Van Wetten’s – The Damage

Part one of a two part saga and journey to attend to a breakdown, far from home, caused by an impossibly broken bolt and subsequent damage to a vehicle’s cooling system:

I was informed, “Oh by the way”!, that a call had come through and that a BMW X5 that we had repaired a few weeks beforehand had broken down in Nelspruit and was sitting, in its broken state at Van Wettens Breakdown Services there.

Sadly, more of a crisis manager than a good planner and excellent delegator of duties, I went immediately into survival mode, ordering parts for gearboxes that were pending in the workshop, making sure everyone knew what to carry on with, called Van Wettens who couldn’t help with details about the damage, and decided that the only recourse was a trip to Nelspruit to ascertain the damage and possibly to repair same!

As Linda’s car was the family car, I dropped Ouma’s little Toyota Corolla off at the house, packed the tools I had brought along into the Renault Koleos and hit the road to Nelspruit, a comfortable four hour journey away, or three and half hours if the traffic isn’t procession like along the fifty kilometre stretch of Schoeman’s Kloof, and ongoing road works are not ongoing!

As it turned out the road works were ongoing and the traffic was procession like along the Schoeman’s Kloof by pass with much time lost behind slow moving 18 wheelers! Eventually I arrived at Van Wettens, guided there by an obviously confused Google Maps which had the address displayed as 7 Cruse Circus, instead of Crescent!

7 Cruse Circus, Vintonia Central, Nelspruit, 1201
013 755 8800

On arriving and seeing the colossal damage I stripped out all the damaged components and started planning the repair. A high tensile bolt holding the fan belt tensioner,

Van Wettens broken bolt

1 One survivor bolt and what was left of the, unbelievably, broken high tensile bolt!

had sheared and the fan belt had climbed off and was hurled through the cooling system, smashing the radiator, vital plastic pipes and housings. My experienced nose poked down into what was left of the radiator, told me that the cylinder head gasket was not blown, as I could not smell any carbon monoxide or exhaust gases. At least that was a bonus.

Van Wettens smashed radiator

2 Radiator and header tank smashed!

Van Wettens had kindly allowed me to strip and check the BMW X5 in their yard, which I did, dodging tow trucks and the fork lift as a procession of wrecked or accident damaged vehicles were unloaded and squeezed into the yard around me. With the clouded sky threatening and showers making me reconsider the wisdom of my mercy mission, a number of tow truck drivers appeared to spectate as the senior mlungu mechanic, with wisps long turned into clouds of grey and a dome minus those that didn’t make it, planned the whereabouts and availability of the parts I needed. The one spectator mentioned that the best supplier was located close to the Riverside Mall in Nelspruit and started with instructions on how to get there!

Van Wettens Google pin

3 Google Maps and that famous pin drop! Where would we be?

In Johannesburg every person that crosses your path has a cell phone and seems very adept at its operation, and although the same cell phones seem to abound in Nelspruit, as Thabo started his tirade of directions, and my mind went blank, I hauled my smart phone out and spoke the name and location of my desired destination into Google Maps. Lo and behold the name of Goldwagen and directions appeared on the screen, much to the amazement of my little group of spectators!”How did you do that?” I was asked and went about explaining the GPS switch, adding a warning about data usage. Once Thabo had set his phone up, he spoke his employer’s name into Google Maps saying “Van Wetten’s Breakdown Nelspruit” and Maps responded with van veterans Nelspruit! I told Thabo to practice and his phone would adapt to his voice! Sure enough, after a few more tries, he had Van Wetten’s on his screen! The Tannoy boomed over the yard speakers and the little group of drivers and security dudes, suitably educated and ready to pass on their new found knowledge dissipated into the busy scene of tragedy, disappointment and frustration. More amazement would follow later!

Van Wettens Goldwagen parts

4 Goldwagen had everything except the vital radiator and correct top hose.

A new radiator and top hose were nowhere to found, but the rest of my wants list I got from Goldwagen, who put me in touch with Charlie, a BMW specialist not far from Van Wettens. Charlie had a radiator that looked good and a top hose that may do the job! I raced back to Van Wettens where the drivers had all disappeared to various tragic circumstances, and with the Tannoy booming regularly, only Shorty from security spectating from time to time, I assembled the X5 until stymied by the routing of the engine’s fan belt! Shorty happened to be standing next to me as I spoke the words “BMW X5 serpentine belt routing” into Google search on my smart phone, and to his amazement, and my own self satisfaction, the following picture enabled me to fit the fan belt quickly.

BMW X5 serpentine belt routing

5 Shorty had more amazing stuff to share with the Van Wetten’s mercy mission drivers!

Disappointment arrived when the final component, the top radiator hose that Charlie had supplied wasn’t going to fit the X5, and with the Sun turned watery and the chill biting, I made a few phone calls to try and locate the correct hose, but all to no avail! Home seemed so far away at that moment!

Look out for part two, The Outcome, in just a few days where you’ll find: a sleepover, some engineering, frustrations and a very, very strong glue!

Canned Heat sang their On The Road Again in a posting named Mobility, way back in January 2016, so here is Willie Nelson singing country and like me, He Can’t Wait To Get Back On The Road Again:

Footnote: High Tensile Bolt – exceptionally strong bolts used on motor car engines, that should never break! ;  Mlungu – a person, light in skin colour, who generally hangs out in South Africa ; Tannoy – the loudspeaker used in auditoriums, car yards and by despot regimes to confuse and indoctrinate those who would be confused and indoctrinated.

St Vincent School For The Deaf helping the hard of hearing to listen:

Down Durban way The Fulton School for The Deaf:

Abraham Kriel Childcare group, caring while we work:

The Avril Elizabeth Home for the Mentally Handicapped was opened in 1970, and for the amazing work they do for the less fortunate they deserve great accolades: