Friday, 29 June 2012

Blistering performance

   For someone as motor-afflicted as I am, I find myself in an odd position. Completely without wheels. The Rollerskate is briefly off the road as it waits for an MOT test due to the mechanic having to postpone its original appointment, the bike needs a new battery and the Wreck? Well, the Wreck, always my backup vehicle in these situations, has burst its radiator.
    To be fair, the rad was in a bit of a state. Its predecessor sprang a leak years ago when I was an impecunious youth, so instead of a new item it's a part from a later Wreck that came from a friend's stock of second-hand parts. In other words, it probably sported more than its fair share of limescale and other assorted crud accumulation which has never made it the most reliable cooling device. At various times I've used Magic Bottles of Stuff from Halfords to flush it, but the car has always been a little prone to overheating.
    So earlier in the week I was driving across town and heard that chilling steam-whistle sound of high-pressure coolant escaping. Opening the bonnet, there was a split at the side of the rad. Damn.
    The best thing to do if you want to get home in these situations is to let the pressure out of the system so your precious coolant doesn't all spray away. Now that's pretty dangerous, you can't just open the radiator cap because boiling water will spray everywhere. The technique is to use a rag, and to gently turn the cap while pressing down hard on it, letting the pressure off without the drama.
    I didn't do too badly. No drama, no spray of boiling coolant. But I didn't reckon for a jet of superheated steam when the pressure first let off. The rag is supposed to protect you by absorbing the steam, but mine didn't quite manage it and I thus now sport an impressive blister on my middle finger.

    Painful business, this old car lark.

    The World Expert on Rusty Old Wrecks was sympathetic. He has a couple of radiators appropriate for my model of Wreck in stock, each reconditioned with brand new cores. And best of all, they're affordable, cheaper than the cost of reconditioning my original Wreck rad. The world of old cars is a funny one, these rads are cheaper than you'd expect because their new cores follow a slightly more modern pattern than the originals, therefore originality enthusiasts won't use them. Me, all I care about is an efficient cooling device that won't leave me by the road.
    So thanks to an extremely obliging friend picking the part up for me, I should have the Wreck back on the road tomorrow morning. My finger however, will remind me of the event for a week or so to come.


  1. You give a new meaning to getting your finger out Jenny, pity it wasn't quick enough! Something tells me how much of an enthusiast you are too despite what you said about others being so. I'm surprised you still want the hassle that comes with old wrecks.

    Shirley Anne xxx

  2. I remember doing that trick a bit too often. Usually it was so I could pour an egg into the radiator. :-) It did take me some time before I figured out how to do the "white bit only". (Putting the yolk in made a heck of a mess.)

    I once picked up a hitchhiker on the M6 just outside of Birmingham doing that. I'd just left the services and he thought I was stopping to give him a ride; I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd forgotten to put the egg into the radiator! He definitely looked a bit worried when I did my egg routine on the side of the motorway. I remember one egg was good for about 80 miles...

  3. Even older wrecks like mine completely bypass the problme by having no pump, an open system and work by thermosyphon. However, if I ever need a new radiator it will need to be made specially, and I can't even begin to imagine the cost. Mind you, compared to my current 80 hours (and counting)of Electrolysis it might actually seem cheap.

  4. I used to keep the temperature of my Ford Escort up by blocking off the radiator with paintings. An alcoholic permanent PhD student used to bring them round and trade them for cases of duty-free beer, but we couldn't bear to have them about the place as they had disturbing images of children in them... if he turns out to have been a genius, then I and my old Ford Escort were responsible for the permanent loss of some masterpieces.... just... rather creepy ones.

    I hate getting burned! Feels worse than getting cut, doesn't it?

  5. Hey, nobody's makin' you read it dear, plenty of other blogs with far more riveting stuff going on!

    The egg white trick is straight out of Arthur Daley's textbook, isn't it? Along with sawdust in the gear oil :)

    I think if I had a machine with a unique rad that needed replacing I'd plumb in a modern one out of sight with a ducted fan to save a bit of cash. But that's probably sacrilege :)

    I can truthfully say I've never used a painting in that way. Done all sorts of inventive things with beer cans to get cars going, but never that.

    So, a few days later my finger is growing nice new skin and the car has its new rad fitted. A hefty airlock in the heater sorted, and it's doing rather well. Well, almost. I think it's got a dirty fuel issue. I may have to fit a filter.