Getting your car ready for a big trip

I’m starting to think my little Suzuki doesn’t actually like adventures.

My suzuki VitaraI was supposed to leave last week for outback South Australia and the Simpson Desert. That is, until something went wrong with my cooling system – the day before I was due to leave.

Doc is a mechanic, so he not only gives the car a full service, he checks everything over very carefully to make sure it’s all ok for an outback trip.

Yet, last time I started having car trouble almost as soon as I left home.

First of all the car started ‘slipping’ within the first week. Fortunately, Adelaide and my father’s mechanic weren’t too far away. He had a look over it and fixed a hole in the manifold. Then after I’d left Adelaide the fan belt started slipping, so I had to tighten that every morning before I set off.

Nothing that was insurmountable, but enough to be annoying.

Until I was on my way home and I didn’t think I’d get over the mountains. It got so bad that I was close to driving home via Melbourne just so I could miss the Great Divide!

tracksThis time we checked the car in operational conditions (driving in sand), and discovered a problem with the cooling system. Doc pulled everything apart, checked everything, fixed things, installed new parts, and tested it all out to make sure everything was ok. And it was.

Until 36 hours before I was due to leave. Driving home from work the car started overheating.

Amid much swearing and use of what I am assured are standard mechanical terms but which I won’t repeat here (you can check my twitter account if you’re really interested), Doc checked it all over again and declared there was no reason for it to be playing up. His final diagnosis was “take it somewhere else. I don’t care. I’ll pay for it, I don’t care how much it costs just take it to somebody else.”

So I did. And the new mechanic also declared there was no reason for it to be playing up. Everything in the cooling system was in perfect working order. It just didn’t work as a whole. Which, of course, brought up the two words you never want to hear when there’s something wrong with your car – head gasket.

After getting an explanation of what the head gasket is, and how you know if it’s blown, I decided (with my extensive experience gained from 3 hours in the workshop) that it wasn’t the head gasket. It might have been the time and cost involved in fixing it, or it might have been ostrich syndrome, but I was determined that it wasn’t the head gasket. I don’t care how many mechanics said “head gasket” when asked for advice!

So, just for “shits and giggles”, Rob (the new mechanic) suggested we get a new radiator and new water pump and see if that made a difference.

So that’s how Doc and I spent our weekend.

On Saturday we (yes, we. I worked on it too) pulled the whole cooling system apart, blew through each of the pipes and hoses to check for blockages, checked the hoses for wear, cleaned and resealed each of the joints, put it all back together with the new radiator and new water pump, and filled it with water.

Then Doc took it for a drive. AND IT WORKED!!! No overheating, no leaking.

On Sunday morning, Doc dumped all the water out, replaced it with coolant, and took it for another drive.

Now coolant, being green, shows up any leaks more than water, being clear, does. And that’s how we discovered that the brand new radiator we’d put in had a split on the neck.

As a matter of principle I object to having to fix something that should have been right when we bought it. But as a matter of wanting to get away, I also objected to having to wait until Monday to take the radiator back and order a new one, then wait until Tuesday to get it, put it in and test it all again, and wait until Wednesday until I could leave. Two more days before I could get away!

“Can’t you just bog it up?” I asked Doc

So he did. And he took it for another drive. AND IT WORKED AGAIN!!!

So now I’m leaving in the morning.

The Zook didn’t like the mountains last trip, let’s see how it goes tomorrow!

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