Doctor Diesel

Roadside hero

I was only thinking the other day about the sort of questions you used to get asked Doc, about ìunder-bonnetî things that we mostly understood, and thought that we could get sorted out on the driveway on a Sunday morning. Or something to get you out of a domestic task that wasn’t very appealing. ìSorry love, can’t take the curtains down, I’ve got to do my contact breakers and check the plug gaps.î (Pre-diesel days, this) He! He! But it took me back to an occasion when I did become a bit of a ìKnight of the Roadî, when I stopped to help another Beetle owner (mine was a ’67 1200) who was broken down at the roadside. I suppose that I fancied myself as a bit of a mechanic, and I was possibly fresh from fitting new ìking pinî bushes and pins to my old Beetle, and then reaming them out to fit, with the aid of technical advice from my father, a trained engineer, who was at the same time doing the same job on his Karmann-Ghia CoupÈ, which as the oldies will know was based on the Beetle mechanicals.


Anyway, this poor guy was staring at his engine and looking in great despair. At least he knew which end of the car the engine was in! The problem was that the engine would just not start, or go, and it had apparently just faded out on him and left him stranded, as I say. I applied my usual logical thinking. Sparks at the plus lead ñ yes; possibly no fuel then, did it smell of petrol? No, it didn’t. OK, I then have a hunch that it’s going to be the carburettor. Float chamber is full of petrol, when I unscrew the chamber cover. Hmmmm. Take main jet out from bottom of carburettor, and hold it up to the light. Aha! The main jet is blocked with a small piece of metallic swarf. It could not have come through the mesh filter, so it must have been in the carburettor some while, and just become mobile, for no particular reason. I blew it out and it cleared. Let’s try the starter then ñ it churns for a while, then Vroom Vroom! What a happy man the owner was! 


Sad to think those days are gone, unless you’re doing the London to Brighton run, and have to stop and grind an exhaust valve in using grit from the roadside and a bit of your own spit to make some makeshift grinding paste, when you’re only half way to Brighton. What will the present younger generation think, when it’s gone all-electric in 30 years time, or maybe even less? Not much chance then of getting your hands dirty under the bonnet ñ but a decent chance of getting electrocuted, if you start fiddling, and don’t know what you’re doing! Wonder if Diesel Car will still be around? Hope so!


Happy Days Doc! 

Bill Bowers


Happy days indeed Bill, but I’m not so nostalgic that I don’t appreciate many of the benefits of modern cars. It’s such a shame to me though that we’re having to run them on such a run-down road network. I would happily sacrifice some of the technology for better road surfaces and improved road management. I just don’t know how some of our readers manage to tolerate some of the urban congestion, day after day, week after week. It’s no surprise that pollution is getting worse in some cities ñ the traffic is at a standstill for so much of the time, including buses and taxis. What people don’t seem to realise is that vehicle emissions are measured, and regulated, in terms of milligrams, or micrograms, per kilometre travelled. If any road vehicle is shuffling along in an endless queue at around 7 to 8mph average speed (the average speed of traffic in Greater London), then it stands to reason that it will put out a lot more pollution over two hours to cover 15 miles, than at 30mph for just half an hour, or even at 15mph for an hour, and a lot more than the results from any test cycle than you could reasonably expect to use.



One Response

  1. Reminds me of taking my BSA Bantam from home (Cheshire) to college (Surrey). Had to stop midway for a service, reset points, timing and de-coke the spark plug.

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