30 October, 2006

Mechanical sympathy

Yes it's been doing the rounds approximately since John the Baptist got his Triumph Herald up on ramps in front of his flat in Palestine, but there's a reason it won't go away - it's true dammit.

For those of us that have ever used a Haynes Manual in attempting home maintenance of a car or motorcycle.

For those who have not used a Haynes Manual, these are the books aimed at owners who want to fix their own vehicle and which keep qualified mechanics in paid employment putting things right afterwards. They are chock full of photos, diagrams and step-by-step instructions which are obvious if you are a fully qualified motor mechanic, but which are frighteningly sparse on detail for the average Joe in the street who wants to change a set of spark plugs on a 1981 VW Polo...

Haynes: Rotate anticlockwise.
Translation: Clamp with molegrips then beat repeatedly with hammer anticlockwise. You do know which way is anticlockwise, don't you?

Haynes: Should remove easily.
Translation: Will be corroded into place... clamp with adjustable wrench then beat repeatedly with a hammer.

Haynes: This is a snug fit.
Translation: You will skin your knuckles... Clamp with adjustable wrench then beat repeatedly with hammer.

Haynes: This is a tight fit.
Translation: Not a hope in hell matey... Clamp with adjustable wrench then beat repeatedly with hammer.

Haynes: As described in Chapter 7...
Translation: That'll teach you not to read through before you start, now you are looking at scary photos of the inside of a gearbox.

Haynes: Pry...
Translation: Hammer a screwdriver into...

Haynes: Undo...
Translation: Go buy a tin of WD40 (catering size).

Haynes: Ease ...
Translation: Apply superhuman strength to...

Haynes: Retain tiny spring...
Translation: "what the f*ck was that, it nearly had my eye out"!

Haynes: Press and rotate to remove bulb...
Translation: OK - that's the glass bit off, now fetch some good pliers to dig out the bayonet part and remaining glass shards.

Haynes: Lightly...
Translation: Start off lightly and build up till the veins on your forehead are throbbing then re-check the manual because what you are doing now cannot be considered "lightly".

Haynes: Weekly checks...
Translation: If it isn't broken don't fix it!

Haynes: Routine maintenance...
Translation: If it isn't broken... it's about to be!

Haynes: One spanner rating (simple).
Translation: Your Mum could do this... so how did you manage to botch it up?

Haynes: Two spanner rating.
Translation: Now you may think that you can do this because two is a low, tiny, ikkle number... but you also thought that the wiring diagram was a map of the Tokyo underground (in fact that would have been more use to you).

Haynes: Three spanner rating (intermediate).
Translation: Make sure you won't need your car for a couple of days and that your AA cover includes Home Start.

Haynes: Four spanner rating.
Translation: You are seriously considering this aren't you, you pleb!

Haynes: Five spanner rating (expert).
Translation: OK - but don't expect us to ride it afterwards!
Translation #2: Don't ever carry your loved ones in it again and don't mention it to your insurance company.

Haynes: If not, you can fabricate your own special tool like this...
Translation: Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!

Haynes: Compress...
Translation: Squeeze with all your might, jump up and down on, swear at, throw at the garage wall, then search for it in the dark corner of the garage whilst muttering "******" repeatedly under your breath.

Haynes: Inspect...
Translation: Squint at really hard and pretend you know what you are looking at, then declare in a loud knowing voice to your wife "Yep, as I thought, it's going to need a new one"!

Haynes: Carefully...
Translation: You are about to cut yourself!

Haynes: Retaining nut...
Translation: Yes, that's it, that big spherical blob of rust.

Haynes: Get an assistant...
Translation: Prepare to humiliate yourself in front of someone you know.

Haynes: Turning the engine will be easier with the spark plugs removed.
Translation: However, starting the engine afterwards will be much harder. Once that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach has subsided, you can start to feel deeply ashamed as you gingerly refit the spark plugs.

Haynes: Refitting is the reverse sequence to removal.
Translation: But you swear in different places.

Haynes: Prise away plastic locating pegs...
Translation: Snap off...

Haynes: Using a suitable drift or pin-punch...
Translation: The biggest nail in your tool box isn't a suitable drift!

Haynes: Everyday toolkit
Translation: Ensure you have an RAC Card & Mobile Phone

Haynes: Apply moderate heat...
Translation: Placing your mouth near it and huffing isn't moderate heat. Translation #2: Heat up until glowing red, if it still doesn't come undone use a hacksaw.

Haynes: Apply moderate heat...
Translation: Unless you have a blast furnace, don't bother. Clamp with adjustable wrench then beat repeatedly with hammer.

Haynes: Index
Translation: List of all the things in the book bar the thing you want to do!

Haynes: Remove oil filter using an oil filter chain wrench or length of bicycle chain.
Translation: Stick a screwdriver through it and beat handle repeatedly with a hammer.

Haynes: Replace old gasket with a new one.
Translation: I know I've got a tube of glue around here somewhere.

Haynes: Grease well before refitting.
Translation: Spend an hour searching for your tub of grease before chancing upon a bottle of washing-up liquid. Wipe some congealed washing up liquid from the dispenser nozzle and use that since it's got a similar texture and will probably get you to Halfords to buy some Castrol grease.

Haynes: See illustration for details
Translation: None of the illustrations notes will match the pictured exploded, numbered parts. The unit illustrated is from a previous or variant model. The actual location of the unit is never given. The best one I encountered was how to change a brake sensor in a Ford Fiesta Popular Plus. The photo showing the location of the unit failed to mention the crucial detail of whether the item was located in the engine compartment or inside the car... and the helpful photo of what the thing looked like didn't give the reader any clues!


HAMMER: Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer is nowadays used as a kind of divining rod to locate expensive parts not far from the object we are trying to hit.

MECHANIC'S KNIFE: Used to open and slice through the contents of cardboard cartons delivered to your front door; works particularly well on boxes containing seats and motorcycle jackets.

ELECTRIC HAND DRILL: Normally used for spinning steel Pop rivets in their holes until you die of old age, but it also works great for drilling mounting holes just above the brake line that goes to the rear wheel.

PLIERS: Used to round off bolt heads.

HACKSAW: One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouija board princ iple. It transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable motion, and the more you attempt to influence its course, the more dismal your future becomes.

MOLE-GRIPS/ADJUSTABLE WRENCH: Used to round off bolt heads. If nothing else is available, they can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.

OXYACETELENE TORCH: Used almost entirely for lighting various flammable objects in your garage on fire. Also handy for igniting the grease inside a brake-drum you're trying to get the bearing race out of.

WHITWORTH SOCKETS: Once used for working on older cars and motorcycles, they are now used mainly for impersonating that 9/16 or 1/2 socket you've been searching for for the last 15 minutes.

DRILL PRESS: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the chest and flings your beer across the room, splattering it against that freshly painted part you were drying.

WIRE WHEEL: Cleans rust off old bolts and then throws them somewhere under the workbench with the speed of light. Also removes fingerprint whorls and hard-earned guitar callouses in about the time it takes you to say, "F...."

HYDRAULIC FLOOR JACK: Used for lowering car to the ground after you have installed your new front disk brake setup, trapping the jack handle firmly under the front wing.

EIGHT-FOOT LONG PINE 2X4: Used for levering a car upward off a hydraulic jack.

TWEEZERS: A tool for removing wood splinters.

PHONE: Tool for calling your neighbour to see if he has another hydraulic floor jack.

SNAP-ON GASKET SCRAPER: Theoretically useful as a sandwich tool for spreading mayonnaise; used mainly for getting dog-doo off your boot.

BOLT AND STUD EXTRACTOR: A tool that snaps off in bolt holes and is ten times harder than any known drill bit.

TIMING LIGHT: A stroboscopic instrument for illuminating grease buildup.

TWO-TON HYDRAULIC ENGINE HOIST: A handy tool for testing the tensile strength of ground straps and brake lines you may have forgotten to disconnect.

CRAFTSMAN 1/2 x 16-INCH SCREWDRIVER: A large motor mount prying tool that inexplicably has an accurately machined screwdriver tip on the end without the handle.

BATTERY ELECTROLYTE TESTER: A handy tool for transferring sulfuric acid from a car battery to the inside of your toolbox after determining that your battery is dead as a doornail, just as you thought.


INSPECTION LIGHT: The mechanic's own tanning booth. Sometimes called a drop light, it is a good source of vitamin D, "the sunshine vitamin," which is not otherwise found under cars at night. Health benefits aside, its main purpose is to consume 40-watt light bulbs at about the same rate as 105-mm howitzer shells during the Battle of the Bulge. More often dark than light, its name is somewhat misleading.

PHILLIPS SCREWDRIVER: Normally used to stab the lids of old-style paper- and-tin oil cans and splash oil on your shirt; can also be used, as the name implies, to round off Phillips screw heads.

AIR COMPRESSOR: A machine that takes energy produced in a fossil-fuel burning power plant 200 miles away and transforms it into compressed air that travels by hose to a pneumatic impact wrench that grips rusty bolts last tightened 30 years ago by someone in Dagenham, and rounds them off.

PRY (CROW) BAR: A tool used to crumple the metal surrounding that clip or bracket you needed to remove in order to replace a 50 pence part.

HOSE CUTTER: A tool used to cut hoses 1/2 inch too short.

29 October, 2006

Orders will be obeyed

It appears we've been less than genorous with our Germanic cousins in the past. We may have doubted their veracity when they pleaded "I voz chust obeying orders".

Unlike the wastrel Briton who, presented with an instruction reacts with a contemptuos shrug and a sarcastic comment under his breath, Johnny Bosch is made of sterner, more disciplined stuff.

Reuters report that twice this month German motorists have obeyed their SatNav systems with dubious results. An overly obedient Hun followed the command "Turn right now!" from his navigation system and crashed into a small toilet hut by the side of the road - about 30 yards before the crossing he was meant to take.

The 53-year-old from Freiburg drove his sport utility vehicle off the road onto into a building site, up a stairway and into the small toilet shack, police in the eastern town of Rudolstadt said Sunday.

It caused 2,000 euros ($2,500) worth of damage to the stairway, 100 euros damage to his car, and he was also fined 35 euros.

Earlier this month an 80-year-old motorist also chose to follow his navigation system and ignored a "closed for construction" sign on a Hamburg motorway. He then crashed into a pile of sand but neither he nor his passenger were injured.

Should we be worried that a spearhead of Audi drivers could be directed to Warsaw in hours?

24 October, 2006

c'est tres fort pimp auto, n'est pas?

Taking the bistro

Enjoying a post-work pint last night I witnessed some arse-clenchingly bad parking. Nothing particularly unusual about that you might say, stick around long enough and you'll see someone make a complete twat of a simple manouvre.

Then you my friend are a terrorist sympathiser and might just as well have blown up a bus yourself. If you are not living 24 - 7 in a start of terror-alertness then you may as well give up our holy war now, you make me sick.

Upon witnessing some twatish driving the good folk of Lincolnshire knew what to do. They immediately called the police, and reported that the driver, a foreign type, probably had a gun too.

Shocked diners watched as the man broke a window at La Fontana, on North Street in Bourneon Friday evening. Armed police were called at around 7.20pm.

Officers now believe the driver had been trying to reverse out of a difficult car parking space.

See the pic above to judge just how difficult that parking job must have been. You may reconsider letting the wife drive in future if you don't wish to die in a hail of bullets or get beaten to death by an angry mob of turnip farmers.

22 October, 2006


Dear EVO,
I hope issue 98 will not be recorded in years to come as the moment that EVO magazine 'jumped the shark' especially so close to an important anniversary but I'm afraid to say that's the feeling I had reading it.

Please don't dismiss this criticism as sour grapes, I like to think I've been there with the EVO'ista from early on, enjoying exhilarating photography and copy that really stood out from a jaded field. Perhaps it's in the nature of successful competitors to lose hunger and become the status quo they once railed against.

It certainly isn't your fault that in profile the Audi R8 is one of the dullest 'super'cars ever penned, but you didn't have to put it on the cover. When that cover also boasts "the thrill of driving" and the lead story is how you went to a car show and looked at a prototype the term 'taking the piss' does spring to mind.

Having fought my way past 35 pages advertising for Shell, (not counting the Ferrari Panamerica piece - partly funded by them) I certainly look forward to the next impartial report on fuel quality.

Sorry that was a low blow, sarcasm born out of frustration. It's your prerogative to take advertising from whomever you please. You've done well. I congratulate you. Nobody deserves the fruits of your success more, but if the result is a magazine that consists of puff-pieces and self congratulation then let's call it a day. It's been real. It's not you it's me. You know, people change, perhaps I need to see other magazines. We've drifted apart.

I'd like to think it's the just the 'difficult third album' stage, and that you can get past the hangers-on and rediscover why you got into it in the first place. Be honest what sounds better, two days throwing budget hot hatches around in grey Northamptonshire or a Ferrari launch in Nice? The answer could be more important than you think.


20 October, 2006

Fancia Lancia?

Lancias are a rare sight indeed on British roads, something to do with the fact that they withdrew from the market having garnered a somewhat chequered reputation. In our less than arid climate the buggers tended to dissolve at a rather alarming rate. The result is that most British petrolheads associate the brand with the brutally functional aesthetic of the Group B rally years, and tend to go misty eyed thinking about Delta HF Integrales "perhaps I'll get one that doesn't crumble into dust, it'd be so cool."

In fact the contemporary styling is nothing if not challenging - I'm a fan, if only because they're doing something brave, stylish and most of all different. I think they have a rather neo-gothic Dark Knight noir feel to them.

So with all that in mind I'm going to give Italian designer Enrico Fumia the benefit of the doubt as he offers his take on Lancia's future look. Who said Italians aren't brave?

15 October, 2006

Plain car

Yes Saab, you make planes too.

We get it.

Nobody is interested. Really.

Yet another agency briefing...

Bjorn: "You see Saab also manufacture jet planes"

Agency suit: "Yes we know. Every single advert ever made about your cars has referred to it. Have you considered a different approach?"

Bjorn: "But, y'know, jet planes?"

Suit: "Nobody cares. Saab's are bought by dentists who want a BMW but can't bring themselves to go for the obvious choice. They completely miss the irony that their own selection is as predictable as the seasons.

They think somehow they're making the sophisticated Scandinavian design choice, elegant understatement, knowing nods. And then some prick in a bar tells them they're driving a re-badged Vectra.

You do know that Kawasaki Heavy Industries Make military aircraft too?

Yeah, they also make power stations, supertankers, industrial plants, tractors, trains, heavy robots and aerospace equipment."

Bjorn: "Really?"

Suit: "Yes really."

Bjorn (writing cheque) : "So we can say how it was developed with jet fighter technology and have a wooshing jet sound"

Suit: "Of course"

10 October, 2006

Russian Tunnel

This Russian tunnel is the longest in-city example in Europe. With a river running over it water leaks at some points. When the temperature reaches -38 degrees the road freezes and the result is mayhem. This video is from a single day.

09 October, 2006

Genetically Modified Motors

Mostly when people talk about design and cars they actually mean styling. For example "That 70's Ferrari is a beautiful design" - No it isn't. The styling is sublime but it appears to have been designed for a double jointed ape with stubby legs and 2 metre arms. To put a tin lid on it it was then 'built' by some bolshy Italian plumbers, with old FIAT parts.

Where was I? Oh yes design. The current state of innovation and design in cars and bikes is poor, tough times mean that no manufacturer is willing to stick their neck out, leading to a tide of 'me-too' boxes. Of course it's exactly at such a time that a little bit of thought would stand out from the crowd, good design costs exactly the same as the bad stuff after all.

The new Vauxhall Corsa has a bumper that pulls out to form a rack for mountain bikes or snowboards, taking the number plate and lights with it. How fucking cool is that? Actually how fucking sad is that - a small piece of good design stands out like dog turd on a bowling green.

Vauxhall have been making mediocre bland 'me too' cars for well over a decade now (no the VX220 is a Lotus, accept it), but if they had the vision to insist that every new model had 5 ideas this good, this simple and this cheap within another decade they would have a brand envied and imitated all over the world.

And more importantly for their bottom line people would buy shitloads of them.

08 October, 2006

May need a little Febreeze

Why did the chicken cross the autobahn? Alas we shall never know, but if the owner of this Boxster purchased it because he thought it might attract the birds he was spot on.

Alternatively the chicken thought "Oh look a Porsche, well they're mostly driven by cocks..."

04 October, 2006

You came in that? You're braver than I thought

In what can charitably be called an unusual new promotion from Volkswagen USA any customer that buys or leases a 2007 Jetta, GTI, Rabbit (that's Golf to you and me), New Beetle and New Beetle Convertible will get a 'custom' guitar that can play through the car's audio system.

According to the PR "Each guitar is custom made to match the car itself: it comes in the same color and has the car's Vehicle Identification Number displayed on it"

Translates as "We had all the neckplates made with the VINs, when you select a car colour we'll pick the same colour body off the rack, and screw the neck on with the appropriate plate"

Keen guitarists will know it just doesn't get any more custom than this.

If the promotion is judged a success expect to see more painful niche marketing drives from hip marketers.

Personalised kettle drums with every Porsche Cayenne, a very Lancastrian Banjolele built for your TVR (or should that be a Balalaika?). And of course free with every Peuugeot 207cc, a piccolo, can be pink if requested.

02 October, 2006

Car insurance

Some activities, including trackdays, hillclimbs and sprint events may not be covered under this policy.