Sunday, 2 November 2014

Crackin the seal...

It's been a while since I've blogged on the oval, but it's been getting plenty of driving action. I've been on an extended leave of sorts and I've been cruising all over the place. For the most part it's been really, really nice.

However today's tail is of the other sort... although I guess all's well that ends well... in a way.  I've been down to visit my brother this weekend in Goulburn. I'd been invited down to play a gig with his band. The plan was to leave on friday, before the weather got too hot. The forecast was for 37degC so I was keen to get going asap to keep the engine temp down.

I'd got up early on friday morning and set the tappets before I got going. I thought about replacing the tappet cover seals, but I've had no dramas with them before so I left it. I hit the freeway and all was well. There was the faint smell of oil, but I didn't think anything of it. All of a sudden, the engine started losing power. I pulled over near the Picton exit. The passengers side tappet cover was dropping oil and it was all over the underside of the car and back guard.

Needless to say I wasn't happy...

I pulled it off and tried to seal it up. No dice. As soon as I started the car again, it leaked terribly. So I filled the motor with oil again and limped into Picton hoping to find some gaskets. The autoparts shop was helpful, but they had nothing but gasket cork sheet and silastic sealant.

I was kicking myself all over the place. Coz as per usual, I had at least 4 gaskets at home sitting in the draw, but none with me. So here I was parked in a gravel carpark lying on the ground in 35degC heat. I managed to cut a seal out of gasket sheet and silasticed the whole thing back together. Thankfully it sealed fine once it set and I was able to run the motor without leaks... which brought me to the next issue.

The car had too much oil in it.

I'd put too much in it before leaving the side of the freeway. I crawled under the car in the gravel and started loosening the sump plug. I figured if I could get it to drip a little into a rag, I could drain enough to bring the oil level down under the top mark. But no, life doesn't work that way.

The sump plug came out.

I was scrabbling around in the rag trying to grab the plug and stick it back in as fast possible. Amazingly, it went back in post haste. Even more amazingly, the level was exactly on the second mark when I checked it again. So after a short conversation with an interested retiree, I was back on the road.

Along with the heat, I had another surprise. Headwinds.

As I was filling up at Bundanoon, I turned the car back on to find the oil light flashing a little at idle. Hmm, not good. The car is already using 40w70, ie. the heaviest oil I could buy. I knew it only meant one thing. The motor was flogged.

Great. Would I make it?

So I plunged on trying to do 55mph and not over do it. I knew there were a bunch of nasty hills. Third gear and patience. The closer I got to Goulburn the bigger the headwind got.

It was a relief when I got there...

The weekend and the gig went well. However, in the back of my mind was the certainty that I might have dramas on the way home. I started the car on Saturday morning to here some rod knock until it warmed up a little. It didn't sound real good.

How would I get home? 

My brother, his wife and I discussed it. If I broke down before Pheasant's neast, they'd come get me. If I made it beyond that, I'd get a friend from Sydney. But really that was worst case scenario. 

What I really needed was perfect conditions for engine temp and load.

The weather forecast was looking promising. 18degC, South-westerly wind. Just for a laugh we threw a few of these in the passenger seat. Although really, if I had this issue again, I'd been calling the NRMA or someone with a tilt-tray.

So I climbed in the car and prayed. Then I topped the tank (98 octane) and prayed again. The first 20km were torture. I pulled over and checked the motor and nothing was leaking. Sure, it didn't sound awesome, but it seemed fine.

In reality, the south-westerly wind literally blew me home in ideal conditions. When I got near Sydney, the wind changed to an Easterly and it blew me the rest of the way home. In the end, the trip took just over 2 and half hours and consumed just over half a tank.

I don't want to sound twee or stupid, but I really had to thank God. There is no other way to account for such mild weather conditions and tail winds at just the right time in just the right places. Especially at this time of year. By rights it should have been 30degC again.

So, another adventure in driving... and praying. It's amazing what an old car will do for your spiritual life.

And yes, I'll be taking tappet cover gaskets in future.

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