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‘Leaky’ Radiator

A true story unencumbered by the concept of good taste

© 1998 D R Fry


I always liked to buy trucks from farmers, because they had very little idea of what the things were actually worth. I mean they’d buy them tax exempt as primary producers, use them for about ten years, and then were happy to just get rid of them.

In short, they were bargains.

But they were only bargains if you knew how to fix them yourself. The upside of buying old trucks was that they were cheap, but the downside was that they had a reliability index calculated in minus numbers, and had a habit of breaking down at the most inopportune moments.

It was a quiet Friday afternoon back at the old factory. All the systems had gone out the door, and we were just sitting back telling tall tales, planning total world domination, when the phone rang.

“It’s Jim and Chris on the phone for you Dunk” calls out Col.

Uh oh. I’d just waved them and the truck goodbye half an hour previously. They were off to do a gig in Morwell - what had they forgotten this time?

“Where are you” I asked

“Just past Dandenong,” replied Jim

“So what’s up then?”

“Dunk, it’s the water pump on the engine.” he explained.

“What about it?” I said

“’s fallen off!”

I nearly fell off my stool. I mean Jeez, how could the water pump fall off - it’s bolted to the engine with about ten high tensile steel bolts!

If I’d been a religious person I’d have sunk to my knees and cried “Aah, why me, God?”

(But I didn’t just in case He answered “Because YOU SHIT me!”)

I pumped them for more information (pun intended) and we ascertained that it was the end of the pump with the fan on it that had fallen off, and all the water had poured out of the front of it. The fan had luckily (I use the word in a relative sense) got stuck in the chassis rail so at least they hadn’t lost it.

By a happy coincidence Col and Dave’s Bedford (of which we have heard in an earlier story) wasn’t being used, so after a hastily negotiated deal I jumped into it and headed off for Dandenong, making sure that my route would take me past a Toyota dealer so I could pick up a water pump.

They were about ten minutes out of Dandenong, and about forty minutes later I saw them parked off the road, sitting up against the wheels. I waved to them and backed the Bedford up to so that it’s rear doors were opposite the Toyota’s.

“OK, you’d better start transferring everything into the Bedford,” I explained, “then you can head off to the gig while I fix this.”

This was not the most popular course of action, but they knew that no gig = no pay, and a late start = less pay. We were all firm believers in where possible never letting anything happen that might give the band some kind of a lever or reason to pay you less! So I climbed into the capacious engine compartment of the Toyota, and beavered away with spanners and silicone while the boys cursed and loaded. With a final gush of water the old pump came off, and I started assembling the fan onto the new pump.

Jim tapped me on the shoulder.

“Well, we’ve finished, Dunk - we’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Bye,” I said, and went back to work.

Uh oh - suddenly an urgent thought zapped into my head. I dropped what I was doing and ran after the Bedford as the boys drove off.

“Stop, stop!” I yelled, and caught up with them as they stopped for traffic. I banged on the doors. “Stop - open up”

Jim leaned out.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.

“I’ll need water for the engine.” I replied

“Oh - well, we don’t have any.” he said

“What about the emergency container of water behind the driver’s seat?”

“Er...we used that last week.” He and Chris looked sheepish

“What, and you didn’t refill it?” I yelled.

They looked at each other. “ I didn’t. Did you”

Their mumbles drifted off into silence

“Well you know what we’ll have to do, don’t you?” I asked.

“No, what?”

I walked over to the truck, found the empty container, brought it back and made an unzipping gesture.

“What - have a leak in it?” gasped Jim

“That’s right” I said, “If I don’t put something in the engine will seize.”

“But I don’t need to go yet,” said Chris.

“Too bad,” I said “We’ll all have to try!”

So one by one we took the container into the bushes, and between the three of us managed to get a couple of litres of organic coolant.

Fully drained, I waved them on their way and went back to my spanners.

About an hour later I tightened the last bolt, checked the hose clamps and was ready to fill the radiator. I carefully opened the container and started to pour the contents in, watching carefully for any stray leaks (from the engine!). Jeez it smelled bad - as though we’d all been on a steady diet of asparagus and antibiotics for the past week.

There wasn’t enough to come close to filling the radiator, but I figured that with an empty truck and a very light touch on the accelerator, the engine would stay under boiling point until I got to a service station.

And amazingly it did. Ten minutes later I coasted into the nearest B Pee and topped it up.

Of course, once the emergency was past I promptly forgot all about it, but a week later I got some gigs at the snow, so I dropped the truck off at the mechanics on the corner and told him to give it a bit of a check over.

“I don’t want anything to go wrong up at the snow,” I told him.

Later that afternoon I went to pick it up.

“Everything’s pretty right,” he said. “But since you’re off to the snow I flushed out the radiator. You know, that was really bad anti freeze you had in there. It had gone right off -smelled like an outback dunny!

I don’t think he realised how close to the truth he was!


This story first appeared in Connections magazine

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