Before any long trip, I get the Jeep serviced, just to be on the safe side. This time when I called my usual Mahindra SA, he said don't, as he will be away at training. But then I needed just a routine check up, so he reluctantly agreed to have somebody else take care of it. Generally I don't give it to anybody else other than him, but this was urgent and a simple task of routine checkup and fixing the non-working horn. Not possible to screw it up, right? Wrong.
When I got the Jeep back and drove away, I noticed that the right turn tune was not working. But I was not sure whether the turn light working. Since I had to pick up my son from school, there was no way I could go back to the workshop. So I decided to live with it. After reaching home, I realised that the right turn lights are also not working. That means I have to use hand signals during the whole trip. I also realised that the suspension is little harder than usual. The fiber leafs are very sensitive to tightness of the shackles. They don't work well unless they are freemoving. Looks like somebody had tightened it.
Next day I left home at 7:20AM, I was having high hopes of hitting Madikeri by 12PM for an early lunch at Hotel East End. I started multi-tasking, thinking about the mutton filled menu on one hand and checking on what speed I gotta maintain the schedule. Suddenly the menu vanished, and I was left staring at the immobile speedometer, it was at zero. Yeah, I was moving, but the speedo and odo were dead. Now, I understand if my electricals are acting haywire, that is normal on my Jeep, but speedo/odo are not electrical, looks like the cable is snapped. At this point I really started regretting the decision to give the Jeep for service in hands of an unknown SA. The Jeep must be an unknown entity to him too in order to screw it up this bad. But all the other gauges were working.
But this is a Jeep, it can keep on going despite so many things not working. So I was not totally worried, but plainly irritated. However, as I was overtaking a tempo near Belve (a town 7Kms before Moodubidri), I hear the engine sound change distinctly, like a rocking sound. I quickly look at the gauges and...holy cow, the temp gauge is showing 120 degrees.
I quickly pull over and stop. How...what... I can see fumes coming from the under the hood. I open it up, and see that the coolant is leaking. From the lower end of the lower water hose. The hose is cracked. Oh god, that means they haven't even inspected the hose or connected it back in a hurry. Some routine service this turned out to be.
The rocking sound from the engine still bothered me. I could still see fumes rising from it. I wasn't sure engine has survived the 120 degree carnage. I suddenly saw all my plans for the day vanish, my tryst with East End menu for starters, and then there was the handing off the Jeep too.
It is still 8AM, so I called my regular SA and told him the problem. He was in Bangalore for attending training, so he couldn't get me any help. But he suggested driving slowly to a Moodubidri auto workshop after refilling the radiator with water, but with the radiator cap off. He asked to try it only after the engine has cooled down.
After talking to him, I started realxing a bit. I may not know much about Jeep mechanics, but if I know one thing in a Jeep, it is the cooling system. I had seen the water gush from the lower pipe in a jerky motion, obviously it won't hold water under pressure. But with the cap off, there might be some hope. Generally I carry 4 litres of radiator water with me, but after my cooling system was sorted out in 2008, I never had to use it. So this time, I didn't have water, or the container to get it.
So I left in hopes of finding an open shop that sells water. I needed water, and needed bottles to carry it. What can beat mineral water. I found a shop and bought 6 litres of mineral water. No I didn't drink any of it, but poured the whole 6 litres mineral water into the radiator while carefully looking for leaks. Nothing leaked out, that means I may be able to drive with radiator cap off. I still could not see any water in the radiator, so I visited a nearby clinic begging for water, now I had two 2 litres bottles. Finally I found that my radiator holds 9 litres of liquid. Still I filled all the 6 litres of bottles with water just to be safe.
I started the engine gingerly, it purred back to life as if nothing had happened. Ah! I love the resilience of this engine. I drove to Moodubidri, at first very slowly watching the temp gauge, which firmly remained at 80C. After a while I became confident and drove faster. The workshop at Moodubidri was not open. By now I was feeling a little cocky, I figured I can go on to the next town, which is 25Kms away at Bantwala. So I did.
At Bantwala, it was decision time. Do I risk going all the way, or get the hose fixed before facing the mightly ghats of Sampaje. Then I remembered how the engine used to heat up in that ghats in 2008. Still in dual mind I was chugging along. Then I saw a garage with a CJ3B under rebuild. That was a sign, I quickly turned around and parked in there.
At first one nice guy came checked what I wanted. Turned out he was the welder, doing the rebuild. He asked me to wait for the mechanic to turn up, which happened after 5 minutes. But he got stuck in a phone call for next 20 minutes. During those irritating minutes, I was checking out the rebuild. It was totally being done in 18 gauge steel, didn't look too impressive. It was a 1975 CJ3B with XDP engine, must be a swap job.
Finally the mechanic disentangled from his phone and apologised for it. Since I was fairly sure it was the lower water hose, he didn't bother checking it. Instead we decided to go to B.C.Road to get a lower water hose. Since it was Id-Milad, the roads were all blocked for the procession. Finally it took us 40 minutes to come back with the water hose from a 2Kms away shop. We couldn't get the CJ340 lower water hose in the first shop, but they managed to get it from another shop. If they hadn't found it, I would have been in a royal soup.
After we came back to the workshop, the mechanic drained the mineral water (+ some tap water) from the radiator and removed the hose. See the damage, the water hose had melted where it was in contact with the engine block.
The water hose available in the market is not a straight fit. It has to be cut about 3 inches on one side. If you don't cut enough, it will touch the engine block, like my old installation. I have shown the problem area in the following photos. This is the correct installation, the portion inside the red circle shows the required clearance between the engine block and the hose.
The labour charge, which he was very reluctant to mention first, being Boni and all, came to mere 30 rupees.
By now it was 10:50AM, I quickly took off hoping I can still make it to Madikeri by lunch time. However, I had a feeling that the taxi guy may have gone ahead of me. At Sullia, I stopped and gave him a call. He was at Sampaje forest gate, exactly 25Kms ahead of me, so I asked him to take it easy. So far roads have been great and I knew it to be good until Sampaje forest gate. Once I crossed the gate, I found the roads turn bad insantly. Soon I found myself passing many fast cars that had passed me earlier.
There was this White Swift LDi which had passed very quickly earlier, I found it tottering at a series of potholes. I passed by him so fast, I was glad he didn't try to get down to check why he is stopped. Anyway, I was literally flying up the ghats at 4th gear where most cars were sticking to 1st and 2nd gear. A big tyred Jeep with CF leafs can be a real help on such terrain. For a moment I even fancied catching up with my taxi guy, but he had too much of head start over me. However, when I was just 1 kms away from Madikeri, a taxi honks at me. I had just overtaken my taxi guy. I stop for a brief chat, and we agree to meet again at the village after lunch.
Reached Madikeri at exactly 1:30PM, 90 minutes behind my schedule. I finally entered East End restaurant, washed my face, found my usual balcony seat. I ordered a cool mazaa, plain rice, mutton curry, mutton fry and Keema balls curry. What... no, I was alone. Then I called everybody and gave my lengthy report on the events of the day.
An hour later, I found myself at the remote village, the taxi had reached much ahead of me. He obviously was lot less particular about the quality of his lunch.
Finally I met up with Sibi, who was quite taken aback at the intense rust on my Jeep. There wasn't a single panel that can be retained. For the grill, fenders, hood and rear door, he suggested getting ready made machine pressed parts. The tub will be built right there. This time I had a close look at Sibi's Jeep which is completed now. The sheet metal is rock solid, the body work is beautiful. Even the Taxi driver who drove me back was impressed with the build/paint quality of Sibi's Jeep. This will be completely 16 gauge work.
So far I had not put the electrical work on the plan. But I did ask for a quote from the electrician in that garage. With whole new wiring harness with socket type connections, he quoted 10K. It sounds pretty high, can somebody tell me what is a reasonable price?
At exactly 4PM, we started back. I sat in the back of the Indica taxi, asked the driver to turn on the AC, and relaxed totally for the first time in the day. Exactly 5 hours later, I reached home.