Sunday, August 14, 2005

More Mechanical Mania.

As you can see in my last post, I was rather pleased with myself for taking all the precautions to make sure I had a safe and reliable vehicle in that "good little car". However I neglected to address the weakest link in the chain, the most unpredictable and most unreliable piece of this particular transportation system.

The doofus sitting behind the steering wheel of the car: Me.

And the universe chose today to rudely remind of the fact.

After posting that last entry at the cybercafe, I walk back to the car. As I approach the car, I notice a battered hub hubcap lying on the pavement. There is a guilty comfort that at least I am not the only driver who loses hubcaps hitting the kerb hard while parallel parking. Get in the car and start pulling away from the kerb, but the hubcap lying on the pavement nags at me. Stop the car. Get out of car. Walk around car. Look at car.

There is a missing hubcap on the front left tyre where I hit the kerb hard while parallel parking..

So I pull up into the pizza place to go to work. Check my mirrors. Put the gears into reverse. Start reversing into the parking lot. Glance at my mirrors again. See the red tail lights of a station wagon. Hit the brakes. Hard.

There is a soft "boing" sound as if somebody dropped something hard on a piece of plastic. The car jerks and the engine stalls.

With a sense of dread I get out of the car and check for damage. There is no visible damage on either car. The plastic bumper of the Ford must have impacted the tow bar of the station wagon. I announce with relief "no damage". The guy driving the station wagon does not even bother to get out to check his car. He goes "no worries, mate". Then carries on his conversation with his passenger as he drives off, as if another car hitting him was an everyday affair.

So by the time I start work, I am already a little rattled. However the universe is still not done with showing me what a horrid driver and what a mechanical ignoramus I am.

After dropping off my third delivery for the night, I suddenly notice the unresponsive steering and a rhythmic whump-whump-whump sound from the car. The sound persisted no matter which gear I was in, but the frequency of the whump-whump-whump varied with speed. So once again I stop and check the car for damage. Then I notice the rear left tyre was soft. Must have been a slow leak that went unnoticed for a while.

So I hobble the car slowly along to the nearby fuel station - which was closed. Call the waiting customer to let them know their delivery would be late. Call the store to inform the manager to send a replacement order with another driver. Then stop the car in the lighted corner of the fuel station, pop the boot and start pulling out the spare and the jack and the tools.

Looking at the array of tools on the ground in front of me laid out besides the spare tyre, I was at a complete loss. I have never had a flat in my life and have no idea how to change a tyre. The stuff that laid on the ground would have been as useful to me - given my skills - as the magical staff of nut-removal, the spell scroll of car-lifting and a big round rock. My contingency plan in such a case has always been to call the rental agency (or the provided breakdown number) and have someone rescue me. But this time I am on my own. So I grope around under the car to try to figure out where the jack point was. Try to recall the pages in the Ford user manual which I conveniently left at the house. Look around in despair in the cold night. Note the sparse Sunday night traffic. Entertain thoughts of freezing to death in a car with a non-functional heater and a flat tyre.

So while valiantly (but unsuccessfully) trying to figure out how to change the tyre, I spy the "Air and Water" corner of the fuel station. I get a flash of brilliance. I would pump up the leaking tyre and drive to the next fuel station, and pump up the tyre again, and repeat until I could get to a tyre-changing utopia. The air pressure in the leaking tyre measured slightly above 100. The other three tyres read 220 to 250. I do not even know what the unit for tyre pressure is.. newtons? atmospheric pressure? hamster lung capacity? Anyway I inflate the tyre to 250 and drive slowly back towards the store, keeping a ear open for the dreaded whump-whump-whump sound as the air would slowly but surely leak out.

I make it back all the way to the store without the tyre deflating. Checking at the fuel station nearby shows the tyre pressure to be still at 250. After puzzling over it for a while, a dim light begins to dawn in the interior of my mind. (Which is more that I can say for the car with non-functional interior lights!)

Some kid/s must have successfully pulled a prank on me, letting the air out of the tyre during the last delivery.

Either that or I must be really dense to be driving around with a half-inflated tyre for kilometres and kilometres without realising anything was wrong. After all, this is the same person who drove halfway around Singapore in the deep of night without realising the headlights were not turned on. And who did the same in Malaysia. And then again in Melbourne - resulting in my being pulled over by the police. And this is the same person who happily drove off in a car with the boot still open - while a friend was in the process of unloading the said boot.

I get the feeling that that "flat" tyre is still going to be fully inflated tomorrow morning when I check on it. Some things in life I can do with competence. Other things in life I can do moderately well. Unfortunately, driving and maintenance of an automobile do not rank amongst either category.

For the public record, Calamariforthought now wins that debate we were having about the usefulness of hubcaps some time ago. I was of the informed opinion (supported by two professional mechanics I spoke to) that hubcaps were purely ornamental, serving no mechanical function, nor offering any significant protection to the wheels. Hubcaps serve an important function - when installed correctly covering the air valves, they discourage bored kids from letting the air out of your tires.

So if you happen to be in metro Perth and see a Chinese guy driving erratically in a crappy old Ford Festiva that looks like it is falling apart, with vehicle lights turned off in the middle of the night and simultaneously trying to read a street directory with a small torch held between his teeth.. horn to say hello because that would most likely be me.


Blogger Singapore Calamari said...

Hello ! Glad to hear you are having fun and excitement !

(1) Hubcap dropped on your front left tyre. Did you fix it back ?

(2) Rear left tyre was deflated. Did it have a hub cap ?

(3) Just to clarify for everyone, whom I assume is as confused as I am, how many hubcaps did you start off with ?

And with regards to your last entry, CV boot regrease and pack simply means that the joint is ok. Just that the covering (boot) broke and all the lubricant and grease fell out. Just change the cover and filled the whole thing with grease and its done. (check my last comment)

(4) You reversed into a parking space with the wagon parked in it ? Ok, guess that would require a lot of graphic description, so you can skip that question.

(5) Tyre pressure reading in the hundreds is psi (pounds per square inch) while if it is below 50s it is in kPa (kilo Pascal). Yeah, I guess your correct pressure should be in the range of 230psi.

250 is slightly over inflated and you may notice a bumpier ride, and middle of the tyre tracks wearing out more. But it gives better fuel consumption.

In Singapore it is not needed, but I suggest you get one of those car-battery operated tyre pump. For those long journey.

August 15, 2005 9:55 AM  
Blogger Amazonian said...

Hamster lung capacity?
Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

August 15, 2005 2:44 PM  
Blogger Killjoy said...


Been some time since i logged in to read ya blog. I am glad to see that you have kindof settled down and living a some wat normal life.

And to think that you even got a car of your very own. Now how is that for progress. Betcha a "newbie immigrant" in Singapore won't be able to afford his/her own car as quick as you did. ;)But I think in order reduce the operating cost of ya car you need to :

1) be a better driver.


2) be a better mechanic.

LOL.. Hang in there.

August 15, 2005 10:57 PM  
Blogger Calamity Man said...

you, me, doofus both.

i don't even have a driver's licence. failed my basic theory test 2 weeks ago.

how does ANYONE manage to fail a basic theory test anyway?

August 16, 2005 12:32 AM  
Blogger C said...

"Hubcaps serve an important function - when installed correctly covering the air valves, they discourage bored kids from letting the air out of your tires."

But if they covered your air valves so well, how the hell are you going to inflate your tyres if oh, you were doing a routine pressure check? ;)

That was hilarious btw. Same things' happened to us except the kids in question were more malicious... they put nails through our tyres. At 300 bucks a tyre, you can imagine how much that hurt! Luckily things like that can be repaired these days, rather than getting a whole new tyre.

August 16, 2005 5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, dude, it sounds like u might have ADHD.

August 16, 2005 6:04 PM  
Anonymous Tangawizi said...

喂! This is beginning to look like the start of a chapter of "Zen and the Art of Ford Maintenance". Keep that adrenaline pumping!

August 17, 2005 9:42 PM  
Blogger Tym said...

If we spot you in Perth and sound the horn at you, might that not risk the chance that you'll bump, ever-so-gently, into another car? :)

August 17, 2005 10:28 PM  
Anonymous erahnan said...

Greetings from Melbourne! Just ordered a pizza from Dominos yesterday evening for me and my son for dinner and when it was delivered, thought immediately of you and your experiences, driving around Perth and all your adventures. You are truly an encouragement to many to take the plunge. Good on ya matey! Things can only get better.....

August 17, 2005 10:54 PM  
Blogger KnightofPentacles said...


1) Yes. I think the hubcaps are all already out of shape from my banging on and kicking them.

2) Yes. Which did not cover the air valve. The hubcap has regular gaps in it. Are the tyre valves to be covered by hubcaps in the original design?

3) Four? Or five? Cannot remember if the spare has a hubcap.

4) The station wagon was trying to reverse out of an adjacent lot at an angle, and ended up in my reverse path.

5) I am going to leave them at 250. Not about to muck around with something that works. If it breaks, I have no idea how to fix it.

It could have been little gremlins on threadmills pushing the car wheels for all my mechanical knowledge.


Not quite as normal as I would like.

Cars are cheap here. On the flip side of the coin, we could just easily say to a new Singapore immigrant from Australia that they were doing well to be able to afford to eat-out everyday and to afford a live-in maid.

Yeah, I need to be both a better driver AND a better mechanic. Where do I start? Taking apart the car is not exactly a good idea at this point..

Do not get discouraged. For the record, I failed my advanced theory and had to sit for my motorcycle licence four times before I passed. So if there is hope for a klutz for myself, there is still a lot of hope for you!


Tyres need routine pressure checks? That is news to me, indeed! Does the rubber absorb air over time or something?

Nails through tyres are malicious indeed. Or maybe it is envy of a shiny clean (expensive) Patrol?

I am toying with the idea of leaving the car unlocked to avoid having windows broken. Then again, the locks are already loose anyway and can be easily jimmed again. And there is nothing visible in the car worth stealing.

Then again, I have left the car unlocked on more than one occasion for hours and yet it was unmolested. (Not planning to repeat the experiment intentionally, though.)

What is HDAD? I most certainly do not have AD.. hey, look at those clouds, they remind me of waves - hey, I am going to the beach to watch the sunset..

A little more of the Zen and the little less of the Ford Maintenance, please. (And I dare not presume to be compared to a literary giant like Pirsig.)


Nah. Given the way I drive and my poor hand-eye coordination skills, I would more likely pull off the road in a fluster. And in the process overshoot and drive straight at a tree, and panic.

I would then proceed to overcorrect and drive back on the road. Resulting in the saloon car behind me hitting the brakes hard and steering into the next lane. Which would have the following 4x4 making a sharp turn to avoid a collision and ending up in the opposing lane. The oncoming trailer carrying fuel would then collide with it, and knock over a power pole in the process, setting both on fire. The power pole on fire would then lead to a short ciruit in the power relay station, causing the power grid to shut down.

Perth would consequently be plunged into the stone-age darkness, looting and violence would run rampant, and the city would tear itself apart from the inside. And in such a situation, I may be forced to return to Singapore.

Hmm.. so it might not be a good idea to horn at me..

August 18, 2005 2:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


There's not a lot of WA where you can plunge back into stone-age darkness so please handle with care!

August 18, 2005 6:50 PM  
Blogger C said...

Yeah, your tyres do deflate after time, from the pressure exerted on them. There are a host of checks you ideally should do to your car every week or other week. Mainly fluid level maintenance - battery water, oil, brake/clutch/wiper/radiator fluids.

In addition to that, tyre pressure, tread wear, wheel alignment, rotation (the last few usually are done when you service your car, depending on what sort of usage it gets).

The cars may sell for cheap but they aren't quite that to maintain, contrary to what seems to be the majority opinion. Labour is expensive and because they're essentially rustbuckets (esp second hand cars), there's always something to change or fix or improve.

God i miss my car.


PS no, the Patrol is neither expensive nor clean. The kids were just being what kids are - little bastards.

August 18, 2005 8:13 PM  

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