Alas, it’s that time of year.  The 2010/11 winter is coming.  The nights are drawing in and it’s time put the bus to beddie byes for a few months.

The bus doesn’t have any heating (that works), so apart from it being cold to drive, it’s almost impossible to keep the windscreen clear from misting over with condensation.  Combine that with the pathetically weak lights and the not so brilliant brakes and it really makes no sense to keep driving the thing through the winter.  Otherwise we’d be out there camping every winter weekend, naturally.

Time to get the mothballs out.

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On The Bonce son.  High as you can

Allow me to introduce you to the game of “Bonceheads”.  Get hold of something, it could be anything, throw it into the air as high as you can and then let it hit you on head – or to be more precise – your BonceHead. 

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We’ve been dreading this.  It’s MoT day (2010).  In fact it’s overdue a couple of weeks.  So what prospects can you have for a 37 year old hunk of metal petrol smoking set of wheels?  Who knew what lay in store.  So the bus’s next trip was in the lap of the Gods.  Let’s hope they’re not in the mood for playing with VW campervans.

I already knew the brakes were a bit rubbish but other than that who knows.  A few hours later the call from the garage came through. 

“Your brakes are rubbish”. 

Thanks for that.  Anything else? 

“Your windscreen wipers are pants and your full beams don’t work”. 

Anything else? 

“You’ve got no windscreen wiper wash”

You can fail on that?


Anything else?

“Nope.  That’s it.” 

That’s it? 

“That’s it”

Well it could have been worse.  A few warnings about rust or something or other but that really was it. 

I believe that as a bus owner there is a code of honour that says that you should at least have a go at fixing it yourself first.  Bring it on. 

New wiper blades were ordered.  They didn’t fit.  Posted them back.  Got on the blower to the suppliers to see if they could source me a pair of blades to fit a 1974 Aussie build T2.  They were helpful and really narrowed my search.  “Have you tried ebay?”.  Great idea, thanks, never thought of that brainwave.  Next stop Halfords.  A cheap pair of ‘any old car’ blades later, stripped down to the bits I needed and we were wiper blade compliant. 

All the wipers needed now was water from the water squisher reservoir- the thing to help clean the windscreen.  This didn’t work.  Turned out the water pipes were not connected, but they were still there.  They were perished and brittle but fitted back OK.

Lights – no full beams.  I’d noticed this but hadn’t figured out what was wrong.  I bought a new light relay – that didn’t do the trick.  I learnt some German to translate the German VW wiring diagram I’d downloaded.  The problem was with my blinkeruns apparently.  It was about now that I really started to learn how to use my electronic volt/amp/watt reader thing properly and eventually I worked out that all it needed was an earth connection on to the car body from the full-beam stick on the steering wheel .  That was it.  And not only that, my indicators began to work properly too.  You know how the indicator arm clicks back into position once you’ve finished turning the wheel – well that had stopped working but now it worked again too. 

Brakes.  Well the rear ones registered so low on the MoT machine they may as well not have been there.  The solution was simple – bleed the little bleeders.  I borrowed one of those bleeding kits from Dodge City[1] and bled them till all the bleeding was done.  Back off to the garage for the retest. 

Lights?  Check

Wiper blades?  Check

Windscreen wash?  Check

Brakes?  “Your brakes are still rubbish.  Fail”

I left the garage a little dejected.  The brakes had got better but were still miles off a pass.  As I pulled out of the garage forecourt the comedy slapstick farce kicked in as the rubbishy perished brittle windscreen wiper pipes split and came adrift of the steering wheel control, spraying gallons of pressurised water all over me.  I looked like I’d wet myself [2].  Well at least they worked during the retest for the one last go they had in them.  New pipes were ordered and that’s that fixed.

The brakes were still a problem.  I got searching online – something I’m not very good at, but through (the suppliers who told me to go to ebay) I found a video of how to take your brakes apart, give them an overhaul and put them back together again.  So laptop at hand I set about dismantling the wheels.  It took me ages first time, but really the brakes are quite simple.  In my quest I found a little spacer bar had slipped out of place effectively rendering the brakes useless.  With that popped back into place it was back to the garage for the re-retest. 

Brakes?  Check

Marvellous stuff.  First MoT.  First Fail  First self-fix.  First Pass. 

Unofficially I had joined the ranks of self-maintenance.  What an honour. 

[1] Dodge City – more of a person than a place.  I think he may have been mentioned before on these here pages. 

[2] I didn’t wet myself, but I could have done if I’d wanted too – nobody would have noticed.  Apart from the smell maybe, and perhaps the steam.