Category “English – Wheels stories”

There’s a Harley on my Stoep

Monday, 25 October, 2021

We have friends.  No, really.

Some of them just can’t sit still, and keep on coming up with ideas on how to pass the time.  Things like going for a 13km mountain run.  Or more sedately, visit a wine farm and stomp grapes to make our own wine.  (They clearly never heard of feet fungi, but let’s not go there.)

So they landed us some daddy deal (we’re not spring chickens, you know) to go on a Harley Davidson bike ride in the Cape Town Peninsula with Cape Corporate Harley Tours.  That sounded remarkably less tiresome than going for a 13km mountain run in Elgin, so we decided to force ourselves and join in the fun.


So on a glorious Sunday morning in October we travelled out to Camps Bay.  The rendezvous point was for ease of reference given with proximity to a rather splendid hotel in Camps Bay. For those not familiar with the place, Camps Bay is not too scruffy a place to stay.   It’s different from, say, Brakpan.  It’s a lot closer to the sea.

I was not involved in the arrangements, so I just headed for said hotel, trooped into the hotel with my family, and duly announced our presence.  I noticed against the wall a large collage with pictures of princes, models, actors and the like that I assume make up the clientele of the establishment.

Come to think of it, years ago holidaying at the (very) small town of Gouritsmond I participated in a Mr Legs competition, and ended up being awarded the Mr Personality accolade.  I’m still undecided as to whether I should take it as a compliment, or simply accept the snub and move on.

Sorry, I digress, but I just thought to make the point that I’m quite capable to hold my own amongst international models, given my own extensive experience as stated above.

Anyway, although slightly bemused, the staff at the hotel reception was quite graceful about this and let us hang around the foyer, basking in the reflected glory of the other guests.  We did eventually gather that we’re not supposed to be inside the hotel, but that the basic benches outside where the bike parking is demarcated, that’s actually the spot to be.  It just happened to be next to the entrance to the hotel.

So we discretely left the hotel in dignified fashion.

Enter the Harley team

Well, it was good preparation.  The bikes turned out to be on par, as were our hosts.  One of the couples in the group did the self-ride option.  The rest of us each opted for a bike (or rider) of our choice.

We were given a few basic rules to adhere to (don’t get off the bikes at speed, don’t interfere with the driver).

And off we went.

The riders were themselves not teenagers anymore, so it was a mature and relaxed crowd. So was the ride.

The Harley experience commences when the bike is started.  I have read somewhere that Harley Davidson at one stage unsuccessfully tried to register a trademark on the typical pute-pe-pute sound of their motorbikes.  Then there are the looks of the Harleys.  I guess the combination of the sound and looks is the thing that cause people to stand still and watch (and take pictures) as we travelled past.

The ride took us from Camps Bay, through Bakoven, and then further South on the scenic road with the mountain on one side and the ocean on the other side.  At Llundudno the route swings to the left, going over the neck to Hout Bay, through Hout Bay and up the road to Chapman’s Peak up to the toll gate.  There we made a u-turn whereafter we stopped at a lookout point overlooking Hout Bay.

There we did the ‘been there dunnit’ pictures, behaved stupid and had fun.

From there we travelled back to the Hout Bay harbour where we attended the Bay Harbour Market for something to eat.

After a while at the Harbour Market, Eskom also came to the party and switched on the lights again.  We took it as a sign and decided it was time for the final ride back.

The ride has been unhurried.  None of us was in any event in a mood for racing, but I could nevertheless feel the power of the 1300 V2 animal I was on as we went up the incline leaving Hout Bay.

I liked this.  A lot, I’d say.

A touch of 4×4

Thursday, 30 June, 2016

This past holiday we stayed on a farm in the Klein Karoo – basically house sitting while the farmer is away on holiday.  We had friends over, and I took my friend for a look and see on the farm.  It’s been a while since my bakkie has done any off-roading, so I relished at the opportunity just to engage the transfer box for a change.

On the farm there is a kloof where the farmer made a road with a bulldozer a few years back.  Being a bit tied down with farming activities, though, the road was used seldom in the recent past.

It is a rather steep incline.  Low range is essential as a safety precaution against having to contend with a runaway vehicle.  Given recent rains I was uncertain whether it would be a good idea to drive down there.   So we stopped at the point of no return.  Once past this point you have to go down right to the end of the road to be able to turn around, except if you feel crazy enough to drive back in reverse.



After a cursory inspection I judged it safe to proceed.

The 3.4 liter petrol engine does not provide the braking capacity of a high compression diesel engine, so even in low range first gear some slight braking was still required to keep the speed in check.

I find it very frustrating that pictures just never give an indication of how steep an incline is.  Regardless of how I take them, the pictures is just never impressive enough  to convince the unenlightened reader.  The picture below maybe illustrates the incline more clearly.  It shows two fourteen year olds walking down the road, doing battle to keep their balance.


After traversing the steep  incline around two sharp bends, the road evens out below.  However, the further we went, the less it resembled a road.  At some places the road was totally obscured by trees and shrubs that have overgrown it.  Die pad

I had nothing with me that could cut or hack, and there was no escape route or place to turn around.  So the bakkie simply had to bash down the obstacles.   At least the general whereabouts of the road was still evident, so one could just point the bakkie’s nose in the right direction.


Eventually we reached the end of the road where there was place to turn the vehicle around again.

By that time the two side mirrors were pressed flat against the vehicle, and the body showed the marks of its battle with the flora.  We were fortunate to not also encounter some of the local fauna. A researcher has taken some very impressive pictures of leopards with her motion detector cameras on the exact spoor where we were travelling.


I know, you may ask ‘where are the pictures of the bakkie’.  No, there is none.  Whilst doing the trip, there was no time to consider that.  These pictures had been taken upon revisiting the kloof a few days later.  But then I thought it better to leave the vehicle at the last point where I could make a seventeen point turn, as is the ordinary turning circle of my bakkie.

In any event, just to get back to the story.  The return trip had the benefit that most of the obstructions had by then been subdued by some two tonnes of vehicle.  However, now it was uphill, instead of downhill.

After passing a little driffie, the bakkie got bogged down with all four wheels losing traction, bringing us to a grinding halt.  After the second attempt, my friend got out to guide me further.


I would probably have done better to also inspect the terrain myself, but first it was the driffie with water running, and I was not inclined on getting wet.  And then followed the obstruction which allowed for only one door to open, which happened to be the passenger door.

In any event,  sticking to the line as indicated by my friend, after a bit of spinning and broadsiding, we managed to get through.  At the time I felt that we barely gained enough traction to pull through, and that if that attempt was not successful, a bit of road building would be medically indicated.

However, upon returning to the spot on foot and taking these pictures, it is clear that I overestimated the severity of the terrain.  It is evident that any rental sedan car would have been able to traverse this little obstacle.…

Having fun with cars

Monday, 10 August, 2015

So I get this call from my son on my mobile phone one Sunday: “Halooo! I’ve been in an accident.”

And so starts a Sunday afternoon of fun.

I told Ouboet to just stay put (he said that was his plan) and not to allow anyone to tow him away other than the insurance appointed dude (he says he will).

I call the emergency line of the insurance company. I voice mail answers, taking her absolute time telling me how welcome I am at this particular facility, that all calls are recorded, and…..

OK, by then I stopped listening and decided this must be the wrong number. You can’t have such a docile response to emergencies. I terminated the call (if it was not my mobile I would have slammed down the phone just to make my point of course). I dialed the alternative (non-emergency) number I have for the insurance company. Aaaah! The same voice answers, telling me the same story.

Now understand, I’m slightly agitated. My son is standing at the roadside at a busy section of the N1, and I understood other cars were involved. I fear someone doing a local rendition of road rage, and I would want to get there as soon as possible.

Eventually the voice tells me to press 1 if I have an emergency or if I want to lodge a claim. Thank you! Incidentally I mos wish to do both. In their defense I must say that from there on things went pretty quick and smooth. They will send a tow truck.

I jumped in the car to drive out to the scene. I took my thirteen year old along so that he can man the WhatsApp for further communication with Ouboet. Kleinboet also has his mother’s iPad open on the maps function. “Just so you do not get lost,” was my wife’s parting words. Really, woman! I live here. I know this place.

OK, out on the N1 inbound to Cape Town. Ouboet advised that I must take the Sable Road bridge to get back on the N1 outbound. I do so. After a while I can see him standing. However, he is on the N1 proper, and I am on the connecting road running between Century City and the N1. I cannot get close to him. I can see there is another car, but no overt aggression is observed.

Now I need to get back on the N1 inbound, take the next bridge after Sable road, and repeat the exercise. Piece of cake, it will just take a bit of time.

The first bridge where I can do this is the connection with the N7. So I take the turn-off. But hey, this is wrong! Instead of heading to the bridge to cross over and get back on the N1 I find myself on the road heading to Malmesbury. @##$%!

Which way now. I turned left at the next road, now heading behind Century City in the direction of Milnerton. I missed the Sable road connection (well, I was not looking for it, really) and soon thereafter found myself in Milnerton. I turned left and now headed in the general direction of the N1. Traffic light red. Next traffic light red. Next traffic light green until I’m nearly there. Ysterplaat. Traffic light red.

Ouboet’s WhatsApp comes through: the truck is here.

This place must really be a red light district. Negotiating red light upon red light I eventually get on the N1 outbound. At least now I am in the lane that will take me to Ouboet.

We get there. No cars.


Kleinboet checks the WhatsApp. Ouboet is waiting at the N1 City MacDonalds. Good. Now just for the N1 City turnoff.

The first bridge is Monte Vista Boulevard. There is no board for N1 City yet, so that must be the next turn-off. Noooo! Just as I pass under the Monte Vista Boulevard bridge I realised I just missed the turn-off to N1 City. No problem. Just take the next turn-off.

No. Giel Basson does not allow access from Cape Town, only from the other direction. Aaaaaah!

Next bridge, Plattekloof. This time I get it right.

So I eventually arrived at N1 City. After a cursory inspection of the damage to the car and a quick word with Ouboet to check that he is OK, and with the driver of the tow truck, we are off again.

Sirion verklein

On the advice of the tow truck we head directly to the Maitland police station to report the accident.

On the way there I got filled in by Ouboet on what happened. The first car in a row of three cars suddenly slammed on brakes and came to a dead stop. In the middle lane, and for absolutely no discernible reason at all. The car behind him also slammed on the brakes and stopped. He obviously had a good reason to do so. And third in the row was Ouboet. He had to swerve not to collide with the car in front of him (that’s now the one with the good reason to stop).

Unfortunately Ouboet’s maneuver entailed a slight over correction, sending him into the rails, then up in the air in a 360 degree spin, and back on the tarmac. According to the guy in the car in front of him (the guy stayed with him until the tow truck came) he thought Ouboet would overshoot into the lane of N1 inbound traffic.

Fortunately not.

I sounds like it must have been an impressive sight. He must show me sometime.

Now Ouboet is a bit flustered. “I knew this was going to happen,” he lamented. “This weekend was just too good to last!”

“Aag, piss off, pessimist,” I tried to cheer him up.

“O ja, I told the insurance guy on the phone my driver’s licence expired yesterday, “ he mentioned.

“You what?!” Aha! Now I suddenly understood what could have made that first car slam on his brakes the way it did. “You idiot! I should have known this weekend was too good to last. What were you thinking?!”

So Ouboet took out his licence just to check the expiry date. “Oh, no, it’s OK. It only expires next week.”

“See, life isn’t all bad. What did …

Burn, Boobs & Battery

Thursday, 7 May, 2015


My bakkie just returned from a trip to AfrikaBurn. Without me, though. A bunch of biokinetics offered their trade as a gift at the Burn, and required transport to get them and their stuff there. So my bakkie was called up for patriotic duty.


I have never been to AfrikaBurn, but it seems like a rather interesting occasion. Testament thereto my friend who borrowed the bakkie sent me a picture of a nude lady on a bicycle taken at Afrikaburn. Being mos well mannered, I thanked him for the picture of the bicycle.

“What picture of the bicycle?” he asks.

“Hoe bedoel meneer dan nou? The one you just sent me.”

“Can’t be,” he said. “I sent you a picture of your bakkie.”

Upon revisiting the picture I actually found my bakkie on it. It was taken to commemorate the moment my bakkie arrived at AfrikaBurn. In my defence I have to add that the bakkie was not exactly centre in the picture, hence me focusing on the wrong part. Of the picture, I mean. My friend never noticed the (lady on the) bicycle when he took the picture, nor when he sent me the picture.

So he says.


But I digress. I know that the esteemed readers on this site would be more interested in mechanical stuff, so let me get to the actual purpose of my contribution. The return trip, I was subsequently advised, did not go exactly uneventful.

Upon returning from the AfrikaBurn, about 30km’s out on the road the bakkie’s radio suddenly stopped working. After a while the bakkie also stopped working. Sort of like a sympathy strike, verstaan. It died down, and would not respond to attempts to have it started. After jumping the battery from another AfrikaBurner on his way home, the bakkie started, and off they went again. After 20 km’s the same thing happened.Apparently the Calvinia-Ceres gravel road at that point in time looked like the N1 inbound to Cape Town on a normal working day. Only, the people were friendlier, and with the goodness and wellbeing of the Burn not yet sucked out of them by ordinary life. So there was no shortage of people stopping to assist.

One of these Samaritans then noticed a loose connection at the alternator. The recalcitrant set of cables was reconnected to the alternator, and off they went again. After a further 50 kilometres, the occupants of the bakkie started breathing normal again and event sat down with their full weight on the seats. Things were going well. In fact, it continued to go well for the rest of the journey, which included some two hour driving with headlights on. Eventually they arrived home safely. So it would appear that everything had been sorted by putting the cable back.

It just goes to show what it can do to an old dame when friendly hands mess around underneath her hood now and then, nuh.


Testing, testing, testing

But I needed to know for sure that the problem had been sorted.

The offending cable was subsequently been pointed out to me. I then tried to Google wiring diagrams to try to figure out what the purpose of that cable would be. But if you have difficulties changes a blown light bulb, these kinds of diagrams, apart from looking impressive, means absolutely nothing to you. I found the picture of my bakkie arriving at AfrikaBurn a lot more interesting. I could understand the beauty of it.

So I just popped in at my autolec where one of his assistants had a quick look at the wiring.

Albertus could immediately confirm to me that the combination of the two wires would have caused (a) the battery warning light not to work and (b) the battery not to charge. Nuh.

So I am happy to report that the problem has indeed been fixed.

I enjoy the simplicity of my bakkie. When she was manufactured in 1998 it was already old technology, it still being carburettor aspirated. But the problem is that I am not handy by any stretch of the imagination. So even something as simple as this stupid cable would cause me to get stuck next to the road. And if someone with a basic knowledge of things technical does not come to my assistance, then I would be stuck.

But then again, it is really something so simple, it can happen to any vehicle. I think I’ll just stick it out with her for another few years.

I want my wheelie

Friday, 24 January, 2014

by PG Jonker

I recently posted the story of me and my good pump on the website here.  That was, however, not the only travel woes I had on that holiday.



We holiday with a caravan once a year.  The first time I saw the caravan it was only a floor on a set of wheels.  Acting in faith, my brother-in-law and I bought the caravan, awaiting the builder to restore the caravan to its previous glory.  Which he did.  Now it’s 9 years later.  I have since bought out my brother-in-law.  Being rather hasty in nature, it drove him up the wall towing an obstacle along that slows him down as the caravan does.


Spare wheel

As part of the road worthy you need a spare wheel.  We got one as part of the deal, but it was clearly only to meet the legal requirement of having to have a spare wheel.  Whereas the caravan’s wheels are shod in 165’s, the spare wheel had a 185 tyre on.  Apart from being oversize, the tyre was perished; the running surface bulged in all directions.  Also, as my brother-in-law found out next to the road one day, the spare wheel did not fit, as the centre hole was too small.  That problem was subsequently fixed.  But still, my spare tyre was truly an emergency tyre.  If I had to use it, it would have caused an emergency.

In spite of my over cautious nature, this did not bother me.  Until two days before our departure this December.  I suddenly felt this real sense of urgency to have this tyre replaced with a real tyre.  So I rushed down to the local tyre guys and got me a new tyre.


On the road again

Two days later we departed.  We did so well with our packing that we scored a day.  So instead of leaving on Sunday morning, we left on Saturday morning just before seven.

The most stressful part of caravanning for me is getting the caravan out from behind my house.  I have very little space.  Also, it is downhill.  So it takes a concerted effort of the whole family to navigate the caravan out, and also to prevent it from running off on its own.  Once hitched, it takes me some 10 minutes to start relaxing as the bakkie’s big six burbles away softly.

Bakkie en karavaan

Shake, rattle and roll

So I just settled into being comfortable, when there was a loud bang, just about 5km’s before Paarl on the N1 outgoing.  In my left mirror I could see bits and pieces of tyre flying around.  The left tyre of the caravan had burst.

The caravan behaved nicely.  Pretty much like Ruth of the Bible, you know.  Where I went, there she went, without protesting or deviating from course.

It was a bad spot.  A rail on the left hand side of the road prevented me from pulling off completely, so I did the best I could to pull off as far as possible.  It was early Saturday morning, to the traffic was not too hectic, but still, it rattles one if you’re busy working on changing a wheel and you hear the noise of a large truck bearing down on you!

I got out my triangles and jack and set to work.  I did not even bother to do the kicking of the tyres-bit as is customary.  Firstly, I was in a bit of a hurry, and secondly, I did not want to break my foot; there was little rubber left to kick.

Now, I always wondered how one changes the wheel on a fully lade caravan next to the road.  Now I know.  With difficulty.


Jack of one trade

Because of a bad experience with my previous vehicle’s jack, the first thing I did after I bought my bakkie in 2001 was to get me a 4-ton hydraulic jack.  Now was the first time I got to put it in use.  It was still in the plastic, as I bought it.

At first I could not get the jack to move.  I fiddled with the mechanics a bit, undid a circlip thinking that might be required, but fortunately, before I could lose it, I realised that doing so would render the jack totally useless.  So I put it back.  It turned out that just a little bit of violence was needed to overcome the inertia on the jack on its maiden voyage.

Although I try not to overload my caravan, I had the peace of mind that my jack could lift 4 tons.  So off I went, pumping my jack.

Surprise!  The jack nearly reached its full extension before it started lifting the caravan.  So I had to alternate between the jack and the left rear corner steady to lift the caravan.  I later had to move the jack to another spot.  The slight decline in the road, and the fact that the caravan was in any event running at a bit of an angle to the caravan, assisted in eventually getting it lifted high enough to remove the wheel.

Gebarste band

Now I ask you:  who designs a 4 ton hydraulic jack that is so short that it would barely reach the underpinnings of an A-class Mercedes!  The caravan is somewhat lower than my bakkie, and I could barely make it.   I afterwards tried the jack on my bakkie, only to find that it reaches its full extension even before it can start lifting the bakkie!  Fortunately, in thirteen years’ time, I never had to use that jack!


On the road again – again

I was pretty nervous to get my rig out of the way, so I wrapped up the job and with my wife rendering sterling assistance, chucked everything back into the bakkie and the caravan’s nose cone.  Afterwards, though, it seemed that I was a bit too much in a hurry, as it turned out that I left one of my spanners next to the road.  The bakkie’s wheel spanner.  Not that it  is much of a loss.  My spare wheel is an Isuzu rim instead of a Mazda wheel, and the spanner does in any event not work on the Isuzu wheel.  I have an extra one.

Half past …

My kingdom for a good pump

Wednesday, 22 January, 2014

Also published on:

By PG Jonker

Returning from holiday 2013

A year ago, travelling home after holiday with my bakkie, with my caravan in tow, the engine on two occasions gave a violent jerk.  So violently that I thought it best to pull off to see whether the caravan’s brakes might have become stuck in some mysterious way.  I walked around the bakkie and the caravan, felt whether the caravan wheels were hot (they were not) and did the mandatory kicking of the wheels.  I’m not sure why, but as everyone always does it, it seemed like a good idea at the time.  Nothing noticeable happened though.   I took it as a good sign.

After that I travelled home without any further problems, putting the jerking down to an extreme headwind.  I never really thought of it again, until many months later.


Easter 2013

Easter weekend a friend borrowed my bakkie.  He called me from Botrivier and asked whether the bakkie is supposed to lose power and stutter uphill.  I advised him that, to my best knowledge, that was not how the manufacturers intended the engine to function.  I also suggested that he desist from driving like an asshole and that the matter should then take care of itself.

He did not have any further problems.  I just assume that my suggestion was taken seriously.  However, I did have the bakkie serviced and had the plugs and all that could have caused the jerking, checked out.


August 2013

Five months later, one stormy night, the bakkie spluttered to a standstill with my son on the N1 just outside Cape Town.  He was blissfully unaware of the danger in which he was, sitting in the bakkie at a point where a barrier prevented him from totally pulling off on the right hand side of the road.

Late that night the bakkie and my son were deposited at my front door by a flatbed truck.  The engine would swing merrily, but there was no fuel.  The fuel pump stopped working.


Pump 1(a)

As the fuel pump is situated in the tank, and as the replacement pump was quoted as R8000, my mechanic of more than a decade decided to rather fit an impeller pump in the fuel line under the bonnet.  This pump had a rather annoying whining sound that was audible up to 50km/h.  However, as it cost R330 instead of R8000 I was quite happy to live with it.

Sebring pomp

Yet, the next working day the bakkie died on me inside of the parking garage where I work.  My mechanic came and towed me in.  He concluded that the dead pump in the tank would not allow fuel through.

Oorspronklike pomp

Pump 1(b)

So now the tank had to come off in any event.  However, as the replacement pump would still cost R8000, I settled for the mechanic’s suggestion that he simply replaces the pump with a spacer.  For this purpose he used a fuel filter that incidentally turned out to be an exact fit into the rubber housing from which the pump was removed.


So now I was a happy traveler again.

After three months of uneventful travelling, the pump on a few occasions seemed unable to overcome the vacuum when cold.  After fiddling with the line a bit, though, it would start working again.  Until the Sunday a week before my departure for the December holiday.  Fortunately it died in my back yard.  Paaah!


Pump 2

OK, now the impeller pump was replaced by a much sturdier looking diaphragm pump.

Huco pomp

The mechanic advised me that the instruction manual to this pump states that, in the unlikely event of fuel starvation, the return pipe from the carburetor to the fuel tank should just be blanked off, and that this should then take care of the fuel starvation problem.  However, he never had it before, and he suggested that it should not be necessary.

The bakkie then ran like a charm.  We went off on holiday, and it was towing like a dream.  Problem solved.

Not so.


Returning from holiday 2014

Upon my return from holiday, once again with my caravan in tow, we encountered a heat wave in Worcester.  OK, for the folks living in Worcester it was probably a day just like any other summer’s day, but for ordinary people it was extremely hot.  I guess about 40 degrees.

And then, just as I gunned the bakkie over the bridge at the fire brigade, it gave a single violent jerk, and then proceeded in ordinary fashion again.

I immediately had that sinking feeling in my stomach.  You know, that “Aaag, nee my ***!”-feeling.

I’m 80km’s from home, I had my family with me, and both my bakkie and my caravan were fully laden.

After a pit stop at the garage we proceeded, but with me now driving with a very even right foot not to elicit any unwanted responses from the engine.  Halfway between Worcester and the Rawsonville weigh bridge I felt the engine losing power, and then there would again be a surge in power.

So now what?  We’re so close to home.  Do we see how far we go and hope we make it back home?  It might work out fine.  Or then again, it might not.  Imagine I get stuck inside the tunnel with my rig.  Or before the tunnel, in the searing heat, at a spot without cell phone reception.

We decided to rather play it safe, and pulled in at the Rawsonville weigh bridge.

Believe you me, even under that tree, with a mild wind blowing, it was extremely hot.  I’m tempted to give you the uncensored explanation of how hot it really was, but I will desist.

I had a chat with my mechanic on the phone then.  He reminded me of the blanking off of the return pipe.  However, there was no way that I would attempt even something ostensibly that simple without proper supervision.  In any event, my wife told me that, regardless of what I might try, she and the kids will wait at the weigh bridge for alternative transport.

Nou ja, one hour later the road side assistance guys knew where the Rawsonville weigh bridge is.  They will tow me in to Worcester, which is the …

Modern cars

Monday, 25 March, 2013

A few years ago I bought a (now) 11 years old Mercedes A160.

The first year the EML kept coming on pretty much on a monthly basis, sending me into panic stations every time.  See, all the rumors I’ve heard about electronic gismo’s on cars like this left me with the fear of forking out thousands of Rands getting it fixed.  Fortunately I have a mechanic who is willing to hook up his computer to the car once a month, try to interpret the fault codes, reset the thing, and not charge me for it.

It also turned out that if you fill the oil to the mark, you will get a buzzer and a light that warns you every now and then that your oil level is too low.  But just park at a decline, and the same buzzer and light comes on, this time with a warning message telling you the oil is too low.  Drain 500ml of oil, and the problem is fixed.

Eventually, by way of elimination and the application of common sense (the fault codes were pretty random and unclear) the mechanic figured out it must be the coil.  That was replaced and paid for by the Motorite warranty, and wala!  Problem solved.

Then a year later the EML started coming on again.  The mechanic suggested that we start repairing the accident damage on the car.  After purchasing it, it turned out that the car was in a front end collision.  Not that it bothered me too much.  I had very few cars in my lifetime that have not had a few knocks.  All the engine mountings had to be replaced as well as the steering rack ends.

After a month the EML came on again.  This time it seems to indicate that the lumber sensor needs to be replacement.  Mercedes SA would supply the part for R5000.  My mechanic can source me a generic one for R1000.  Surely it must be cheaper to unscrew the bulb?

But that’s not all.   Some jester had clearly been playing around in the factory when this car was built.  Sometimes when I reverse out of my garage, the BAS/ESP light and the ABS lights come on.  They always come on simultaneously.  Fortunately if I switch off the car and switch it on again, it will go out.

The other day we were driving and my wife wondered whether somebody might have had a flatulent escape due to a telltale smell in the car.  I could put her mind at rest that it is not the case.

This car will have a light for that too, trust me.…

That first time

Friday, 27 April, 2012

By PG Jonker

Having visited the Epupa falls with our Toyota Venture many years ago, we liked the taste of the remote travel.  However, I then decided that, for my own peace of mind, I should rather do such trips in a four wheel drive vehicle.  So I started looking for a 4×4.  Finding one is a story on its own, but eventually I took delivery of my second hand 1998 Mazda Magnum 3.4 V6 DC.

Have 4×4.  What now?

Bloubergkoppie, near Melkbosstrand, was then still open for the public.  It has since been closed for the public, unfortunately due toe abuse by those playing around with all sorts of vehicles, and in the process damaging the area.

My friend Bernhardt volunteered to take me on my maiden 4×4 drive.  So one Saturday morning we set out on my first 4×4 outing with my own (well, actually the bank’s) 4×4.

After deflating tyres Bernardt led the way on a sandy track running parallel with the pirloins, with him indicating with his arm up or down for high or low range, using his fingers to suggest the right gear. I may mention that he did use his index finger to indicate first gear.

The 3.5 V8 in Bernardt’s yellow 1984 Range Rover would have been as old technology as my carburetor fed 3.4 liter, and on par in terms of power delivery, so his gear indications were a fair reflection of what was required by my bakkie.

I love this kind of sand driving.  The V6 just rumbles on, and would seldom run out of power in first gear high range.

The first dune we got to had to be conquered.  It required speeding up the dune in the two spoor track, but then to lift off from the accelerator just as you get to the top due to the spoor making a sharp turn to the left so as to create oversteer to get around the bend.

Yes, I know, the dune looks like nothing on the picture.  And yes, it did not even compare with what the guys encounter doing the Namib desert crossing, but trust me, a photo never do justice to the incline on a track.

Being my first time I was a bit nervous.  Only years later did it strike me as fitting that Bernardt was also a practising psychologist.

As we progressed my confidence increased.  It is amazing the feeling of empowerment getting the hang of things.

At one stage Bernhardt’s kids got on his roof rack.  Contrary to my over-cautious nature, I allowed my two kids on the roof rack as well.  What were you thinking, dude!

But we were having great fun.  Bernhardt leading the way, with the kids waving happily on the roof rack.  The Range Rover disappeared over a dune.  When it came into sight again I saw the brake lights coming on, and Bernhardt jumping out of the car and running to the rear of the car.

It turned out that my 5-year old daughter got a bit carried away with waving at me that she forgot to hold on the roof rack.  On the next bounce she was flung off the roof.

Fortunately no harm done.  After blowing the sand out of her face, ears, nose, mouth and so on, she was fine again.

Moving higher and higher towards the top of Blouberg Hill we encountered firmer ground,  some steep hills and a few dongas as well.

Not sure whether I should negotiate on such deep donga spoke to myself:  “I’m not sure whether I should do this, my bakkie’s tummy might scrape here.”

“Please don’t, oom,” my nine-year old passenger agreed, “my tummy is also going to scrape if we go down here.”

Blouberg Hill has a bit of a history.  In 1652 the Dutch came the Cape.  Then the English took it from the Dutch.  Then the Dutch took it back.  Apparently that ticked the queen off a bit, and then the English took it back again.  The decisive battle in them regaining control over the Cape was the battle of Blouberg Hill in 1806.

During the second world war an observation post was built on the koppie to watch out for enemy ships.

I’m glad I could make it to Blouberg Hill before it became out-of-bounds.


Doing the Canca Fynbos 4×4 Eco trail – well, almost…

Friday, 27 January, 2012

By PG Jonker

Having previously done the Vleesbaai 4×4 route (and in the process causing substantial damage to his vehicle), brother Johnie decided this year’s visit to Gouritsmond calls for a different 4×4 route.

Kaap na Gouritsmond

[Source:   Map data ©2014 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

After consulting publications on the issue it turned out that the Canca Fynbos Echo 4×4 route is just around the corner from Gouritsmond Caravan Park.

After checking availability we arrived at Kippie Horn’s farm at around 11h00 the morning.  We were the only people visiting, and had the route for ourselves.  Kippie took us to the starting point of the route, gave us a route map and some directions, and off we went with the 3.2 liter petrol Landrover Freelander2 automatic.

Fynbos mecca

The route sports vast fynbos,


and also reeds (the stuff used for thatched roofs).

The reeds often grow close to roof height of the Freelander.  Some of these were found in the middelmannetjie, causing the driver not to be able to see anything but the one spoor in front of him.

Mind the puff

A short distance into the route we found a rather challenging bit of rock climb that required a bit of scouting around to decide which track is best.  We also saw it fit to re-organize some of the rocks in the road.

For the sake of a good picture I took up position a bit up the road to get a good shot.  At that stage I was not sure whether I should thank or curse Kippie for his parting words:  “just mind the puff adders.”

I don’t do snakes.  So I treaded very carefully stomping my feet just to alert any lazy bum snake that I am on my way – hoping he or she would perform the ultimate maneuver of self defense and run away.  It seemed to work, as I did not spot any snakes.  Well, not there.

Driving through eye high reeds we had a visit from a funny little gogga that looks just like the reed where he was probably knocked off from.

After taking a picture of him, Johnie gently put him back on a reed.

Where’s my mom?

However, only a few yards on, another one appeared.  This one was a bit smaller.  Maybe he came looking for his mom.  He was also duly and gently disposed of and put back on a reed.

The route map supplied by Kippie gave the route, and numbered markers at the various turn off points.  We successfully negotiated the route and turn offs at markers 2 and 3.  I suspect, however, that Kippie’s last visitor might have taken his numbered markers as souvenirs, as we did not see any further markers.

Getting lost

Travelling at 20km/h always makes it difficult to judge distance.  However, as we progressed we started to suspect that we missed some markers.  We did end up at dams and some wind pumps.  Although the map do indicate a wind pump, we by that time suspected that we were not on Kippie’s farm anymore.  We reached a point where it appeared that the farmer’s main crop was wind pumps.  Not all of them in working condition.

We were rather excited to see three Secretary birds on two different occasions.

The one was trotting in the road in front of us, a bit in the style of an ostrich.  We tried to inch closer for a better picture, but then the bird apparently perceived us to be too near for comfort he took off – markedly unlike an ostrich.

Our suspicions that we were not on the 4×4 route anymore appeared to be well founded when, instead of circling back to Kippie’s house, we ended up 17km’s to the West of the farm at the gravel road that connects Albertinia with the Stilbaai – Gouritsmond road.  By now we were probably a few farms away from where we started!

Now I was thinking:  if we can deviate 14 odd km’s over a 3 km stretch of tracks, can you imagine where we may end up if we do an African crossing!

On the road again

We decided not to head back.  For the last probably 14 km’s we did not know where we were, and going back the same road would probably not serve any purpose in making things clearer as to our whereabouts.

Heading out on the gravel road we saw a snake passing across the road in front of us.  I was sitting in the car, obviously.  It just goes to show that the stomping of the feet actually worked back on Kippie’s farm.  I handed my camera to Johnie and suggested he get out to take a nice picture of the snake.  He declined, citing the fact that he was driving the car as a reason for not wanting to get out.  He suggested that I do it.  It was, of course, a stupid suggestion.  I told him that I’m not really that into snakes and told the snake to hiss off, which it then duly did.

So we took the road and headed for the main gravel road between Stilbaai and Gourits.  We turned left again, now heading for Gourits.

However, shortly after we got on this main road, the GPS indicated a road to Gouritsmond that would take us along the sea.  So we duly turned right there, and followed the GPS’s instructions.

Getting lost – again

Eventually the road disappeared.  Sommer just like that.  Unfazed, the GPS indicated that we should not despair and simply proceed on the way as indicated.  But there was not road, zilts, nothing!  We decided against following the instructions of the GPS.  Our experience of navigating on Kippie’s farm did not exactly instill confidence in us for our navigational skills.  So instead, we took the next discernable track heading more or less in the direction of the sea.  This road eventually got us to a private residence, in the middle of nowhere.  Rather embarrassed we had no choice but to enter the erf where the house stood to make a u-turn – it was clear that this road also reached its end.

As a courtesy I got out to explain to the owner why we were trespassing on what was clearly private property.  …

Starter motor woes

Thursday, 5 January, 2012

By PG Jonker

Colin sent me a mail with a few suggestions regarding the problem I had (have) with my starter motor.  So I thought I’ll do a follow up on the previous story.

For quite a while I’ve had a starting hassle on my 1998 Mazda Magnum B3400 4×4 DC.  For more than a year I’ve had this occasional “hoi” from the starter when commanded to start the engine. Invariably on the second attempt the engine would start. So although I assume it was not designed to operate in this fashion, I’m rather forgiving of this old lady, given her 265 000km’s, so I was quite happy to proceed in this fashion.

But then I got invited on the Namaqua 4×4 trip, and I thought I’d better get the problem sorted. So off I went to the auto electrician to have the batter replaced.


No, sir, you’re battery is fine, but the alternator gives less than 12Volts through to the battery instead of more than 13 Volts, so that’s where the problem lies. Having run out of time by then before departure on the trip, the guys did not have time to rebuild my existing Lucas, and replaced it with an already rebuilt Bosch.

Three days later we departed on our trip. After 200km’s the new alternator developed a cannibalistic streak and ate up the new fan belt. Fortunately I was right at the turn off to Citrusdal where the local Toyota dealer was still open and managed to find a fan belt that he could more or less fit. More or less, because we had to put the bakkie in 5th gear and push it to get the crank moving so that he could get the belt on. I bought a spare. But actually I don’t do technical. It will be a lot simpler just to keep pantyhoses at hand rather than to attempt doing this job by myself.

“Hoi hoi hoi!”

OK, off we went. However, the bakkie in the meantime persisted with a “hoi” from the engine compartment. Mmm…. It was more acute when the engine worked hard.

During the course of the 4×4 trip I heard a funny kirri-ki-kirre sound which I thought might be from the transfer box. Back at home it turned out to be the pully of the alternator that was loose. Fortunately it held for the duration of the trip!


OK, but now I still have my starting problem. Back to the auto-electrician. Then started three days of fun at the workshop.

First they changed the battery to a bigger one (I knew mine is too small), but it did not solve the problem. Off came the starter [1]. A new solonoid was fitted, and it was put back on. Then it did not work at all. Off came the starter [2] and the solonoid replaced with some more reputable brand. Back on with the starter. It started the engine – but only after a merry “hoi”. Off came the starter [3]. A brand new one was ordered and put on. It made no difference. Off came the new starter [4]. Back on went the old one. No difference. Off came the starter [5].

Now they revisited the cables, reconnecting everything. Also it turned out that this starter is not the one that came with the bakkie. This one was kindly sourced from the scrapyard after my starter burnt out on a previous occasion – which was a rather interesting story for another occasion. So they added a further (armature?) winding to increase the output of the starter. Back up went the starter.

From then on it performed like clockwork – in the workshop.

So I went home. The few times I had to start it, it worked well. The next day I took a short trip with the bakkie. Upon starting it again, it said “kgggg” as the ratchet slipped. On the second attempt it started. Back home I stopped, and then started it again just to check. This time it made “hoi”, but unlike previous attempts, immediately went on to start the engine without me having to take a second shot at it.


So what is the problem then? A theory raised was that something (like water seeping through gaskets) might land on the piston, increasing compression, and causing the bendix to get stuck the first time. However, the bakkie does not use water.

So, after parting with quite a substantial amount of money for the replacement of the alternator and labour on the starter motor the problem is still with me.  The auto electrician promised me that the engine will not fail to start – in any event not due to any of the electrical components attended to.

Well, I now have peace of mind. It might be ill-founded peace of mind, but what the heck, as long as I have even false peace of mind I’m happy – one thing less to worry about!

Fortunately, given the age and (I’m told) technical simplicity of my bakkie, it should eventually be solved, if it is not yet solved.



But I’m curious as to the cause of the problem.