Noise detective: episode four

Skoda Octavia GTEC engine opened

For the first time since long, today I was excited of having a one hour drive before getting to work! πŸ™‚ Like a kid with a new toy I was looking forward to driving and having some time to listen to the new noises of the car. For the moment being there is one, which is really, really interesting. Everytime you switch the ignition on, before the engine starts, you hear a metallic “chunk” coming from the back. I believe it might be something to do with the valve of the gas bottles which activates. Aha. I like it.

But now I will stop playing with you guys and post at least one more picture. I actually have done like a ton of pictures but either the reflections or the light conditions made my pictures look bad. While selecting them I almost decided to go back to a real camera and take some decent shots. Truth is that even with phones, if you know how to take pictures, you get amazing results. I need to improve on that.

Maple brown Skoda Octavia (2019).
La Terrona

By continuing the nickname game that we started with La Celestona, its older sister, we decided to baptise the new car La Terrona, which I could translate to “The big earth”. We had laugh when we came up with it…

Driving it is really relaxing. First of all no more noisy differential as main companion. The automatic gearbox lets you forget about the existence of your left leg. Activate the automatic control of the speed and you may as well switch off your head for the next hours. Needless to say, knowing that you are not producing that life threathening particulate while driving makes you feel really light. Finally!

The first thing I have noticed is that while driving down hill, shifting to lower gears does not brake the car by much. I was told that it depends on the compression ratio of the engine, which is different from diesel (my older Octavia) to fuel engines.

You do feel the difference between the two engines: 150 HP of the previous car were definitely more satisfactory during overtakes. With the current 130 HP I have no problems driving in the city, accelerating to get on the motorway… before starting an overtake though, I believe I will now double check if I have time/room enough to perform it.

And range. Range is what keeps my breath hanging as for the moment being the statistics have not enough data to work on and are showing numbers which are not real, in this case, way lower than what it should be. But I believe it might depend also on the quality of the natural gas (now defined as 70% by the on board computer). We will see when I get high quality gas and some more km how the range changes. I am expecting of having at least 400 km range while running on natural gas and 200 km more while running on fuel. We will see if it reaches that high values in the next episodes.

Have a good week everyone, enjoy your holidays… if you have time, go hunting for some noises, ahah! πŸ™‚ I should try to record that misterious, initial “chunk”…

Noise detective: episode three

First of all, did you miss the first two episodes? Catch up by clicking on the following two links: Episode one and Episode two. And now let’s get to it.

The new car has arrived…

I believe that if you did read the two previous episodes you will be a tad surprised to know that the new car has already arrived! In fact by reading the last episode (number two) I had not even decided if I should buy a new one or risk it all by staying with the noisy differential.

If those are your thoughts than, yes, you are right and I beg your pardon. Before buying it I did have a test drive, I even took some pictures of the display showing consumption and some other data. I even took some notes about the selling process, which in my modest opinion needs to be revisited at least in Switzerland. But I was not able to write about it: so this why you get the big news out of the blue. πŸ™‚

… and with it a new adventure starts!

It will be a new adventure. Lasting, I hope, at least 200’000 kilometers. I call it an adventure as the car I have invested in uses natural gas as fuel: in Switzerland this kind of fuel is not distributed as diffusely as gasoline or diesel, in fact it is quite the opposite. As one friend told me I will be one of the few to buy such a car. Other friends firmly advised me to avoid such an investment. We will see. Together.

As you might remember my last car was a Skoda Octavia 4×4 2.0 liters, 150 HP: when I bought it 5 years ago I had two options. Either go for gasoline or diesel: given the fact that I cover long distances each the year I decided that diesel was the best solution, from both point of views, economical and ecological.

During the last five years some things have happened that made me regret my choice:

  1. A quick chat with a friend of ours about the size of particles
  2. The VW scandal and the brainwash
  3. “Il metanaro”

Let’s have a quick chat about those events.

Particle size

Being the car classified as Euro 6 I was convinced that the particulate issue was solved for good. This belief lasted until I discovered that the solutions which are used to decrease the amount of exhausted particles work by further decreasing the size of the particles. This tecnique allows the car to successfully pass the tests but creates particles which are capable of penetrating even deeper into the respiratory system, being even more dangerous than the original particulate.

From that day on a disturbing feeling started to grow in myself. And I believe this was one of the most important drivers which pushed me to such a radical change.

The VW scandal

Luckily my car was not directly affected by the diesel gate: I did not need to have it modified in any way. Still I was very disappointed by the company and by the people running it: apparently the most important thing to them, was to be the first car company in the world. As if, being the second one, is not enough. Of course, being the first company in the world it is huge. But at what cost?

Nevertheless I believe that I did not change my mind about the quality of the cars: even my new car is a product of the VW group.

On the other hand I am quite sure that the brainwashing which started as a result of the VW scandal had an influence on my considerations during the choice. By the way… did you ever wonder if what is now common belief (“diesel is the worst fuel ever”) is the truth? This is why I am calling it a brainwash… I am pretty sure that all us are getting manipulated/brainwashed to believe something. Could be a very nice topic for a further blog post, in the like of:

How to tell if we are getting brainwashed. How can we reach the most non biased opionion about important topics without being an expert in everything.

I believe I will need someone else to write it for me as I have no idea which could be good advices in order to achieve that.

Il metanaro

Il metanaro is an italian popular way of calling either the person filling your car with natural gas or to identify the whole filling station.

One lucky day it happened that I discovered that a new “metanaro” had opened very near to my office: this had a huge impact on my choice because it makes my day by day so much easier…

Mixed feelings

Enough with the “rationalities”… since I have ordered the car almost six weeks ago I have got mixed feelings. From one side I feel a little disappointed, as I did not manage to win my 500’000 km joke/bet (see previous episodes for details). Even a little melancholic as I liked very much the car and its almost unique colour, which today is not available anymore. It was because of it that my uncle gave the car the nickname of Celestona, which I could (mis)translate in The big sky blue. And it was my and my family companion for many years and we did many trips with it, so we started to treat it a little as of a member of the family.

Picture depicts a sky blue Skoda Octavia (2014).
A very long Skoda Octavia in a beautiful colour.

On the other hand I am really happy and relieved: the new car will have an automatic transmission, will be definitely cleaner and cheaper to run. And I also do feel a little excited to try something new: as natural gas distributor are not so common to be found, longer trips need to be planned with some anticipation.

Just noticed that I did not share any details about the new car… and no pictures either. But after all the information shared, do you really need further details? Maybe in the next episode…

Once in Aegina…

This picture shows one of the narrow passages we encountered during our walk on the way to Alones.

Move Naturally

The next day of our arrival the very first thing I did was to join Tom during his 45 minutes of Move Naturally: I was really curious to understand what his “MoveNat” is all about.

The principal idea that Tom transferred to me is that human beings were not designed to sit the whole day: very much on the contrary, they were designed to move, run, jump, reach for food from trees, to climb… and of course, how could I forget about it, to crawl. During the training you are encouraged to perform such movements and more in general to find the most efficient way to perform the aforementioned actions. For example, which is the quickest and least energy consuming to get up starting from a lying position? Find out! πŸ™‚

During the 45 minutes of natural movement we were not trying to pump our muscles up, instead we were trying to perform pretty basic movements which require coordination and balance. Trying to balance yourself is one of those activities that actually activate a lot of small muscles that we are not aware of, and that, very often, are not activated while doing repetitions of the same exercise.

Use your body… nothing else!

There is one side which I find particularly interesting and that is that no further elements beside your body are required in order to exercise. You do not need to invest in any kind of training gear. Maybe an exercise mat, should you not already have one. For the same reason I started to look into calisthenics some months ago. One disadvantage of training with your own body weight is the fact, that at the beginning you are not strong enough in order to perform the more interesting exercises of calisthenics. At least that was my case. Even now, after some months of training already, pull ups are a very difficult exercise. And pulls ups, push ups, planks, … I believe are just the basics.

If I think of me, I believe I am stuck at performing the basics exercises. The reason behind it is the fact that I am approaching some exercises that I have never done before: without someone helping to understand if you are strong enough or teaching you how to perform the correct technique I found myself giving up soon and falling back to the more common exercise.

Training by yourself needs a lot of self discipline and the aim should be absolutely clear. And both of those are lacking in my case. πŸ˜€ It still is true that, even if not the best solution, what me and some of my friends are doing is helping a lot and I am definitely very happy with it. Without our training sessions I would be so much worse in terms of physical shape (and psychological as well I believe).

How do you feel after a 45 min session?

Together with me there was Alessandro, Johanna, Sibille, Rudolf and of course Thomas who was the team leader, showing us which exercises to perform. It was a nice group, with different ages and everyone could join as the exercises were not demanding (of course they can be if you want to). Once the training was finished I was nicely warmed up, you could feel that you had been moving without being “destroyed” as it happened during the first time that I went to the fitness studio.

Of course I should try for a longer period of time and possibly with a trainer in order to have a better idea of the whole concept, still it seemed to me fun and an intelligent way of getting fit.

The “one hour” walk

After such a nice “warm up” we were ready for the “one hour walk”, as my father described it, which would take us to Alones and to our first greek meal.

The so called “one hour” walk started from Lazarides: the street, very easy to be made on foot even if not tarmacked, takes you through green meadows which are broken by clouds of yellow, white and red flowers. It is impressive how many flowers are to be seen, mostly when you know Greece mainly by the summer time, where everything is just yellow gold as in the hot season it does not rain anymore.

A cloud of yellow flowers…

After one hour of walking there was still no sign of the restaurant, nor of some kind of civilisation. If you were to stay still you would have heard only bees buzzing, birds chirping all over… which is beautiful. Still slowly, slowly we started to be hungry and Jacopo, who had slept quite a while in his stroller, was awake and started to feel annoyed.

After more than two hours of walking we finally reached the Kostas Taverna. It was definitely worth the walk and we enjoyed the lunch so much more… πŸ™‚

One of the beautiful things about greek tavernas is that when you arrive, whatever time of the day it is, whatever the size of the group is, you will always receive to eat quality food. Maybe you have to wait some more, and making the order is quite difficult as nobody knows what is what and who wants what, but in the end you always manage to get something fine to eat. πŸ™‚

Once we finished our launch it was already quite late in the afternoon, most of us were tired and the weather was not promising to get any better, thus we preferred to go back home and chill. πŸ™‚ That’s how nice it is to be on holiday!

Reaching Aegina

Closed the boot, closed the doors, started the engine. With some relief we were sitting in our Celestona, ready to travel to Greece. Relieved because, finally, we were in our car, having packed and loaded everything after having discussed for so long what to take and what no to, having planned well ahead which days to take off from work, which and how many toys take with us… we made it! We were ready to go!

Already the fact of being ready and loaded made us feel as if we already had achieved something. In the truth we had not left the house yet. Awkward. The way to Aegina, a Greek island, was still long.

We managed to reach the airport on time. Even if more expensive and not that shorter, I decided to use the motorway called Pedemontana. It is expensive and the so called free flow payment system easily induces you to forget the payment: it has the advantage that there are almost no cars, therefore the risk of missing the plane because of traffic or an accident is minimal. Just remember that once used, you have 14 days to pay the toll: link. In my opinion it is very easy to forget to pay as, while you are driving to the airport, you are worried about catching the plane; when you come back, you are worried about starting to work again and get ready for the week ahead. It is true though, that after you get the first tickets for not paying you will make everything in order to remember the payment: it is my personal experience writing here! I really wonder how tourist can manage to pay such a motorway, since indications on how it works are very scarce and not always written in English. So, tourist of the world, if you ever happen to use the Pedemontana, remember that in order to avoid expensive fines being sent home, you have to pay online.

Once at the airport I just a harsh exchange of opinions with one of the employees at the security check, as in my opinion she was not paying attention to what was happening under her watch and I could not keep my mouth shut. This cost me a second passage through the security check but nothing else. I mean… if you make me prepare for a check which involves standing patiently in queue waiting for my turn, then I also want to be checked! Not that you keep talking with your colleagues about yesterday’s game of thrones episode turning your back on me and possibly letting me go without considering me. The security employee reacted at my loud sentence Tanto qui nessuno mi controlla meaning Anyhow, here nobody checks on me, turned back on me, made some acid comments and made me have a second security check. With that I had my daily shot of adrenaline.

The plane was kind of boring for Jacopo. It took about 2.5 hours, which is a duration that with some playing (toys needed), some eating and some patience from the other passengers, can be managed.

Once in Athens we met Fox and Florin, who kindly picked us up. Together with Fox we jumped on the first ferry off to Aegina: it was really nice to see Jacopo play with Fox an experienced paediatrician. Beautiful to see how Jacopo could smile and play with a totally new person.

Weather was quite cold as we got there and being on the ferry it was even more windy. Still I could not refrain from taking Jacopo outside to show him the sea and the ships waiting outside the port of Piraeus. And for once I looked at those ships with different eyes, I looked at them thinking about their role in the whole logistic chain. Suddenly some of the topics I covered during my recent studies were real: by looking at containers with Chinese writing on them I thought… Yeah, this is where your amazon stuff comes from.

I do not like Amazon. Great service, huge inventory. I believe it has grown in something way too big and way too powerful, for us human beings. πŸ™‚ In my opinion we are not capable of managing such huge changes without exaggerating… but I will not deepen this discussion in this post, I will just leave it here more as a note for a future post than anything else.

Finally, I could see through the windows of the ship, the column of Apollo. After a whole day of travelling we were arriving to Aegina. We were both looking forward to getting on the island as already two years had passed since last time.

Quickly enough, after having left the ship as a huge herd of sheep finding our way among cars and mopeds, we were on the pier meeting my father and ready for the last piece of the trip: getting home and start unpacking. πŸ™‚

During this holiday I have been really poor at taking pictures, so I believe this time, you will have to deal with lots of words… and imagine a bit more! Enjoy! πŸ˜€

Being pushed while sitting on the trolley is definitely fun! πŸ™‚

La Grande Rastrellata

The idea came to my mind for the first time a few years ago. Although not difficult to realise it took me some courage to make it happen, but then… I decided to do it and soon enough I was getting in touch with Oli, Marco, Ema, Ian, Silvio, Gianmarco as I wanted to know if they where “in” for some work together!

This time, the invite was somewhat different from the standard lunch invitation: although the aim of the event was to spend some time together I asked my friends to take working gloves and a rack as the plan was to clean the near woodland by removing some of the leaves that had fallen during fall.

And this we did! On the 09th of March at 09:00 o’clock Marco was at my door with all the tools, gloves, huge orange plastic bags and with professional gardening clothes ready to start La Grande Rastrellata!

Soon the rest of the group showed up and the rhythmic sound of the racks hitting the ground made good company to the birds announcing the first days of spring. Everyone besides Giammarco, who had an accident the day before and could not stand properly.

We decided that it would be best to start from the most deep part of the woodland and then slowly come back to the entry point while the we removed the leaves.

Marco was ultra determined and soon he was so deep into the forest that we could not see him anymore, even with his orange and yellow professional clothes. We would know that he was around only because of the noise of his furious rack. πŸ™‚

The other working unit was made by Oli and Ema: less aggressive than Marco they preferred to chit chat while working…

Meanwhile I was struggling to keep the pace of Ian who, to my great joy, was leaving all over the place small piles of leaves which I was putting into one of the numerous orange bags. Once finished of transferring one of the piles which Ian had energetically prepared I would look around looking for some satisfaction: every time I would stop I realised that there was still so much more to do that I stopped looking around searching for satisfaction. πŸ˜€ Instead I would shout to Ian to help me picking up the leaves, instead of concentrating on the “easy” work of racking them together! πŸ˜€

I even tried to develop a personal technique to avoid flexing so much, here some pictures:

Even if all of us try to do some sport during the week, after 01:30 hours we were ready for a coffee break. The first signs of fatigue were there, but in general ,the happiness of being outdoor doing a physical job was prevailing.

Everyone was really thankful to my wife for the coffee, water and biscuits which disappeared, really, really quickly! I guess Ian was the culprit there…

After the short break we started working again. I even involved my father, who luckily was there, by asking him to prepare the grill and start grilling. I knew that everyone was concentrated in getting its own piece of woodland cleared, but I also was aware that as soon as everyone would have finished, they would discover of being hungry as wolves.

Around 13:00 we decided to stop. There still were a lot of leaves on the ground, but we already had filled all the bags we had. This also considering that Renzo had already taken and emptied some of the bags at the ecocenter.

Since we did not have any empty bag to use, we joined the rest of the family for lunch: we started with some grilled bread covered with tomato, oil and oregano (bruschette) which was amazing.

The picture represent multiple orange plastic bags filled with leaves at the end of our gardening work.
Some of the bags we filled with leaves.

After the grilling and the lunch some of us had to leave while Oli had some more time to help me transport the big orange bags to the ecocenter. The Skoda Octavia proved itself once more: by keeping down the back seats we managed to fit four of those bags. Actually there was even more room left, most probably two more bags could have fit. I did not want to soil or scratch the interiors, therefore we decided to stay conservative: a good choice for the car, less for the whole logistic process: the ecocenter closed its doors on our nose when we were ready to drop the last two bags. Damn. Oli will never forget the frustration of not managing to 100% complete the job. πŸ˜€

Even with that small hiccup we were all happy about the day. A good change from the daily office routine. It is incredible how such an easy job as collecting leaves can have such a great impact on your mood. Of course with a group of good friends everything makes more fun!

A huge thank you for the effort and for the good mood you brought which made the whole day rock!… and as it was such a success… til next year! πŸ™‚

Noise detective: episode two

The image displays the speedometer of a Skoda Octavia, showing the yellow icon of the engine, indicating the presence of some issues.

Finally I found some time to write down the second episode! For those who wish to read the first one, here the link

How much to repair?

I have been waiting some news from my usual retailer regarding the cost of repairing the differential. During the second half of January I finally received the “official” answer: the price of the differential is of about 5’000 CHF. To the already high cost of the mechanical part I should add the work needed to make the repair: the total amount goes up to 6’300 CHF.

In the meantime the noise did not change. Sometimes, mostly when I leave the car rolling, it changes tonality and seems to be louder. Funny enough, if I drive faster than 100 Km/h, maybe around 130 Km/h, the noise fades almost completely.

TCS: a neutral point of view

Given the high cost of the repair I thought it would be a good idea to have the Swiss Touring Club (TCS) double check if the noise was really coming from the differential. Past Saturday I took the car to their workshop and after some routine checks we put the car on the auto lift: I stayed in the car and once it was high enough for the mechanic to stand below it, I started accelerating as agreed with him. It was quite strange to be “in the air” giving gas and changing gears. Around 100 Km/h the noise is the loudest and once I reached that speed I told the mechanic to start listening: he went below the car and with help of the stethoscope he was able to recognise the noise and to define that the noise was coming from the right end of the differential.

It was really helpful having a neutral point of view. And of course, although I would have preferred that the answer was something different, possibly less expensive, I am now happy to have the source of the noise confirmed. The whole operation, being member of the TCS, cost me 50 CHF.

Worth speculating?

Every mechanic I speak to tells me that it is very unusual for a differential to brake down. This led me to play with the thought, that maybe it was just a dose of bad luck and that actually, although an expensive repair I might have luck for the next years to come. Spending 6’300 CHF is still way less than 40’000 CHF for a new car. And as the car itself is still looking absolutely good I am kind of recalcitrant to change it. Also, as I use the car to go to work, reaching almost 35’000 Km per year, I do not want to invest in a new one. Ideally today’s car would be awesome.

But… a few days later, I got proof that my thinking was too optimistic: the emission control light turned on. Of course this happened the day before leaving for a business trip of about 4 hours drive. I decided to swap car and use one which the company has at disposal for such events.

This is the symbol of the emission control.

Once back from the trip I took the car to the mechanic: in 30 min time he was able to tell me that the issue is most probably related to a fan not working properly in the exhaust vent. Nothing to worry about. Still, in case it would turn on again I should consider changing the exhaust vent, with and estimated cost of about 1’300 CHF. I drove to work hoping not to see the light anymore.

But there it was! In the evening, as I started the car to drive back home the yellow warning light was staring at me, with a rather static expression! Oh well… between the noise in the back and the yellow light in the front, for sure I was not feeling alone!

Now what?

Given the value of the car which is around 10’000 CHF everyone is suggesting to leave the car as it is and to buy a new one and I am seriously taking into consideration that option. I believe that all in all I am going to stay with the same model of car as love the roomy interiors and the big trunk, but I am seriously considering to change from diesel to the natural gas engine. 2019 version is a 1.5 L with 130 HP which should be enough for my driving style. In a few weeks I should have the possibility for a test drive: I guess it will be the topic for our next episode?! πŸ˜‰

Wintery pictures of Comano

I have been waiting for it for almost the whole winter and finally, after being long anticipated, the snow arrived. And in large quantities, too! That day and that night were beautiful. I took the chance to have a little walk and take some pictures.

Please have a look at the gallery below. If you click on the images you can have them bigger and read some descriptions I have added.

Fortunately the snow stopped later at night: that way we all had our moment of happiness without getting into troubles. I had to invest some hours to move the snow from our parking lot and I was really happy of having two snow shovels ready to use.

How to remove snow?

A more practical note: I have been applying salt on those ways which I wanted to stay clean from the snow but it did not help. Salt should be used only to avoid the snow, water from getting ice. From this year experience I have learned that applying salt, before the snow arrives, does not avoids it from sticking on to the ground. Next time I should:

  • Wait for the snowing to stop
  • Remove the snow
  • Spread salt

In my opinion it makes sense to remove the snow even if it has not stopped yet from snowing: this because if you remove a little every now and then it is easier on your body. Also if you move the snow immediately it is much easier to remove as it is not iced yet.

I really enjoyed my walk through the woods and I am sure that I will love looking at this pictures once in while. πŸ™‚

Early morning light on Lugano

View of Lugano. Picture taken early in the morning, during December 2018.A beautiful snapshot of Lugano early in the morning! When I took the picture I could feel the winter, the cold and sleepiness of the city in front of me.
At the same time I was urged to take the picture as I recognised that the light was changing very, very fast getting brighter and loosing some of its magic.

I wish to all of my followers, readers, occasional reader a happy new year!

A.

Noise detective: one more episode!

Noise madness

I have noticed that I get somehow “attracted” by noises that might be indicators of something not working properly. For example, I already bored all of my followers about the noises of our heating system. And trust me, the ones that I manage to write about are the ones that give me to think the most: there are many, many others noises that get me suspicious that I do not write about, yet intrigue me as I am sincerely worried about the fact that whatever the mechanism is, is not working as it should.

Celestona and the 500’000 km bet

In this “episode” the protagonist of the noise isΒ Celestona, our family car. It is a 2014, all wheel drive, Skoda Octavia. The engine is a TDI, 2.0L, 150 PS. I use it for my daily commute and from April 2014 until today I have collected almost 175’000 km. Mostly motorway.

I have bet with myself that by driving safe and carefully I could bring this car up to 500’000 km without suffering major break downs. The bet might seem crazy, to me though, it seems fairly possible as I am driving always on the motorway, trying to respect all the speed limits and saving as much fuel as possible. This brings be to drive like an 90 years old grandfather with speeds not exceeding 105 km/h… unless I am very late for work. πŸ˜€ The question is… willΒ CelestonaΒ make it to 500’000 km?

The noise

Let’s get into it!

It is very difficult to describe it in writing. If someone already has experience with ballbearings slowly wearing out… that is the genre of noise. It could be also exemplified by the rolling of very deep profiled tires as in off road cars (e.g. jeeps). I can hear it coming from the back of the car, it starts already at 50 km/h and changes tonality while speeding up. But it does not get louder or unbearable, it just changes its “voice”. I have been hearing it since months now: as I had it classified as a ballbearing being worn out I did not feel the urge to go to the car dealer and have it repaired.

First tests

The first test I did was to wait out. I started to notice the noise during the end of the summer and I decided that I should wait for the change of the summer tires into winter tires. This way I would understand if the culprit were the tires or something else. I did the change of the tires in November: the noise was/is still there.

Posterior right ballbearing?

I kept my noisy companion for one more month until it was time for the 180’000 km service. This was my occasion to have the ballbearing changed! From an organisational point of view it was a great idea as I could take the car just once to the dealer and have the service as well as the noisy issue solved.

As usual, the Volkswagen team is very efficient and in one day my car was serviced and the rear right bearing substituted. Fantastic.

I was less enthusiastic when driving home I noticed that the noise was still there. It was quite a big disappointment realising that the car had not been tested after being repaired: in my naive mind it should go without asking that repairs should be checked once executed.

But then… where is the noise coming from?

Having changed the posterior right ballbearing, my suspects were on the left one: I asked to Volkswagen mechanics to double check that.

I took the car once more to the dealer and during the afternoon Marco, my reference person in Volkswagen, called and informed me that in their opinion it was not the posterior left ballbearing the culprit: the differential was it instead!

Pricey stuff

Changing a differential is very, very expensive. When I got the news I wasΒ definitely sub enthusiastic. Marco confirmed my fears by anticipating me, that the differential by itself would cost 5’000 CHF. To that I should add the cost of the work for changing it.

I quickly did a research of the on www.autoscout.ch to have at least a feeling of which is the market of value of my car on the Swiss market. Around 12’000 CHF. Given the market value and the cost to change the differential the “new car scenario” started to show up. Not only that, but also the “I have lost my 500’000 km bet” scenario showed up… It is a personal challenge, so nothing serious. But somehow I was disappointed!

Not the last word… yet!

After a few hours of overthinking the matter I took the decision to have a second opinion of another mechanic. I took the car a Skoda dealer very near my work place, together with the mechanic we took her for a quick spin and guess what?

In his opinion the possible culprits are two: either the tires or the ballbearings. Considered that the tires have already been changed once and that the noise stayed there, we have a second opinion indicating the posterior left ballbearing.

Very important is the fact that the mechanic defined a faulty differential as not an option as it would sound in a very different way, if it was damaged in any way. Another thing that reassured me was the fact that the differential is not in use at all when the car is driven at motorway speeds. Basically it gets activated only if the front wheels slip. If they do not slip it does not get even connected.

In conclusion we decided that I should keep the car as it is. The noise should worsen and make it easier to understand whether the source is the posterior left ballbearing or something else!

And that makes me happy…: the bet is still going! πŸ˜€

Transparency?

There is one thing that keeps my mind grinding: why has my usual Skoda dealer, Marco, told me that the differential should be changed? What was the issue they noticed?

As soon as I have more news I will create a second episode and keep you posted about who was right… πŸ™‚

Should anyone have suggestions regarding the matter… please let me know!

Have a nice afternoon!

Ftan

Corn field in foreground, the village of Ftan in the background

The road to Ftan and a little adventure from the past

To arrive there it takes almost one hour starting from Celerina. The road is entertaining as there many turns, some of them changing their range and getting tighter as you drive through, while the best ones happen on some really old, narrow, bridges… (EvilGrin).Β  Of course it is a lot of fun if you are driving with someone who is enjoying the sporty ride, on the contrary, if you are travelling with the whole family the drive takes some concentration as you try to make it as comfortable as it can be by avoiding sudden accelerations and decelerations.

The first time I reached Ftan it was an evening in winter, it was snowing quite strongly and as a consequence the road was completely white. Very soft to drive on. Per se a beautiful view. The car I was driving, a Skoda Octavia, was new and being a four wheel drive I was feeling safe. Soon we started to encounter some cars which could not proceed, drivers and passengers trying to move them out of the way, while on some others cars people were installing snow chains: this was happening on the main road, imagine on the smaller ones! I remember that on one hand I was surprised, as they were local and for sure well equipped with winter tires, on the other I was happy of not having to worry as my new car had four wheel drive… right?!

It was almost at the end of the trip, when the slope of the road started to increase, that I had to recognise that something was not working as it should have: the car was struggling to keep pace, it was loosing grip. But… how come? The Skoda Octavia 4×4 is well known for its performances on snowy terrain… And my situation was not that extreme!

In the end, we almost reached our friends house, the very last piece of road was way too steep for my car to overcome. As you could imagineΒ “the defeat of the Octavia” was the topic for the whole night (and in my mind, for many days later). Around midnight we took Arno’s Subaru Outback and challenged it with the same road… “the defeat of the Octavia” got even bigger and painful as the Subaru had not one second of hesitation, even in the worst conditions.

To make the story short, once back in Lugano, I took the car to the mechanic, which discovered the issue, and the car was repaired under warranty. Even so, it was a big disappointment for me. Really strange was also the fact that the car did not give me any kind of message or alarm about the malfunction.

After the repairs I did not have any chance test the car again: I have been in snowy situations a few more times, but not as snowy as that time. This is also why I am seriously considering a front wheel drive car for the future… but let this be a topic for a future post.

This August, instead…

…we arrived safely at Arno and Giusy’s place right in time for lunch. It was really nice to sit all together, having something simple to eat and chatting a little about everything, be it about work, fitness, future plans, kids… πŸ™‚ Arno and Giusy are some years older than us, therefore they do have some more experience to share about kids (and of course about many other topics too).

In the afternoon we also had the chance to have a walk through the village: we would have loved to make a bigger tour, but it was starting to rain, therefore we had to keep it short.

Giusy and Tango
Giusy & Tango leaving for the short walk. Tango was waiting for that moment for a long while and was more than happy of being on the outside again!

How is Ftan different from St. Moritz?

The atmosphere that you get to breathe in Ftan is really different from the one you get in St. Moritz or in Celerina. It is much more relaxed and familiar, probably because Ftan is smaller and, geographically speaking, not as fortunate. Ftan and Scuol are in a valley which is tight, like a V, whereas St. Mortiz and Celerina are in a nice plain, the lake giving much more room and light. On the contrary once you are in Ftan, if you watch in front of you, you have a wall made by mountains. Which are beautiful, but still… On some occasions a little oppressive. Still Ftan might be preferred as St. Moritz is way too crowded for someone who is looking for some peace and nature. Furthermore the tourism has completely changed the people and the society living in St. Moritz. In Ftan this is not the case and even though the tourism is for sure important, the people are much more authentic and down to earth.

Picture of Ftan
Walking our way back I took a picture of Ftan. Incredibly green as most Swiss mountain villages. Note the school on the left (yellow building), on the back, cutting the forest, the ski lift.

During our chats with Arno and Giusy we discovered that Ftan also has a new school: “Das hochalpine Institut Ftan” where boys and girls can learn and get their high school diploma while practicing a lot of sport and enjoying the beautiful area. I do not know if I would send my son there though, I believe it is way too much cut off from the rest of the world (although very much depends on the kid, if he/she is not interested or curious of the world around him, even if you take him in a very cosmopolitan city, he might not absorb that much).

Which brings me to think about one question which I have made myself multiple times already, i.e. about living in Engadin or in a place in the mountains. I am not too sure if I could stay in such a village for a longer period of time… generally speaking, the loneliness is something that appeals me, but for how long?

Thanks for reading and for following!

Best,

Andrea