The Coolsmartphone Mobile Video Studio

OK. Slightly off-topic today, but the regular readers will no doubt be aware that I film a lot of our product reviews in my car. As an example, my SanDisk iXpand overview or this FM transmitter review. I was even doing this some 10 years ago in glorious low-quality-vision.

My car is a beat-up Audi A4. It wasn’t always beat-up. I’ve basically abused it. People think I’m joking when I tell them, but I bought the thing in 2009 when it was just three years old. It had done about 42,000 miles. Today, right now as I type, it’s done 205,000 miles.

That, though, isn’t quite the whole story. This car. This portable TV studio of sorts, had clicked over to 200,000 miles just a few weeks ago. I’d travelled those 158,000 miles. I’d filmed endless YouTube videos and yet…. not once had I serviced it.

This. This is my magic car. In all these years I’ve changed a few tyres, swapped a few brake pads and had a new EGR valve. That’s about it. Nothing else has really gone wrong with it and I’ve just continually ignored the dashboard message which told me to take it for a service. Instead I’ve chosen to look at the “Low Oil” message, which tends to pop up each year. I then travel to Morrisons to get a cheap bottle of CarLube. I pour that in the engine. Light goes off. Job done.

When I took the car into Audi (for the EGR valve) the “Servicing Manager” had a near fit when I told him this story. He was doing his usual sales push, asking questions about when the MOT was due etc….

“OK, so your MOT is due in March, and you’ve had since 2009. When was your last service?”

“Never”, I replied. “I’ve not had it serviced since I bought it”.

The guy seemed shocked and sickened at the same time.

“Well, we’re going to do a free check on the car, there’ll no doubt be a few items that need addressing.”

What seemed to disgust him more was when I went to pay for the repair work. He couldn’t find anything about the car that needed doing. The brakes were good, the suspension, the exhaust system and all the .. err.. other bits (sorry, I don’t know much about cars).

All was going well until it hit 203,000 miles. Then the oil pump failed. A big (and I mean BIG) message appeared on the dashboard which – even for a rather “chilled” driver – made me hit the brakes. “OIL PRESSURE FAIL” it said, “STOP STOP STOP”

So I did. When I started Googling (don’t ever do this) the costs of fixing the oil pump seemed to be just insane. I valued the car on one of those “We Want To Give You Some Cash For Your Car But Probably Not As Much As You Think” sites and the repair would probably cost more than the car was worth.

It was time to say goodbye. I started looking at car title loans online or perhaps it was time to cancel the holiday this year. It was the end of the indestructible Audi A4 TDI.

Then…. then I took it to a local garage. I had the AA tow it there because I couldn’t drive the thing (the engine would’ve seized). After taking a look, they called me. They told me something about a balancer shaft and a 6 AF hex bar which apparently gives “inadequate engagement depth” or something. They pointed me to this forum and, for £370, they could fix it.

After paying, I asked the guy whether it was time for me and my portable YouTube review centre to part ways. He basically said, “Well, you’ve done some miles haven’t you. I mean seriously. No servicing? Keep going. Keep driving the thing.”

So she’s back. Drive it nicely on the motorway and she’ll get 50-odd MPG. Apart from needing another EGR valve she’s ticking over beautifully well and chomps through the 80 miles I do daily. This entire rambling article is leading me up to this video – my attempt at recreating a Top Gear / The Grand Tour film. I had a bit of a thought when I got it home from the garage. I figured it can’t be too hard to film some cool “car review-style” footage on a smartphone, so I gave it a go, and here’s the result below 🙂 Everything here – the filming, the titles, the editing and the dubbing – was done on a smartphone..