The damage to the Vanguard’s engine was quite severe, and looked like it was going to be very expensive to repair. I had a problem – I had very little money or income.
Fortunately I had a friend who, apparently, knew all there was to know about fixing cars – he’d even changed his Dad’s sparkplugs for him once! He told me confidently that we could fix this thing ourselves, saving heaps of money. So I decided to enlist his help to do the job, and the next weekend we started work.
I borrowed a rope block and tackle from a neighbour, and we had a few spanners and tools between us. After draining the oil and water, I was surprised how easy it was to remove and dismantle the engine. In a few hours we had dozens of parts laying on the ground around us. We would remember where they all came from, of course; they were laid out on the ground close to where they came from… what could go wrong? Yeah, right!!!
When we’d finished dismantling it we examined the parts. The block/crank-case – the main body of the motor – had a fist-sized hole in one of its cylinders.

The con-rod that carried the piston up and down in that cylinder had sheared the bolt that held it to the crankshaft, damaging the con-rod and the crankshaft. Enquiries at the local garage revealed I’d need new bearings (curved shoes that fitted around the crankshaft for that con-rod), and the crankshaft would need to be re-ground to make it round again. I’d also need to have a patch welded over the hole in the block.
No worries; I ordered the new bearings, and asked the garage to machine the crankshaft and weld a patch over the hole. About a week later the two jobs were done, and my friend and I were ready to re-assemble the motor. We did this over the next few days, making sure all the bolts were nice and tight, then we lifted the motor back into its position and secured it. We were surprised to find we had several spare parts left over. None of them looked important, so we put them aside.
We replaced the oil and water and tried to start the car, fully expecting it to purr along quite nicely with the new parts fitted. But it didn’t. It refused to do anything but turn over with the starter motor. “Ahah, that’s the timing” said my wise friend. He made adjustments to something in the distributor and we re-tried. And again. And again.
Finally, since the battery was starting to struggle to turn the motor at all, we towed it to the garage for “final adjustments”. Next day, we went to pick it up, and were told we had made several errors, but these had been fixed, and the car was now running.
That night, we went cruising in the car, regaling our friends with stories of how we’d re-built the car and got it running again.
A week later, “bang… knock-knock-knock”… the same thing happened again. We asked the garage mechanic what could possibly have caused it. He asked if we had used a tension-wrench to tighten the bolts. I said no, but I was sure they were tight enough; we’d made sure of that! He excused himself for a few minutes, and we heard some laughter from the back rooms of the garage.Eventually he came out, poker faced, and told us we needed to use the tension wrench to ensure the bolts were neither too loose nor too tight, and we’d probably over-tightened them.
Back to the drawing board. Drain and lift out the motor. Dismantle it. Take parts of it to the garage. Re-machine the crankshaft and weld a patch on the block. Home again. Re-assemble it, then back for fine-tuning. A better job this time: no left-over parts.
This time it lasted several months, then the same problem. As I was moving to Melbourne the following week I decided to sell it, as-is, and cut my losses. Thus ended my first car-ownership experience.

Now read about other incidents with cars

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