A nose for things

By PG Jonker

[Also published on 29 November 2011 on Leisure Wheels’ blog.]

Some mechanics just inspire confidence. They’ve just got a nose for things, a skill honed by years of experience.

Theuns is one of these guys. He has been working on my cars for years now. As he is a one-man business (assisted by a competent team) it is a somewhat smaller concern than what one would expect from the agents. The incidental benefit of having a good relationship with a guy like Theuns is that he humours me when I pull into his workshop unannounced on a morning before work with some minor ailment to my car.

The downside of such a good relationship with your mechanic, of course, implies that you need to go there quite often to foster this relationship. That I have done. In fact, I keep on doing this. One never knows, you know.

For instance, my bakkie’s choke would play up and runs up the revs. Or there’s a clonking sound from my A160’s front wheel and Theuns saves the ball joint from coming loose after a previous workshop did not fit the bolt properly, and so on. It’s a bit like your platteland garage where oom Jannie quickly fixes you up and off you go again.

Recently Theuns did a major service on my 2004 Daihatsu Sirion. This included replacing brakes rear and front. Then shortly thereafter I got the smell of a hot iron every time I drove the car. Something was burning / overheating. I could not see anything, because shortly after you stop the smell would disappear. So I guessed it might be the brakes.

I jacked up the car just to feel how free the wheels were turning. And indeed, whereas the rear wheels would spin freely, the front wheels required a bit of an effort to get them running.

The next morning I pulled in at Stellenberg Motors. I stopped next to Theuns in his workshop and asked him whether he could smell anything. He could. I explained the experiment I did with the wheels, and that I already diagnosed the problem for him as the front brakes. And as he was the guy who recently worked on them, clearly he would have to jack up his quality control. So could he please have look….

“You’ve got a plastic bag stuck to your exhaust,” Theuns interrupted me. “Pull her on the lift.” I assured Theuns that it is not as simple as a plastic bag on the exhaust. I mean, I have mos done that little experiment jacking up the car and spinning the wheels and so on.

“It’s a plastic bag,” Theuns stubbornly insisted. “Your car is automatic, front wheel drive, and the front wheels will not run as freely as the rear wheels. Now I can’t tell you whether it’s Checkers or Spar, but I’m telling you it’s plastic on your exhaust.”

Mmmm…… Some people think they know everything. I pulled the car onto the lift and Theuns jacked her up. You’ll see, it’s not a plastic bag, it’s the brakes. I stood there tapping my toes while Theuns inspected.

“Here!” he called me over. The bag has since come loose, but the molten plastic was still evident, running from the lower part of the manifold and following the exhaust to the rear of the car. Theuns and one of his assistants quickly scraped the molten plastic off.

Problem solved.

I knew it would have been something small.