TIME TOGETHER: Kermie (right) works on the car with son Nick.
TIME TOGETHER: Kermie (right) works on the car with son Nick. Contributed

Getting down and dirty

GOING back three years now, for our Nick's 18th birthday, we bought him a little Toyota Starlet to get him on the road.

Now, a Starlet is not quite the type of car that a testosterone laden young lad would necessarily choose for himself, but we figured that a) It was the right price, b) Would be cheap to run and repair, and c) A few dents and scrapes which is the go-to default for young drivers wouldn't really matter.

Certainly, that default setting was borne out by our older two boys.

Now, whilst very grateful, Nick's testosterone was screaming out for a 4WD.

So he saved some cash and bought an old Holden Jackaroo for $800. About all it was worth too.

He never did get it on the road so decided to save some more and went and bought another Jackaroo, reasoning that he could use the first one for spare parts.

This one did go - for a while - and he and his mates entertained themselves on the logging tracks and so forth around Hooterville.

However the cost of fuel alone was crippling him, not to mention replacement parts, and the car soon got to the point that it was not worth throwing good money after bad.

During all this time the Toyota Starlet sat patiently, waiting for its master to return to the fold.

Eventually Nicko realised that testosterone could be expended in other ways than on a big hunk of metal and got back behind the "Porn Star's” wheel.

He threw in a new head unit and an amp, speakers and subby that near blew out the back window - and learnt a bit about wiring along the way.

I showed him how to do a basic service, change brake pads and so forth, something our other boys weren't interested in.

It's been a good, reliable car which has been cheap to run and service but, very like his old man, Nick has a reasonably close relationship with Murphy and so it was, that when he set off on a road trip up north, Porn Star began making decidedly unfriendly noises.

After only a day and night on the road he turned for home to get it checked out.

The general consensus was that it was the water pump and that the timing belt - as is the general rule - should be done at the same time.

"$700-750 should do it,” the mechanic informed him. "Time to call dad and tell him how much I love him!”

A few days later, armed with a new belt and pump and only $140 out of pocket Nick turned up on our doorstep with a thirst for new mechanical knowledge and a desire to get rid of the now pretty deafening whine emanating from behind the timing belt cover.

We got the top half of the cover off and, researching YouTube, discovered that a socket on the crank bolt - and using the motor to turn it over - would undo it.

I take my hat off to the Aldi socket set I bought.

While I have a good array of tools a "Pulley-Puller” is not one of them and we had to get them off the crank, so down to the local mechanic whom I've only met a couple of times to beg, borrow or steal.

Generously, he said to take what we need and return it after the weekend.

Getting the pulleys off in quick time I suggested we should return the puller straight away but Nick disagreed - wisely as it turned out.

Nick is a willing learner and was keen to do as much as possible himself under my guidance.

I showed him about marking the gears against the body and the belt to ensure that the timing would be correct.

We researched and found that we didn't have to take off the engine mount to get to the water pump.

Like father-like son, we got greasy together, swore together and between us, spent far too much wasted time trying to find the spanner or socket we'd used only a minute before.

I swear tools have a life of their own and love to hide!

We put it all back together and fired her up and the result was not quite what we expected in that while the water pump sounded good, we had an altogether different, and just as loud a whine.

A phone call to a mechanic mate soon told us that we had the timing belt waaay to tight. So glad that we'd kept the "Pulley-Puller”.

This time 'round we stripped her back, adjusted the tensioner and put all back together in 40 minutes flat.

We both learnt a bit along the way and a job that took us, probably a day and a half overall, we could repeat in well under a day now. The best part was spending one-on-one time with my boy, getting down and dirty, swearing, laughing and having a drink together at the end of the day.

As they get older times like this become fewer and farther between. They are times that I cherish.

Take care of you

Kermie (95kg)

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