Trouble in Beetle Land


May 31: 002On an earlier post (Driving at Night in Zululand) I had bragged that Stewball was doing fine. Our only problems had been a tire puncture and a hood latch to tighten. Well, that all came to an end.

Day 9: Fuel pump failure. 005We left our most wonderful stop at Sabi Sands just north of the Kruger National Park. We had a day off there and on the safari drives saw and photographed more African animals up close in their own environment than we ever imagined. 049(That’s a blog of its own.) Now about half way through the day, just after fueling, we pulled out into the road and the car stopped. We coasted to the side of the road and Ed began to explore the cause. Shortly Greg and Liz from Australia, in their 1980 Holden, stopped to help.  Coming to the aid of anyone in distress, is part of rallying. We all do it and we had our chance to help others along the way. Diagnosis: failed fuel pump. No problem,  we were carrying a spare. In less than 1/2 hour later, having made new friends, we were back on the road. Sometimes you do have the right spare part.

Day 12: Gear shift linkage failure: 049We had spent the night before in a tent in the Matopos National Park in Zimbabwe. Not an experience we want to repeat but definitely worth writing about. We were now headed to Victoria Falls and a day off. 016Jan was driving. Driving in Zimbabwe is tense (more on that later). It was late in the day and she first thought she was just tired and anxious but she was having problems changing gears. She kept saying, “What am I doing wrong? I can’t find the gear and I’m  not doing anything different from what I always do.” Finally she asked me to drive. It was immediately obvious that the gear shift lever had developed so much free-play that I could barely drive. If this was an internal transmission problem this might put us out of the rally all together. By the time we hit the city, I had no reverse and finding the low gears was a repeated challenge, just as I had to deal with stop signs and turns. We have great backup by the rally mechanics. Andy came the rescue. He is one of the best and ingenious mechanics I have ever known. All the drivers depend on him. I think he can make anything out of nearly nothing for these old cars. Fortunately for us, the problem was external, it was the gear shift linkage and Andy fabricated a bushing from a br003onze sleeve and plastic. We were good to go when the rally started up on the 14th day.

Day 14: Total failure of service brakes. We crossed the border into Botswana. No problem  there, then the brakes seemed soft. First I added brake fluid. Yes, I carried some. But then they failed completely. I drove the rest of the day using the hand-brake. Fortunately, the V-Dub has great hand-brakes that work off the back drive wheels. It’s a bit tricky, but safe if you’re careful. Fortunately this day was  on mostly flat roads. Turned out the brake failure was my fault. On the return from Alaska, the trucker placed the tie-down over the brake line. When I repaired it, I routed the hydraulic tube too close to the shock absorber and it had rubbed through causing all the brake fluid to run out. 024

Andy to the rescue again. He fabricated a part, replaced the tube and we were good to go. From this point on, we had no further problems. Unlike some of the other cars. Four cars were unable to finish the rally and one had dropped out for most of two days getting the front axle welded.

Day 26: Driving to the warehouse. Stewball was difficult to start and running rough. I think it may be the automatic choke. He needs a good rest, lots of TLC and a complete going over by our VW service expert. He deserves it. This rally alone has covered over 5,000  miles and the gravel and dirt roads throughout Namibia have taken their toll 003

and I admit, I did the very minimum of maintenance. I only changed the oil-bath air cleaner once. 

025The engine is VERY dirty and is the inside and out of the car. 032He can rest on his ocean voyage and when we pick him up from the port in Savannah, we will drive directly to Bob Hicks, VW service in Durham.

Ed, Jan and Stewball

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About ejhowle23

Authors and adventurers, participated in the World Race 2011, an automobile rally from New York to Paris, crossing three continents and 14,000 land miles. Following much the same route as the setting for our debut novel, The Long Road to Paris. This blog describes our own adventures and challenges. And now you can follow our Bahamas sailing adventure that provides the setting for our second novel, Night Watch. Our next car rally, the African Safari Challenge, crossing five countries begins in South Africa, May 2014.
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One Response to Trouble in Beetle Land

  1. TBC says:

    Not many who are 46 mechanical years old (more or less) that would do as well as trusty Stewball. How many miles has he now acquired? Stewball needs a good bath, engine steam, and several coats of lovingly applied designed-for-the-likes-of-Stewball Zymol.

    It is great to have you home!

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