Tim Walker’s Rat

During the journey to Christchurch last Thursday night I noticed my car engine’s typically rhythmic purr undergoing a very occasional missed combustion.

It felt it misfire once around twenty minutes in then again ten minutes later…

Given that I have in the past replaced the majority of my car’s ignition system my thoughts immediately went to the fuel filter which incidentally, I’ve not replaced in over seven service intervals.

…As I bumped over the curb to my jiu-jitsu class that evening the engine responded to the momentum shift by giving a few more splutters – behaviour typical of a blocked fuel filter – before I shut it off the engine and went inside.

Two hours later I took my seat and turned the ignition. The engine started effortlessly. I drove out of Annex then Blenheim Roads without issue and it wasn’t until some time later, on reaching Rolleston supermarket that the car truly started to worry me; idling around the car park looking for a space it was spluttering terribly, and projections of having to call upon the AA were fast becoming reality.

Half an hour later I returned to the drivers’ seat, threw my bags on the passenger side and turned the key. The engine hummed like a high-performance engine should. I put the car in gear and started coasting out of the car park. The engine started to misfire badly. I reached the road and fearing the car would stall if I allowed the revs to fall too low, keeping up momentum I drove over the curb a lot faster than I ordinarily would, hearing my front spoiler crunch into the road as I left the car park. Some very loud cursing later I was safely cruising in the direction of home.

Parking the car in the garage I made a quick mental note to, second thing tomorrow, disconnect the fuel filter, take it for a stroll down to the local servo and grab a replacement. No trouble.

Next morning, having fulfilled the obligatory morning tasks, I ducked out to my car, looking so chic in the morning sun…

“Hard to believe,” I recall thought/mumbling, “that such beauty could be the cause of so much stress…” I have an additional recollection of my brain then being flooded with further examples of beautiful things resulting in inordinate stress levels and left it at that.

…I popped the bonnet catch, pushed the car back half a metre, went around the front and lifted the bonnet. My eyes immediately fell on the fuel filter, mounted on the firewall in all its shiny steel glory, illustrating the reason that I have avoided replacing it for so long; it’s rather an expensive component that in fact doesn’t require such regular replacement as some others.

Nevertheless pulling on my bush-mechanic’s hat I spun around to my toolbox and selected the required tools for fuel filter replacement. Spinning back once more, devoid of prescription vision enhancement, I eyed my target while thought/mumbling, “What if I do this and it still doesn’t run right, what then?” Somewhere in the course of the aforementioned consideration I must have placed my tools on the engine’s radiator and was absentmindedly, as we bush-mechanics sometimes do while a car bonnet is up, ensuring good connection between the spark plugs and associated leads. I recall checking number one spark plug lead on the left before absentmindedly moving to number two, number three then casting my eye back to the supposedly offending fuel filter, with my thumb and forefinger I pushed on the rubber insulator of the number four spark plug connection…

It feels peculiar. It doesn’t feel at all like it should. Granted I am working blind, not looking where I’m feeling and such, but I have mindlessly checked my car’s spark plug connection often enough to know when something is not right.

…I look down and astigmatised vision notwithstanding what I see shocks me. Although I’m glad that I won’t have to replace my fuel filter after all, I am still a little perplexed as to how the hell I’m supposed to go about replacing one of these without having to buy a whole new set..?

(That’s long enough for now; I’ll finish it later.)



Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Thess A Rat

Photography by Indi Con-Krushon

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