Where was I? Oh yeah I’d parked the Beast in the shed and I was about to give the old girl a bit of TLC. In the city people rush themselves to their car dealers, fork out a large sum of cash for little more than an oil change and they do it religiously because they are convinced that oil expires after a set date or a set distance.
City cars generally get driven to and from work and apart from lead foot Larry’s who think the car only runs properly at maximum acceleration or braking they really don’t get a work out, parts fail due to a lack of regular use more than they do from over use. In the outback our vehicles actually get used and used in extreme conditions. Temperatures so high you can fry and egg on the ground, dusty sand blown roads, a dust so thick that it doesn’t ever wash off and pot holes you could lose a family sedan in. We also drive a lot further than many city folk. Think about your average commute too work, what is it 10ks? 20? even 100? Well the last trip I did to rescue the Patrol I did nearly 600 kilometres and that wasn’t even a full day on the road, the trip we did to catch Thomas the fugitive I clocked a little more than 1700 kilometres in two days. This week alone I’ve done more than 3000 kilometres, so as you can see conditions out here are a little more extreme than most city cars would ever see and for that reason I don’t service the Beast every six months or by distance, I service it regularly.
There is a good reason for a pit in a workshop, apart from the fact that it means one can stand upright and if you’ve ever laid on your back under a car and tried to remove an oil filter you’d appreciate that, but it also gives you such a better view of things. I could walk under the Beast and inspect everything from the tyres to the brakes, to the suspension to the running gear to the exhaust.
While the oil drained into the large waste oil drum I shuffled myself around under the vehicle with a torch checking things out. There was still plenty of meat on the brakes, the tyres although scarred in places would easily travel another 10,000 kilometres and all the nuts and bolts were in the places they should be. I checked the rear diff oil, it was ok and would last until the next service and the rest of the back end looked in pretty good nick for such a well used vehicle.
Moving towards the front I checked the rest of the running gear, stepped around the oil drum, the oil had stopped all but for a few little dribbles, and checked the front brakes and tyres. The front tyres were a little more worn than the back because they’d spent 20,000 kilometres as steer tyres but that was about it, the old girl was in pretty good nick from what I could see.
I screwed the drain plug back in the bottom of the sump, then used the spanner to tighten it, I then pushed the waste oil drum out of the way and went off to retrieve the new oil filter and the removal tool from one of the storage boxes on the back of the Beast. I do keep a collection of oil and fuel filters on the shelf in the workshop area, it’s not a large stock pile but it’s cheaper to buy in bulk and they are the sort of items that a bad batch of diesel or something can ruin so having a few of them spare is cheap insurance. The spare filter from the storage box would be replaced with one from the shelves before I had finished the service.
Back under the Beast I didn’t need light to see where the oil filter was mounted to the engine, it was in the same place I left it last time I did a service, Haha! Sorry about that! I am serious though although there was lights in the pit I could do the filter change with my eyes closed and by feel.
From underneath the Beast I reached up the left hand side of the engine, just in front of the exhaust and felt around until I could feel the top of the oil filter. In most cases because I was coming from underneath and could reach up on the right angle I could undo the oil filter by hand. A common mistake by some backyard mechanics (and professionals) is to tighten an oil filter tightly with a tool, but a clever person only makes that mistake once, you might still need a removal tool to break the seal but any more than a turn and a half after the seal touches is a pointless exercise when installing a new filter.
Anyway enough lessons back to the story at hand.
With my right hand I had a firm grip on the oil filter and was just about to give it a turn to see if I could remove it by hand when I felt something touch my arm. In such a position it’s not unusual for your arm to touch something but what is unusual is to have something else touch you, especially something that was moving. In a fraction of a second I felt something around my wrist and without looking up where I probably couldn’t see a great deal anyway I decided I needed to remove my hand from the engine bay.
Slowly I pulled my arm downward, I could feel the grip on my arm getting a little bit tighter and the thing that had it was moving down my arm. I’d only lowered my hand a few centimetres when I felt resistance, I’m sure I could have broken the resistance with a yank but I didn’t want to, experience told me I was better off taking things slow. I held my arm where it was and waited to see what would happen next.
Because I wear overalls when I’m under the Beast, not just because of the grease but because of dirt and dust that falls down whenever something is touched, I wasn’t feeling anything on my bare arm, there was a layer of thick denim like fabric covering it but I could still feel the tightening grip. I kept gentle downward pressure on my arm, not forcing anything just providing a gently movement in the hope of releasing my arm.
I still hadn’t looked up because while I didn’t know exactly what was around my arm I had a fair idea what was happening and sure enough when I did eventually get my arm all the way down and free of the engine bay I could see it. I’m sure by now you have guessed what it was that was around my wrist. Somewhere along the lines The Beast had picked up a passenger and the passenger was having a quiet little nap before I disturbed it.
Looking at it I was somewhat relieved, now that might sound like a weird thing to say but it’s true because my free loading passenger was actually a Yellow Faced Whip snake, venomous but not as venomous as a death adder or King Brown that also heavily habitat the area. All I had to do was remain calm and hope it didn’t bite me.
Previous Desert story here.
There is nothing ordinary about Dean