AN EXAMPLE OF BRACES NOT BEING ANY GOOD WITHOUT A BELT!
Many of you will by now have heard of Alma’s & my extended stay in Le Havre in lieu of a couple of months in the (supposed) sunshine of Spain.
After reasonably uneventful crossing courtesy of LD ferries we arrived in Le Havre at about 6 P.M. (for future travellers’ check the catering arrangement times they don’t seem to be arranged with the customer in mind),3 miles out of the dock a sudden loss of power happened together with a noise that is best described as resembling a very loud sewing machine with a bent needle! Fortunately there was no other traffic nearby (it was after all New Year’s Day) so I was able to coast onto the hard shoulder without difficulty except for the fact that, of course, the power steering had also gone.
A rapid look under the bonnet and a quick turn-over of the engine with the oil cap removed showed that the cam shaft wasn’t turning. Even my limited knowledge of things mechanical told me this was a broken cam-belt which was potentially very expensive.
The Caravan Red Pennant Service worked wonders. We were picked up within about an hour & taken to the recovery firm’s forecourt for the night. The following day we were taken to a Fiat Garage in Le Havre. Unfortunately this was Friday afternoon so no-one could look at it until Monday. By Wednesday we had more or less exhausted the fleshpots of Le Havre (there aren’t many) when the garage announced that the cam belt had failed & they could fit a replacement engine for the modest charge of €9000! At this point we decided to return home as our daughter’s husband is a mechanic & told us that he could source an engine recovered from a wreck for about £450.
Back to LD ferries for an overnight crossing ( if anyone is thinking of doing this take your own pillow the one supplied is horrible). Picked up by truck in Portsmouth but, because of the dreaded tachograph we had to change vehicles & drivers half way. 350 miles & about 9 hours later we arrived home.
Robin’s examination of the engine showed that the damage wasn’t as great as we supposed. And the main damage was to the cylinder head, valves & guides. The head has been refurbished by an engineering company in Malton & whilst I am writing this (16/3/09) the engine is being re-assembled.
The cam belt had failed in spite of being replaced before the recommended time/mileage (6 Years/ 72000 Miles). The last occasion was only 3years 9 months (38000 miles) before the failure.
We believe we have established the cause of our problem: at some stage the plastic housing surrounding the cam belt assembly had not been properly secured to the engine block. There were bolts missing and in some cases no evidence of any bolts ever having been used. The casing seems to have become distorted and got caught in the cam-belt pulley causing the belt to snap.
Although we hope that none of you experience the same cause of failure as we did it does emphasise the expense that may be involved if the manufacturer’s recommendations are ignored. We were lucky in that it happened at relatively low speed on a deserted road and in the slow lane. In the fast lane of a motorway in heavy traffic the results could have been much more serious.