Doctor Diesel

Doctor Diesel: Motoring Memoirs

Magic motoring memoirs from reader Bill

Hi Doc. I always take great interest in your mail bag, and your very interesting responses.

Many remind me of things that happened in my driving life when I was a novice lorry driver in the 1960s. I worked for a large family concern in Wales and, although the company did not really run on snow tyres, it might as well have done.

We had about 70-odd large vans and replaced about seven each year. When a brand new van arrived, the first thing that happened was that the four tyres on the back axle were replaced with chunky remoulds.

So we always had a stock of new tyres for the fronts, and we never let them wear down near the current legal limits, and we could always get good grip on snow or muddy farm tracks, with those chunky tyres on the back.

In my first winter snow on the Heads of the Valley road, when it was still a single carriageway, we were stuck for nearly nine hours between Ebbw Vale and Aberdare, mainly due to abandoned cars and vans. About six hours on we could see a snow plough trying to get through, and behind it was an ambulance. There were also a couple of police officers walking, and checking out the abandoned light vehicles.

With the help of all the drivers present we pushed as many of them as far as we could out of the way, and were told to let the plough and ambulance though before we moved, and we would all reach the next town within the hour. Then came a surprise to most of us; although we had moved most of those cars, there wasn’t always enough room for the snowplough. As gently as he could, the driver placed the blade under the back bumper, and half pushed and half lifted the abandoned cars out of the way.

A lot were damaged, not intentionally, but exhaust pipes and back bumpers would have needed replacing. I don’t know what the law is now, but back then the police told us that any damage done by a snow plough in such conditions could not be claimed against the local council. And anyway, it would come under the heading of (removing an) obstruction. Most of us didn’t believe what we were seeing, but he did it with such skill, it was clear that he had done it many times before.

Mentioning obstruction, in the 1990s one of my old work mates went to Hays Wharf, on the river by Tower Bridge at about 6am. When he’d collected his load and tried to get out at about 9.30am, he got to a tight T-junction and found cars parked right up to the corners, and was told by the locals that they would be there all day, so he called the police. When they arrived, they said that even a fire engine would not make it around that corner with the cars there.

Traffic officers then arrived with a big bunch of keys, but they couldn’t move them all. The police took photos of the parking, and the lorry, and then called him to drive on. He clipped four of them, and when he asked what he should do, they gave him a police notice, with a reference number to give to his company, in case anyone made a claim against him; then they put parking tickets on the badly parked cars within 15 metres of the junction. He never heard any more about it. But his company never took that job on again!

Well Doc, I hope you have not been too bored. I must point out that Colin Gee (his letter on winter driving skills) was quite right. I was taught to creep along on not much more than tickover, and in as high a gear as I could get away with.

Spinning your wheels in snow only compacts the snow and ice into the tread and it ends up as if the whole wheel was made out of ice; after which you’ll never get a grip, and most likely even slide on the road camber into the gutter, where you might as well leave your car, because you won’t move it until all the ice thaws out of the wheel!

My leggy MPV is going great, now that the replacement turbo and the air valve seem to be all in tune. It is a bit noisier now, but I’m confident that it will make the 200,000 miles in around 2016, so thanks again for your input.

Bill Shepherd

Letter four (4)_cropped1

Update on dual mass flywheel replacement

Hello Doctor, When my issue of Diesel Car arrives, I always turn straight to Doc Diesel. I know that old saga about the PSA Dual mass flywheel won’t go away!

There are still a lot of PSA cars out there… but at last I have taken the plunge and bought a solid flywheel replacement from GSF (German/Swedish/French car parts supplier) in Canterbury.

Interestingly, about a year ago the flywheel on its own was £370, and in the first week of April 2013, a flywheel (solid) and clutch replacement was £259 and a few pence. I had it fitted by Unit 5 in Herne Bay, who fitted it for £390.

You may say a ten-year-old car and at my age of seventy – is it worth it? The answer is definitely yes! The car has now lost that annoying chirping canary sound, and it is so smooth at tick-over, and at all other engine speeds.

Before I had this Solid Mass Flywheel (SMF) fitted, every journey would be a free vibro-massage, which made longer journeys very tiring!


Robin Jewiss

Good to hear your follow-up. Many thanks for taking the trouble to write. I shall certainly quote your favourable words regarding the smoothness of your SMF replacement for a failing DMF. T

he name of the clutch manufacturer would be interesting to have though. (to which the reply was Valeo. Doc)

Don’t knock your age – 70 is very a fine count. One thing that I miss about the advancing years, though, is the ability to crawl under the car like I used to in my youth.

But a few incidents of being grabbed with cramp in the leg and banging my head (a real head-banger?) on a bit of suspension or exhaust system sadly put a stop to that a few years back.

All the very best,


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