Friday, June 13, 2008

African Adventure: Gearbox problems and fighting in Namibia! (Dec 20-23)

Current Location: Bloemfontein, South Africa
Highlights: Gearbox is fixed, we'll go shopping for our Christmas dinner, we should be off today heading for the Kalahari Gemsbok Park, and fighting in Namibia and petrol shortages in Zimbabwe.
Upcoming: Christmas in the bush with the wild animals and Namibia!

We have been in Bloemfontein for 8 days now and finally the gearbox is fixed. I'll go into more details below on what was wrong and how Leimer's crew fitted wrong parts. I am very grateful to Jasper at the Gearbox Clinic here in Bloem who really went out of his way to fix the problem and at a discount (final bill: R1800 plus a R225 for a part). In the States this would have cost about $1000 I am sure. It appears to be fine now, although as Jasper admits, diagnosing this type of problem (see last diary entry) is difficult.

While in Bloem we have been exposed to the TV and the news reports of fighting in northern Namibia. Now Namibia is one of the most stable African countries, but UNITA has driven SWAPO rebels across the Angola border into northern Namibia and now the Namibia defense force has become involved.

Fortunately, we can still visit most of the places on our agenda, but we will need to bypass the trouble area. Zimbabwe has been in a fuel crisis for the past month or so. Apparently the government owes the fuel companies millions of millions of dollars and the fuel companies now refuse to supply the government with anymore fuel. As a result it is being rationed at fuel stations and the queues are huge to get the 40 liters allowed. Hopefully this will be over with by the time we get to Zim, or we will fill up in Botswana which might be enough to get us through Zim into Mozambique and through to Malawi. We can't stop to fuel up in Mozambique, as the Tete
Bridge area is apparently a nasty area still.

Today we need to change the engine oil, replace the Garmin GPS we 'lost', and buy our Christmas dinner. Then we can hit the road. Aaron has decided that we should treat ourselves to fillet mignon whereas I want a traditional turkey dinner, so we will have the fillet on Christmas day and Turkey on Boxing Day (what Brits call the day after Christmas day).

We should hit the read today and head Northeast to the Kalahari Gemsbok Park where with some luck; we will spend Christmas day which is now just 2 days away. At this juncture I must reflect back on the past months. We had planned on leaving over 2 months ago but recurrent problems with the Landy, virtually all of which were problems with the way Leimer built the vehicle, has delayed us. There are many lessons we have learned form this and although it has caused sporadic demoralization, I am determined to press on and overcome these hurdles. This has been my dream for years and I am
determined to fulfill it. As I have mentioned in previous diary entries, I believe that cars, especially old ones have a personality. Call me crazy, but I believe that. I honestly feel that the Landy problems which have caused us and others to fix Leimers mistakes and do so much work on the vehicle have slowly but surely removed the bad karma associated with Rob Leimer who built it up. I have a feeling that the gearbox surgery just completed has removed almost the last evil spirits that have lingered as the gearbox was the last major component that Leimer 'fixed' and is also the
last major component we have had to have repaired by someone else.

I want to say an extra special thanks to some extra special friends, Andre and Margie, who have been so helpful with us while we have been in Bloem. They have been running us around all over town to sort out the vehicle problems and juggling their schedule to help us out. They have made sure have been fed and been great moral support. Thanks so much guys.

For the Landy buffs, here is the list of problems with the gearbox we had to fix: They used an incorrect bearing on the first gear end of the cluster shaft such that the inner race could move independently of the outer race. Thrust on the inner race cause the shaft to run against the outer race and wear a groove (1.5 mm deep) below the teeth of first gear. Had this been left much longer we would have had catastrophic failure. All of the other bearings
were worn and were replaced. The brass bush first gear runs on was badly worn, first gear itself and the first/second gear hub were a little worn, but reusable after some machining. The selector forks were worn so were welded and ground back down. The high/low range gear lever was fitted incorrectly (bolted on the rearward side of the bell housing and not the front side causing insufficient forward movement of the lever and only partial engagement of high range). About half the seals were replaced as they were old and leaking or were fitted with an incorrect seal. We also had to replace many of the nuts they used as they forced metric nuts onto many of the imperial threaded studs. Get this, after the third time Leimer
had the gearbox out; he promised me it had been completely rebuilt with brand new components! While the gearbox was out I pulled off the clutch. Leimer had said he fitted a brand new clutch after we had clutch problems. Guess what? It was not a new clutch at all. In fact the friction plate was at about 60% (and I had only driven 12 000 km, mostly freeway kms), the release bearing was too badly worn to be reused, and the pressure plate was a little weak but reusable. I had the friction plate relined and a new thrust bearing fitted. We filled the gearbox with 90wt GL4 oil which we had to locate at the local ELF oil distributor who is a friend of Andre's. I am told that you can't use GL5 oil in these gearboxes as it damages the
syncros, although apparently Leimer uses GL5 oil! While at the ELF dealer, we also picked up 14 liters of 10-50wt synthetic oil. Although expensive, synthetic oil surpasses ordinary oil in all respects. In my opinion it's worth the extra money, especially as we are going to be traveling through Namibia and Botswana at the hottest times of the year.

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