A Kind of Homecoming

Well, Herman is finally resting in his new parking spot after another hassle filled day!

Made it - eventually!
Made it - eventually!

Incidentally, sometime between yesterday and today our anonymous VW LT35 was christened ‘Herman’ or ‘Herman the German’ by Marie. Although some people might consider it twee and childish to give a huge lump of metal a name, one thing my many years of wrestling with the class of car someone at my budget end of the market can afford has taught me - is that motor maintenance is a mixture of 50% mechanical knowledge and 50% voodoo. If giving your motor a name and letting him know he’s part of the family makes him more inclined to reciprocate these finer feelings by behaving himself, then so be it!

Anyway, I went down to Peter’s about half ten and we started hoking round to try and find out why Herman had died a death on my previous attempt to bring him home. Peter had already undone the filler pipe and fuel tank breather pipe to try and release any airlocks. When I got there, I switched attention to the diesel pump as the thing that had been keeping me awake during the intervening days was the thought that the pump might be knackered. If that had been the case, I might as well have started ringing round the local scrapyards and getting a price for weighing the van in as scrap, as a new diesel pump - or even having the existing one rebuilt - would probably have cost me as much as Herman cost to buy in the first place.

First, we loosened off the feed pipe from the fuel tank and found it was as dry as a nun’s chuff. There was definitely no diesel getting sooked through to the injectors - but was this due to a shitload of air in the fuel lines, or was the pump dead? To find out, we got a bit of syphon tube and a wee funnel, attached the syphon tube direct to the input of the fuel filter [where we’d removed the fuel line from the tank] and - using the funnel - started topping up the fuel filter. It must have been dry as a cnámh, coz it drank about a pint or so before the diesel started backing up the syphon tube. The Bosch diesel pump fitted didnae seem to have a manual priming handle [well, I couldnae find it anyway!] so we had to turn the engine over on the starter every time we wanted to test how we were progressing, which wasnae the best for either the starter motor or Peter’s Landcruiser battery, with which we were powering our attempts to breathe life back into Herman.

When we cranked the engine over a few times after drip filling the fuel filter, we could see that diesel was being sooked out of the filter into the diesel pump [some kind soul at VW has thoughtfully fitted a short length of transparent pipe between filter and pump, so you can see whether or not you’re getting any diesel coming through]. That, at least was good news, as it suggested that the pump was working as it should. We were still not getting a sniff of any action at the combustion end of things tho’ so it looked like the diesel wasnae getting into the cylinders. So that was our next task; we loosened off the diesel injector plugs, to allow any air trapped between them and the diesel pump to bleed out and then cranked the engine over a few more times until - eventually - we saw the welcome sight of diesel trickling out around the plugs.

By this time we’d run the Landcruiser battery dry, so I ran my set of jump leads from GULG [my Isuzu Trooper] to Herman and we tried turning him over on the jump [after tightening the injectors again first - of course!] To our delight and delectation, Herman almost immediately burst into life and - after farting out a large cloud of white smoke - sat there chugging away merrily for about half an hour, being fed directly from a jerrican of diesel via the syphon tube - and looking like he was wondering what all the fuss was about.

At this stage Peter offered that we drop the fuel tank and see if there was any gunk in the fuel, causing the original blockage, but I thought I’d overstayed my welcome by this stage and also just wanted to get Herman home so I could work on him in ‘my own backyard’ as it were, so we decided we’d just tow him back to mine and I’d sort out the rest from there.

Unfortunately the gods weren’t finished with us yet, because there then followed another ball-achingly frustrating comedy of errors when we tried to tow Herman back to mine on a big ex-AA A-frame that Peter had. To cut a long story short, we tried to set off at too acute an angle [actually, I’m going to pass the buck here, coz I did suggest pushing Herman out onto the road first and then fitting the A-frame, but Peter reckoned we could tow Herman directly off his driveway, which involved setting off with a nearly 90º angle between Herman and the Landcruiser. Anyway, as we set off, the A-frame twisted alarmingly, buried one of its arms in Peter’s driveway and bent itself out of shape.

By this stage tempers were beginning to fray a wee bit. [Most of Peter’s tribe were watching the proceedings now and, as is usual in these situations, everybody had differing views on the best way to get things done]. We looked at the warped remains of the A-frame and then tried re-assembling it in such a way that the bent bits faced in opposite directions and - hopefully - cancelled out, but there was nothing doing; whichever way we turned the arm sections, we always ended up with a bend in one which threatened to either bury itself in the road at the first sharp corner, or rip the radiator out of the bottom of herman.

In the end we settled on what, with hindsight, we should probably have done in the first place - towing Herman back to mine on the back of the landcruiser, using the good ol’ fashioned tow rope we’d used the time he broke down originally.

Before the onlookers could drift way and leave us to it, Peter collared his son Oliver and ‘volunteered’ him to steer Herman while on the tow-rope. Oliver looked a reluctant ‘hero of the hour’, so after a few tips on watching the steering - coz the front wheels are right under your seat, rather than out in front of you somewhere, I said I’d bring up the rear in GULG on our convoy home. That way Herman would be nicely sandwiched between the two 4x4s and Oliver could concentrate on the steering and braking without having to worry too much about what was coming up behind him.

And so it was that in this way, we made our way slowly back to Hulme in convoy. On the way past Southern Cemetery we carried out our only overtaking manoeuvre of the journey; passing a funeral cortege. I hoped that there was no symbolism in this manifestation of the dead being shepherded to their final resting place by the living.

Marie captures the solemn moment when Herman finally arrives at his new home
Marie captures the solemn moment when Herman finally arrives at his new home

Well - now the fun really begins!

Meta TAGS: dieselrepairtowing
ORIGINAL PUBLICATION DATE: 01 Feb 2009
AUTHOR: stíobhart matulevicz