An Empty Coast

An Empty Coast
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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Tonka watch... day 18

Engine in... engine out.

Day 18 and we are still Land Roverless, Legion of Fans (LOF). An air of weary resignation hangs over the campsite as Mrs Blog and I wait with varying levels of patience for news of poor Tonka, the usually-trusty Series III Land Rover.

He's just across the Crocodile River from us, in the town of Malelane. It's nice, in a way, being so close, so we can pop in every now and then and check on him in hospital, but maddeningly frustrating in other ways, knowing he's a hippo hop away and there is nothing we can do for him.

Tonka's engine continues to confound the experts. The chief mechanic, Dr C patiently explains new theories about what's going on in that steel heart of Tonka's every few days. I nod and go "hmmm" in that thoughtful way that men do when being told something they know nothing about and have no hope of comprehending.

The engine has been in and out a couple of times already. Sometimes it doesn't start, and on the occasions when it does it issues huge clouds of smoke. Piston rings and timing belt have been replaced, along with other bits and pieces I have never heard of. There is talk, this weekend, of pulling out the crankshaft (or was that camshaft?). I don't know.

Dr C will be working Sunday, although he has to go to his wife's cousin's wedding in Pretoria on Saturday. Yesterday (Friday) after discussing a whole bunch of stuff with me that went in one of my ears and out the other, Dr C slid his car keys across the workshop counter to me. "Take my bakkie (ute for the Australians, pickup for the north Americans)."

"I can't take your truck, man," I said to him. We had our trusty VW Polo, "Polly" (we had to give her a name - couldn't help it) from Avis parked outside, I explained (though I left out the bit about her name).

"You're paying a fortune for that thing. Take my bakkie," he insisted.

Try as I might I cannot imagine a motor mechanic in Australia handing over his personal vehicle to a foreign tourist customer. It was a nice gesture and, since we're into stereotyping here, allow me to say a very South African one. When the chips are down, as they occasionally are on safari in Africa, you want to bump into an Afrikaner.

So, Mrs Blog and I are now riding high (literally) in Dr C's late model Toyota Hi-Lux. I'm loyal to my Land Rover brand, LOF, but I'm not a snob. Some of my best friends are Toyota owners. I must say, the Hi-Lux is quite nice, if you like air conditioning, power steering, fast reliable engines and that sort of stuff.

So touched, were Mrs Blog and I by Dr C's gesture that we decided to wash out the load carrying compartment of the bakkie this morning. There was also the presence of a cloud of flies to consider, as well. Dr C is a hunter and on close inspection we found several signs that something dead had recently been carried in the back of his truk.

Playing at CSI Bushveld we inspected hair and tissue samples and decided it may very well have been an impala. There was also a bullet casing, which I picked up with a stick and bagged for ballistics. Mrs B took it down to forensics.

Our temproary Toyota sits outside the tent as I type. It's a sleek, speedy brute, but it is not our Tonka.

Tonka has no aircon, no power steering and no fast reliable engine (no engine at all, in fact, as of last night) yet still we wouldn't trade him for all the Toyotas in Japan. Why, I don't know? It is, as they say, a Land Rover thing, and until you've experienced it you can't understand it.

7 comments :

ali g said...

Tell Dr C to check for a bent pushrod. If rings and timing belt have been replaced [and have been done properly including resetting the timing correctly] then its possibly either a bent pushrod or lobe on the camshaft broken.
As the camshaft spins its lobes lift the pushrods up and down and they in turn open and close the cylinders inlet and exhaust valves. If they are bent somehow or camshaft lobe damaged you'd get the erratic starting and clouds of smoke.
Suggest he also do a compression test also on each cylinder to make sure the relaced rings are done properly and not cracked.
The symptons you have described are exacltly the same as my big zero radius lawnmower. [ie banging noises and smoking, starts then stops or wouldn't start at all. . the problem turned out to be a bent pushrod. A fairly easy and cheap fix provided the camshaft hasn't also been damaged by the errant pushrod.
One last thing did Dr C check the crankshaft big end bearings when replacing the piston rings? Presume he would have. Usually need close inspection also if having to replace rings...

ali g said...

PS
presume Dr C has also checked that valves are not broken or burnt out?

Java said...

Isn't it easier to buy a new 2nd hand Tonka with all the money you've already spent on fixing it? Just asking, I know it's your baby. I mean you can only spend so much before it's starting to cost you a NEW one.
I must speak to LR to give you a car to use each time in Africa to test drive and promote them, after all it can feature in the books, the fav vehicle of the good guy!

The Barman said...

Call the NRMA.

tonypark said...

Hmmm, Ali G....yes.... pushrods, valves, big end things..

Hmmmm I see what you mean.

Java: excellent idea about the free land rover. God knows, I give them enough free publicity. We are thinking about buying a newer second hand Land Rover, and towing poor Tonka around like a caravan.

Good idea about the NRMA, Barman. Although we let our membership of the AA of Zimbabwe lapse. The one time we called them for help we got an answering machine saying their office was not attended after hours.

Java said...

Not a bad idea!! Get some contacts to assist in the buying, tourists might get charged more because they supossedly "don't know" how much things cost! LOL

Anonymous said...

Your very good friend "The Parrot" says it might be ring damage.
Eeeeeeerh!