Great Cumbrae Trip Day 6 – An Adventure Getting Home

We had planned to start heading home on the Sunday and have a leisurely drive back stopping off somewhere en route. Our previous days trip to Largs would have been the beginning of this journey. However, as Ramsey our Campervan was poorly we had left him on the island so as not to drive him and were now beginning our journey back on Monday. We’d left it until now because the recovery guy from D.C Diagnostics that our breakdown cover had called out was getting a MAP sensor part for the camper in today and was going to fix it this morning ready for the trip home.

We awoke to rain, and lots of it. Great Cumbrae was looking miserable and the rest of Scotland was shrouded in murk from where we were. No early morning bike rides or surf ski paddles for me. I stayed in the camper as much as I could and kept dry and cosy.



Searching for a MAP Sensor

D.C Diagnostics had told us to phone him at 11am. We therefore drove onto the ferry at around 9am and started limping towards Ardrossan a few miles south down the coast. The van was in limp mode so although it could get to about 50 mph it took ages to get there. Pulling away from junctions or traffic lights was painfully slow and as soon as we hit the slightest of inclines it struggled to go anywhere. The drive was therefore carried out at around 20mph most of the time. When we got to Ardrossan we parked up in the Sainsbury’s Car Park again and phoned D.C. Diagnostics. He said he’d phone back in a couple of minutes and hung up.

Half an hour later there was still no word from him so we phoned again and couldn’t get an answer. We decided to head to his garage and try him from there. When we got there he wasn’t there so we tried him on the phone again. This time he was quite abrupt saying that he said he’d phone us in 10 minutes. He didn’t, so we started phoning around some other garages to see if they could help. We also phoned our breakdown cover again to see what our options were and they said to take it to another garage. None of the garages had a MAP sensor in stock but one of them could get one for tomorrow. However they couldn’t fit it for us tomorrow, that would have to wait until Wednesday. It was now heading for midday on Monday. We were supposed to be home by now and Anna was supposed to be at work tomorrow. We couldn’t wait until Wednesday as that would mean probably not getting home until Thursday. We were running out of options.

Eventually the DC Diagnostics guy phoned back and said that he couldn’t get the part. He would ‘probably’ be able to get it in for Wednesday at the earliest. So much for his promise to do it today for us. We started wondering if we could get the part from the garage in Ayr tomorrow and get DC Diagnostics to fit it then. However, in the end I found a garage in Glasgow that said they had the part in and could do it for us today. We told them we would be with them in about an hour and slowly headed off towards them.

The drive there wasn’t too bad despite being in Limp Mode and it was at least beginning to take us in the right direction towards home. We arrived at the Glasgow Van Centre at arounds 1:00pm and signed in.

Glasgow Van Centre

Glasgow Van Centre

We then sat there for hours waiting for them to work on Ramsey. We read books, surfed the Internet and drank their complimentary coffee.



Eventually a couple of hours later they came back to us. The verdict was that there was nothing wrong with the MAP Sensor, but the EGR Valve needed replacing. If only the DC Diagnostics guy had got it right in the first place we may not have had to wait around for several days for the wrong part.

The VW Van Centre said that it wouldn’t be sensible to drive it in this state and went off to get us a price for the EGR Valve. For some reason this took another hour or so and the price was £706. They wouldn’t be able to do it until tomorrow though. We couldn’t afford that and even if we could still wouldn’t get home in time! Now what do we do?

Arguments and Rip Offs

We phoned our breakdown cover to explain the situation. They said that they could pay for overnight accommodation for us so we started checking out hotels. That didn’t really help though. We’d also been posting about our situation on Facebook and a friend on Facebook and a friend of a friend in real life had said that if we could get recovered home he could replace the EGR valve for us for £375 (max). We got back in touch with the breakdown cover and tried to get recovered home. This was the last thing they wanted to do though and now started to say that we weren’t entitled to anything else as we had already had recovery on Friday. They were actually trying to accuse us of having waited until the end of our holiday to pursue the issue just so that we could get recovered home and save on diesel. Clearly that wasn’t the case. If that was our plan we wouldn’t have phoned them on Friday but would have waited until today. On top of which none of us could think of anything worse than having to spend 8 hours in a dirty smelly recovery truck with a driver we didn’t know.

As far as we were concerned we hadn’t even been ‘recovered’ on Friday anyway. We had followed a guy to his house where he had incorrectly told us we needed a MAP sensor and that he could replace it for us on Monday. We had waited around an extra day so that he could fix it for us. As it turned out we didn’t need a MAP sensor anyway and he couldn’t do it as promised on Monday either. So, now a day late we had made it to an alternative garage under our own steam. This garage couldn’t really help either so we now wanted recovery home. It seemed however as though we had now lost all chance of this and even the earlier offer of overnight accommodation was being revoked. Anna argued the point for close to an hour with them and eventually they offered to take us and the camper home.

We told the VW Garage what we were doing and they suddenly became a little grumpy as well. I guess they were looking forward to making lots of money by charging far too much to supply and fit an EGR valve for us. They did charge us £90 for telling us what was wrong with it though so it’s not as though they didn’t rip us off somehow! I only wish I had drunk more of their coffee!

We were fed up by now though, had been running out of options, we were tired and very hungry so just paid the money and got the keys back. The VW Van Centre just wanted rid of us now so had already left the van outside the gates for us. Morgan and I headed to a nearby Subway to get some food and we waited for the recovery vehicle to arrive. We had been told it would be there by 7pm and would take as as far as Gretna Green. No one was quite sure what would happen after that. We ate our Subways and had some chocolate while we waited in the pouring rain in the van.

Recovery Home

The recovery vehicle actually turned up early. When he arrived though his first question was how many passengers do we have. I told him there was three of us. Apparently he had been told that there was just one female driver and there wasn’t room in his truck for all of us. He got back in touch with his boss and we waited for a larger vehicle to arrive. Finally at about 7pm Ramsey was loaded onto the back of a recovery vehicle and we were on our way to Gretna Green. Southbound at last!



The recovery driver was OK, but the truck wasn’t exactly comfortable. We told him the story of our breakdown and we all moaned about the breakdown cover companies as we made our way to Gretna Green. The plan for the recovery home would be a relay series from service station to service station aboard a variety of recovery trucks.

The trip to Gretna took about 90 minutes and the next recovery truck was there waiting for us. We were soon running through the pouring rain to the toilets as Ramsey was swapped from one truck to the other. As we headed back out the first recovery driver bid us farewell and ‘good luck’ and we jumped into the next truck. We discovered that this one was taking us to Lancaster Services about another 90 minutes away.

Recovery in Gretna Green

Recovery in Gretna Green

This truck was more modern and a little cleaner and once again the driver was fine. He too moaned about the breakdown cover companies and was phoning them every so often to check that there would be someone waiting at Lancaster Services for us.

By the time we arrived in Lancaster it was gone 10pm. It was still pouring with rain and it was very dark. There was no new recovery truck waiting for us though so we were deposited in a dark lorry park amidst massive articulated lorries. After waiting half an hour or so we phoned our breakdown cover company to find out what was happening. They checked for us, phoned us back and said that the truck was 10 minutes away. 15 minutes later they phoned again to say it would be another 10 minutes. This went on for two hours until the next recovery truck arrived. Morgan had managed to sleep on the back seat as it was now gone midnight. If only we had known there would have been such a long wait. We would have had some food, pulled out the bed and had a sleep ourselves.

Waiting in Lancaster

Waiting in Lancaster

The next leg of the journey was about an hour or so to Lymm Services. We were tired and by now fed up of telling the story so far so didn’t say much to the driver. He was pretty grumpy and a little smelly anyway! I’m not sure what the regulations are for driving hours and such like for recovery vehicles but I think they need to be enforced. This guy was already an hour and a half over his shift apparently and should have finished and been home by now. He still had at least 2 hours to go though to get us to Lymm and then get home. On top of that, they all spend half their time fiddling with phones, speaking on the phone (sometimes not even hands free) and generally not focussed on driving. Not exactly what you want when carrying passengers. Surely there should be similar rules to those of coach and bus drivers? Apparently not.

When we arrived in Lymm the next recovery vehicle wasn’t there waiting for us either. We went to the toilet again and I went across to get a burger and we sat in the van eating McDonalds whilst waiting, It was at least only a short wait this time and the next truck arrived before we had finished our take away.

Recovery in Lymm

Recovery in Lymm

The driver was a Polish guy who took photos of the van on the back of his truck for ‘insurance purposes’. We sat in the back of his cab finishing off our food while he secured Ramsey on the truck. He then had a quick smoke before jumping in the van and setting his satnav. He said it’s about 100 miles so we should be there in under 2 hours. We told him it would take at least 3½ but he didn’t seem to believe us. He obviously had no idea what he was letting himself in for.

As the roads got smaller and smaller the number of dodgy manoeuvres he made increased. He did eventually slow down a little and seemed incredulous the whole way that this was actually the right road. He did ask a number of times if there was a proper road but we assured him that he was on the best route and that this was the best way. He overshot bends a few times and at one point failed to give way at all at a junction. He knew he’d done it every time as he’d make a little ‘ooops’ sound each time he did something wrong. As we got closer to home and the twists and turns increased we took to warning him of particularly sharp bends or upcoming hazards!

Home at Dawn

Home at Dawn

Eventually as dawn broke we arrived home! As predicted it had taken close to 4 hours, not the ‘less than 2’ that he was hoping for. I force fed the Polish guy some coffee as he now had to turn around and head back all on his own. We were home at last and headed off to bed for a few hours. Anna was clearly not going to make it into work today. We woke up a little later and set to sorting things out. The camper was booked in for a new EGR valve, things were unpacked and the laundry started. Scotland had been good, but the breakdown had been a little stressful!

As I write this Ramsey has has a new EGR valve fitted and all seems fine. He is also now having a bit of a service too as the guy that replaced the EGR valve said that it looked as though it was overdue. Hopefully we’ll have him back soon with a clean bill of health.


1 Response

  1. Avatar forComment Author Mum says:

    Wow, what an end to a holiday !
    Let’s hope that’s was the first and last time Ramsey needs to be recovered.

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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