Friday 28 May 2010

What's the lesson? A cautionary tale.

Nice car door handle
Originally uploaded by matthew solle
Sometimes incidents happen through a very unusual combination of circumstances - so unusual, that sometimes you don't always know what the lesson was, or what action can be taken. However if you look at root cause, then you can learn.

Here's what happened to me yesterday. See what you can learn from it.

I had a day-long appointment in BP, and drove there from Bath (a 2 1/2 hour drive).

By the time I got to BP, all the visitor parking was full so I went into the multi storey car park.

BP require you to put your headlights on in the multistorey, so despite it being a sunny day, I did so.

The multistorey car park contains small bays, holding 2 or 3 cars, with the bays separated by concrete pillars. The car park was almost full, but I found a space on the 3rd level next to a huge SUV.

BP require you to reverse park, for safety reasons. When you reverse park, the concrete pillar is level with your door handle.

The only way I could fit into the bay and to allow the SUV owner access, was to park right next to the pillar (which was on the drivers side, against the door). So I parked snug to the pillar, climbed over to the passenger side, exited through the passenger door, locked the car with remote locking, and went into the office.

If you exit the driver door with the headlights still on, it warns you with a warning tone. If you exit the passenger door with the headlights still on, there is no warning tone! And in the bright sunlight, I failed to see that I had left my headlights on.

8 hours later, I returned to the car. The remote locking would not unlock the car (not surprising, as the battery was flat). So I would need to unlock the car manually.

I discovered that the car only has ONE manual keyhole.

This is on the drivers door.

The drivers door was snug against the pillar and could not be opened more than a couple of inches.

I could open it enough to reach in with one arm, and reach back to the rear door, but this would not open either, as the central locking is electrically activated. No other door had a keyhole, not even the boot (trunk). I could not open the bonnet (hood) either as that has to be opened from inside the car.

So I had to call the RAC, who arrived 2 hours later, and we eventually put a trolley jack under the car and pulled it sideways until the driver door could be opened.

So there is a weird combination of circumstances that cost me 2 1/2 hours of my time. Is there anything generic we can learn from this? Well, if you do a root cause analysis, there is one thing I failed to realise, and that's where the lesson may be for you.

Do you know how many doors on your car can be opened manually, with a key?

Do you really? Have you ever looked?

I didn't know. I know now! Only one!! And I will never again park in a situation where that door cannot be opened, because it results in an unacceptable risk - if the car battery or the key battery go flat, or there is some other failure of the remote locking mechanism, I will be severely stuck. Again.

So, dear reader, here's the action for you from this lesson.

Next time you go out to your car, before clicking the remote button, walk around and see how many keyholes your car has. Then, based on that knowledge, you can design an effective and risk free parking strategy.

1 comment:

Tom Young said...

If you drive a hybrid car, check the owners manual before attempting to start the car if it has a flat battery. The instructions could be very different from what you expect.

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