never needs water refills and thus I hadn’t thought about feeding my car some. The water reservoir was close to being empty. No wonder your car’s overheating! The garage owner kept pouring in liters and liters of water. I wanted to just vanish, sink in the earth or something. The shame! He didn’t charge me, probably because he felt that bad for me.

Since I’ve been in Queenstown I’ve barely touched my car. I don’t need it and figured I could save petrol by not driving it. So when I decided I wanted to go to the big supermarket in Frankton, my car didn’t start. It didn’t do anything! No… before you start thinking I am a complete and utter idiot, it wasn’t because I left my lights on. Most likely it was just my car standing still in the freezing temperatures for a few weeks.

Luckily I have some great colleagues, among whom one guy, and he responded to my facebook rant. If I wanted some help with my car? That night he came with his car and jumper cables. Within no time my car was running again and I took my drive to Frankton. Not to go shopping, but to recharge my car.

In addition to this, I’ve encountered several minor things, like not being able to find and reach the oil cap. It’s underneath the passenger seat (weird) and because I have a built-in bed in the back, it takes some time to reach it. Also, my dashboard lights didn’t shine in the dark. It took a few weeks before I found a dial that made it brighter and it was refreshing to see my speedometer again. Then, the hinges for the door in the boot are dead. They don’t hold the door open anymore. Guess I’ll be looking for stick in my first camping spot.

The conclusion: after my year in New Zealand I will have learnt a lot about cars. Right now I’m awaiting the next problem I will encounter with suspense. My big upcoming trip will be an adventure. It will take me to the limits of my knowledge and hopefully to the nicer spots in New Zealand. Whatever happens, I’ve got oil and water.


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