Following the photographs in my Haynes manual, beardy men with hammers and spanners helped me diagnose and fix just about everything that went wrong with that car.
But thanks to the computerisation of cars in the 1990s there are very few problems that can be resolved on a modern car without the special diagnostic computer owned by dealers.
If, like me, you're interested on what's going on inside the brain of your car – without becoming an official dealer for your marque – then the Kiwi by PLX Devices might be for you.
The solution actually consists of two parts. First is the Kiwi hardware device that plugs into a socket under the dashboard. This socket, technically known as the OBD-II port is found on virtually all cars sold since 1996 and can be accessed without the need for tools.
The second part of the system is a software app that runs on any iPhone or Android mobile handset. Several competing apps are available ranging in price from £2.99 to £35.
The Kiwi communicates with the phone app wirelessly, either via Bluetooth in the case of Android handsets or by creating its own Wi-Fi hotspot for the iPhone.
All apps allow users to check – and reset – engine warning lights and other problems reported by the car. But as you move up the price range lots of other clever features emerge.
My pick of the bunch is DashCommand (£34.99) which exposes a plethora of stats about your car, from mainstream (RPM, horsepower and fuel economy) to wonderfully obscure (exhaust temperature, manifold pressure or the amount of time you've spent in the wrong gear).
Freely downloadable "skins" allow complete customisation of DashCommand. There's even a skin that mimics the dashboard of the Nissan GT-R, perhaps the coolest geek car on the planet.
Other apps are optimised for specific tasks. The oddly named Harry's Lap Timer Pro (£13.99) records video overlaid with live data like speed, gear and brake force. The result is a video that looks uncannily like Formula 1 – except for the open wheels, exotic locations and beautiful spectators.
One minor niggle with the Kiwi is that it doesn't power off automatically. The OBD-II port remains powered on most cars when the key is removed, so it's necessary to flick the power switch on the Kiwi to avoid draining the battery.
The Kiwi is a great option for stats geeks, track day enthusiasts, home mechanics or anyone who finds they make regular trips to the garage to get warning lights reset.