Adventure Manufactory

We love nothing more than buying a small old car from someone's grandmother and taking it on long road trips. How long? Far enough for even the main roads to get so bad one doesn't know the road from the field - bad enough that even the manufacturer will tell you are crazy to drive that car there. But don't get us wrong - we don't like trashing these cars. As anyone who has been on a long road trip (I am talking a few weeks at least) knows, the car becomes part of your soul and being. And in the case of our rallies, we auction them off for charity, so the better their condition, the happier everyone is at the end. So what do we do to make these cars drive the impossible journey with impressive ease?

Our first tip is to install a sump guard. It's not necessary if you drive your car like the grandmother you bought it from; but we don't see the fun in that! The sump guard is a exposed part of your car and breaking it will stop your road trip faster than telling an Uzbek border guard you think Kyrgyzstan is the best country on the planet.
Azad is the man with the welder.

So what is the sump and why does it need guarding?
The engine sump, or oil pan, is the reservoir at the base of the engine that holds the engine oil. If you stick your head under your car, you can see it sticking out from under the crank case (at the base) of your engine. The oil it holds is essential for lubricating, cooling and cleaning your engine. Its lowly position in the engine bay puts it right next to the potholes and rocks you are speeding over and a good knock can crack it or break a bolt or three - goodbye to your oil! You may then hear some awful knocking or just silently lose power, most likely both at once. But whatever it sounds like, your engine will quickly drain of oil and seize up never to start again.

Oh! So what is the best way to guard this sump?
We once rang Daihatsu to ask them about commercial sump guards as we were having trouble finding one. They said "What!?! You can't put a sump guard on a Cuore, they are too small and anyway, they don't go anywhere where they would need one". Obviously, we disagreed with this last point so set about custom making one. Here it is if your car doesn't have factory made guards:
A nicely shaped custom guard.
  1. Find a friend with access to some sheet metal and buy him a beer for getting you a piece about the size of your engine bay. 3mm thick is plenty.
  2. Find a friend with a welder and the appropriate skills – if it is the same friend from step one, buy him another beer for being such a top mate. If not, buy him a beer for having a welder.
  3. Cut the sheet metal to the size of the engine bay. You will need to weld it below the engine to the chassis (car frame) on each side of the engine bay and probably at the front of the bay too – use your judgment here in deciding the shape of the plate. It just needs to cover the sump and reach anywhere there is a firm bit of chassis to either bolt or weld the metal sheet to and make sure there are enough contact points to hold the sheet when it hits its 100th pothole.
  4. Weld and / or bolt the sheet to the chassis. Just check that there is enough space between the sheet and the sump. If not, you may need to get a bit more creative in making a frame to go around it and shape the metal to this.
  5. Done. Worry free motoring in the land of the potholes is awaiting you!
And what happens if we do break the sump?
If you recognise the symptoms and stop early enough, you maybe able to repair it. To do this, you will need to find a welder to seal the crack (we bet you won't be able to find the appropriate spare part where you are going to be breaking down). But first, you need to get to the welder and that may be some distance! So here are some tips we have seen work with varying success, or
lack thereof:
  • Wait for a tow. The sensible and recommended choice. We have amassed a good collection of roadside games over the years and you will need them to avoid a death of boredom, but that is another story.
  • Find an old battery, beat out the lead inside it and melt it over a fire – use a metal hub cap as a pan if necessary. Pour said melted lead over the crack and hope it doesn't melt again before the next town.
  • This one is story on its own. In Kyrgyzstan, we had a hole in the exhaust, right near the engine and it was killing all the power. The next town we reached had one mechanic who was closed. Luckily, he was at his workshop, but had no key to get in. He wore a fantastic traditional overcoat, beautifully detailed and warm enough to ward off the approaching winter. He looked like just the wizard we needed to do the job. "Tools", he indicated, "who needs them". He asked us if we had a saw, as he needed to cut the muffler, which we didn't. But he had a regular bread knife and spend a good deal of time making great success of the required cuts in the metal with this. Awesome to see. Next he needed a welder, essential for joining and sealing two bits of metal, but there was none. No problem for these wizard mechanics of the Central Asian steppes. He asked us if we had wire, which we didn't so he spent the next 15 minutes walking along the roadside collecting wire, rag, plastic, anything that had potential as a spare part. With this, he stuffed, burnt and belted the exhaust back together. We don't have any idea how he did this, but the moral of this story is if you, with the tubes of silicon, Swiss Army knives, duct tape and zip ties you have packed can't come up with a way to somehow block the crack in the sump long enough to make it to the next town, refer back to the first point: wait for a tow!
So there it is. You can now break anything you like on your car excluding the sump! This kind of mechanical work is an art, not a science and imagination and ingenuity greatly outweigh mechanical expertise in these matters. We certainly have to rely on our crazy ideas rather than our (lack of) mechanical knowledge.

Have you ever had any mechanical issues in an automobile association deprived region and done your own make-shift repairs? We hope so! And would love to hear how you got moving again - share your stories below!

Happy and safe motoring! 

Rupert T.A.M.



7 Responses so far.

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