THE ALTERNATOR light blazed its urgent don’t-ignore-me red warning, so I coasted my brown VB Commodore wagon into the freeway’s break-down lane. By the time I’d safely stopped, steam was wisping from under the bonnet and there was the distinct sweet smell of radiator coolant.
I popped the bonnet and stepped out of the car. Bummer… a stream of greentinged liquid was coursing from under the front of the car. Lifting the bonnet revealed the source: coolant squirting from behind the radiator shroud, and the cause: bits of broken fan belt scattered over the engine bay that had obviously savaged the radiator.
Damn! I won’t be having a lakeside pub lunch today!
I called my tow-truck driver mate, Luke. Luckily for me he was in the area and not delivering a car to Canberra or Cootamundra or somewhere. An hour later we had the Commodore home and I had yet another unexpected task ahead.
I have a scattering of good traditional wreckers’ yards close to where I live and I knew that one of these businesses, Classic Oz Wreck, had a couple of early Commodores in the yard. One had a radiator that showed a sticker from a local radiator shop that indicated its relative youth and – hopefully – usefulness. It was holding watery coolant, didn’t have any exterior stains (possible evidence of a leak) and it looked to be internally clean. Sold!
At home, I used a garden hose to flush the wrecker score radiator core of any ooze (just as I had with my Commodore’s heater just weeks before) before removing the old radiator and installing the new.
Well, I must say the old radiator was on borrowed time, with signs of corrosion inside and out, very flaky fins and with the soldered side tanks beginning to detach. It was more than likely the original to my 39-year old, 145,000km, 17-years-ina-shed Commodore SL wagon. I reckon it had only minutes of life remaining until it either blew to bits or fell out of the car!
It cost me $100 for the radiator, plus the price of a new fan belt and some coolant – that sadly I’d replaced only weeks before.
I always try to put a positive spin on bad situations so I reckon I’m lucky the fan belt snapped and wrecked the old radiator just 10 mins from home and not 500km out in the bush!