No more sweat on those mountain roads!

radiator rebuild mechanic
The Zil has finally got its radiator sorted out. After returning from Africa the radiator was struggling to keep the heat down. Leaks, bunged up core, water thick with rust. It was not pretty.

Rather than order a new one from Russia at E350.00 (then add freight and tax), I opted for a rebuild. This is not easy as it is a specialist job. An art. Almost a forgotten one. It was alot of work finding an engineer that could do it. I tried all the garages to no avail. No leads. A local Saint Julier spent an hour on the phone with me calling around. Eventually we found a guy near Prades. He works out of his house. Retired 12 years ago from Paris, he lives the good life now in the shadow of the Canigou, sacred mountain of the Catalan people.

A rebuild cost me E430.00 and took one week. It looks new!

Zil radiator after Africa
Zil 131 Radiator re-Cored

The Radiator after being rebuilt.Notice the shine on that copper! And the manufacturers stamp that I had never noticed before.

The Radiator after being rebuilt.Notice the shine on that copper! And the manufacturers stamp that I had never noticed before.


gedirad66

Another breakdown – but not us this time!

IMG_4768
One of the core narratives of this story has become mechanics. Is this because of East European trucks? Or old trucks? Or bad luck? Whilst enjoying the sea cliff views under a lighthouse on the French/Spanish border, I got talking to some Moskovite tourists. They were warmed to see one of their beloved Russian names out here in France. Even more impressed that it had been to Africa and back. ‘How often does it break down?’ Asked the burly chap that looked like Putin with a good deal more weight on him. His tall bolshoi wife translated for me.

So we are in Esperanza at the Sunday market. I plan to soak myself in coffee and wine at a market side cafe from which I can survey the Esperanza spectacle unfolding. There is a chance that Will and Estelle may come down too.

Then Mara gets a text from our friends Keith and Petra, who have a little girl Anika’s age, Annie. We had met them on a beach in Morocco (there is a blog post buried somewhere deep). They were on route back home from Morocco when their rear driver side wheel came off (along with the brake drum and part of the half shaft cover). The wheel raced past them, swung a left and spun across the dual carriage way crashing into some fencing. The truck came to a grinding halt. Fortunately nobody was hurt.

We came along with some tools (theirs were stolen in Morocco) and morale support. The truck has been dragged over to an industrial estate where they will wait until a new wheel hub assembly can be delivered from Czech.

Wheel and brake drum has broken off

Wheel and brake drum has broken off


Considerable damage to the back plate of the hub assembly

Considerable damage to the back plate of the hub assembly


Annie and Anika spent every second together. I helped Keith with the wheel and we drove them to a supermarket for food and a wifi spot for internet. Its rotten been broken down with the family. The important thing is that one feels there is help (friends) close by for support. Then its about getting provisions in to keep going.

Yesterday evening we had to leave them as we are meeting my parents here in the south of France. This is something we have looked forward to as we do not get much opportunity to catch up. For Anika it means getting spoilt rotten by her adoring grandparents.

So now we find ourselves in a gorgeous farm house, with a room to ourselves, an ensuite bathroom, and lots of horses outside.

Slam bang back on the road!

Our Axat parking spot beside the river

Our Axat parking spot beside the river


Great stuff. Things just came together.

Firstly my contact, Snow Commercials in the UK was able to find such a fan pulley from his several yards of truck parts, but he did provide me with the exact model so I can search elsewhere and hey presto I found such a pulley in the States on ebay. But postage takes time and Anika would like to get moving – so the local river rafting chap suggested a pro welder in the village of Saint Paul, 20km away. I hitch over there. They recommend a metal workshop in Perpignan, 60km from us in Axat. Metal Precis turns out to be the ones … for 20 euros they machine flat the pulley for a flush fit to the plate. Then they weld the two parts together and whack it on a lathe to tidy the weld. They also clean up the tracks.

Belt pulley for the fan, unit is an Enviro-Dennis bus part. Not the most common component

Belt pulley for the fan, unit is an Enviro-Dennis bus part. Not the most common component

Repaired and ready to go back on...

Repaired and ready to go back on…


Today I have reassembled the fan unit. Also replaced a leaking push fit connector (diesel return line). The engine mounts needed tightening up again (They have been ignored since they came loose in Senegal) and I repositioned the power steering hoses which were chaffing against the rigid air line pipe.

Now we are off to Quillan for food. Tomorrow is market day in Esperanza. Monday we meet up with family for a few weeks of catch up here in France, over plenty of wine and good food.

p.s. the weather has been cruel these lat two days but it is rumored to improve.