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Dudd-ly Mechanic Skills
  |  First Published: February 2011



Me and a couple of my mates were heading west right back in the dim dark ‘80s. Those of you who were around in those ancient times might remember a cold snap that turned up. It was so cold in Toowoomba dogs froze onto power poles for days.

Me and a couple of mates, Choive and Duncan, were heading out west. We were driving my old HQ Kingswood (green, white roof 129km/h WOT) just west of Dalby on the old Condamine highway when the beast stopped cold. And I mean cold.

So the two soft buggers sat shivering in the belly of the beast while I tottered to the old servo up the road to ring Uncle Tommy. There were birds smacking into the ground all around me as they tried to fly from tree to tree. A wedgie just missed me and knocked over a guidepost behind me.

Anyway I knocked up and turned around to see how far I’d walked. Choive threw me a muesli bar and told me to get on with it. But at that moment a 6 tonne body truck pulled up. There wasn’t much traffic on the old Condi highway in those days. There were more elephants than cars. And there were no elephants. So old mate pulled up in his truck right in the middle of the road and asked with a yell what the problem was.

“Car stopped,” Duncs yelled back.

“Oh,” says old mate, “sounds like the pin in the rocker arm of the diaphragm of the fuel pump. Used to own a HQ.”

We looked at him like he was an alien. As students we knew very little about the workings of motorcars. He could have told us it had a broken leg and we would have believed him. But the pin in the rocker arm of the diaphragm of the fuel pump? Come on. Fair go.

So to prove us wrong, old mate got a bobby pin out of his glove box and took the fuel pump off. Oh sorry, first he lifted the bonnet. We didn’t know how to do that. And he jammed that pin into this glass bowl looking thing, bolted it back on, and turned the key.

Amazing. Four cylinders throbbed into life. Too bad it was a six cylinder engine. But it got us home. We gave old mate the Round Hound of Bundaberg Rum we’d been saving for a fishing trip out there. He drove off with me hoping he wasn’t a recovering alcoholic.

So what’s the point of this story? Well I think of that situation often. I thought of it the other day when Skipper’s tinniw stopped cold halfway round to German Creek. I turned the key but all I could hear was a horrible whining sound. I told Skipper to shut up. Just silence now. The old black anchor wasn’t sending out a single decibel.

So we did what all good Dudds would do in this dire emergency. Skipper took out his special tool box. I told him to put it away as the mossies were bad. Then he got a screwdriver out from its special position under the floor near the bilge pump.

Just like Bear Grills, we didn’t panic. As I said, we did what all good Dudds would do. We took the cover off the motor, congratulated each other at getting over the first hurdle, and went about finding screws. Once we’d found a screw we took it. When we took enough screws out, some metal things fell off the motor. When we got sick of doing that, we put the metal things back in place and put the screws back in.

I turned the key. This time there was a gentle burble and a cloud of greasy smoke. Skipper apologised. I found the kill switch was on so I fixed that and cranked her up.

Success!

So now I know there are no limits to my abilities with motors. All you have to do is take things off, look at them, and then put them back on again. Easy. But I have to admit, if there’s anything more to it than that, we’re in trouble.

Except if the boat’s powered by an old Holden 202… and it stops suddenly… and I’ve got a bobby pin sitting around somewhere… and a bloke in a truck drives past.

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