Spannering in the rain

Wandering around Český Krumlov, I couldn’t help but cogitate over the noises from the van’s engine bay. Checking them out isn’t as easy as it could be – the price to pay for the huge benefits in interior-space-vs-exterior-length that our van gives us compared to the more normal later ones. I really didn’t want to be unloading the bikes and rear load space in the car park, especially at that hourly rate! So we limped back to the previous night’s campsite in České Budějovice, trying to ignore the washing machine rumblings from the back end.

As soon as I got the engine bay open, the cause was clear – the pulley for the water pump was way out of line with the crankshaft pulley next to it, and there was another fine spray of water everywhere. The bearing in the pump had collapsed. Nothing else to do, but replace the pump – now. If we risked onward travel, we might be OK, but it might seize, leaving us with no cooling at all, probably in the least convenient place possible, with a fairly high risk of completely killing the engine.

Unlike the level sensor we’d managed to locate in Kraków, the pump isn’t the same as that on any other vehicles, just vans like ours with the exact same (and not particularly common) engine. I could spend time cycling, phoning and generally running around town to draw a blank, or I could just get one delivered from a specialist supplier. A few emails and a lot of googling came up with a couple of Czech websites, and Michal of was quick to reply with a suggested online supplier in Prague, However, they didn’t seem to list it on their website! Fortunately, it wasn’t long before Tomas replied that he had a good quality pump in stock, and could get it to me the next day.

We’d barely finished breakfast when the courier’s van pulled up right next to us, with a box being handed over in exchange for a wad of cash – Tomas didn’t take credit cards, so the pump was sent cash-on-delivery.

Braving the rain whilst Ellie headed to reception for warmth and internet access to play catch-up with blog posts, it was time for me to get the overalls, freshly laundered in the free machines at Budapest, back to their normal filthy state. Getting the old pump off wasn’t easy – there’s a lot of plumbing needing removing, and some very hidden bolts. But it eventually came out, showing that the diagnosis was spot-on. The old bearing was utterly toast, allowing the impeller to wobble around badly. Getting the new one in was a bit easier, since there was no more trial-and-error of what I’d need to shift. Of course, I managed to drop the one tool which would allow me to tighten the most hidden bolt of the lot, and it promptly hid in a dark corner for twenty minutes, whilst I grovelled around in wet grass wondering if it’d made it all the way down.

With everything back together, the engine running and warmed up, it was finally time for lunch and a well deserved beer.

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