Ask The Mechanic – Fuel problems By Robert Girt

Reports in Transporter Talk Issue 148 of Club Members having blocked fuel lines chimed with us as our 1970 Bay has recently suffered similarly and others may wish to benefit from our experience.

The MOT was due 2 weeks before our ferry was booked for a 3 week holiday in France. I cast my eye over everything and found nothing wanting so went off to my friendly testing station with confidence. However, mindful of repeated warnings in Transporter Talk of the fire risk from perished fuel lines I asked Roy, the tester, what his opinion was of my fuel hoses.
All seemed fine, but with the engine running Roy uncovered a small leak between the pump and the carb. It hadn’t been evident to me or Roy when the engine was still and there had been no smell of petrol. I was grateful for Roy’s experience. He replaced all the rubber pipes and the in-line filter (£90!); the MOT was secured and we were set fair for our holiday. Off we sped (?- well 55mph!) down the A1M, but approaching Peterborough we ran into a congestion standstill and discovered that tickover had disappeared. Crawling in thick traffic was a real pain, constantly having to juggle the clutch and the accelerator, but otherwise we could make good progress and we reached our overnight Dover campsite OK.
I took out the slow running jet; that looked clear, but I baulked at taking the carb off, with diminishing daylight and without the resources of my garage at home. We considered soldiering on to France but the prospect of trying to access the ferry without slow running decided me to seek professional help. If I tackled the carb myself we were going to miss our early morning ferry booking anyway.
We phoned our predicament to DFDS Ferries and did a quick internet search on the smartphone which lead us, with Satnav guidance, to a likely garage in Dover. They
could tackle the problem, but only in 3 day’s time and directed us to another garage.
They immediately redirected us to Cowens Motors (Unit 11, Holmestone Road, Coombe
Valley Industrial Estate, CT17 0UF Tel 01304 207743) where we received a warm and
friendly welcome from Ian, the proprietor. He was enthusiastic about tackling our problem, having cut his teeth on Beetles and early Transporters, but he already had a Bay for that day’s work. We killed a day visiting the White Cliffs, very interesting and were back early next morning at Ian’s garage. 2 hours (and £90 later) we were sorted, carb cleaned out and engine retuned; it had never run so sweetly in the 41 years we have owned it! Definitely recommend Ian! Off we raced to get the next available
ferry, an extra £50! and the holiday was really under way.

All went well for the next 1000 miles: the van ran like a Swiss watch! However, leaving Albi and following a slow lorry up a hill with a tail of impatient French cars behind us, the engine suddenly cut out and we kangarooed to a halt.
Initially we had tickover, but nothing more unless I pumped the accelerator jet. Then
tickover disappeared too. We limped in to a lay-by and thankfully the shade of a tree and rang the rescue service. Although they were initially somewhat slow to understand our predicament, they eventually cottoned on and 2 hours later a friendly French mechanic in a rescue truck hauled us off to the yard at Garage Pradelles Roland in Lisle sur Tarn. Language was a bit of a problem as our schoolboy French was not quite their Occitaine dialect. They called in a neighbouring Madame who spoke some English and we got talking. Again they were too busy to start our job until the next day and it was late afternoon by now. We rang to advise the rescue service and they went away to organise a hotel and taxi for us , although the garage kindly said we could camp in their
yard and have a key so we could use their toilets overnight. Communication with the
rescue service became problematic due to our not having registered our trip for voicemail purposes, but before our accommodation needs could be sorted one of the mechanics strolled out of the garage and indicated I should start the engine while he diddled the carb. He raced and raced the engine and eventually, after much dying and starting, it ran on its own, though still not on tickover. He then started fiddling with the points, took them out to reface them and put them back, but to no avail. Finally, he thought of the slow running jet, removed it, declared it “merdoise” (a rude French word we did understand!), dragged an airline from the garage, blasted out the jet and its socket, and “Sacre Bleu”all was well again! He then took us for a hair-raising trial run where the Transporter French Land Speed Record was broken before handing the keys back in to my trembling hands, and relieving me of €89 (say £82). Worth every penny just for the experience!
So we were able to move on and camp nearby that night, much to my wife’s disappointment at missing a night in a posh hotel! And much to our dismay as that night a frightening thunderstorm in the early hours brought down large bits of shading trees all over the campsite, enough to make a small dent in our roof! After that, what else could go wrong? Thankfully nothing did and we were able to enjoy the rest of the holiday on the Loire and Somme, but with some apprehension the carb would block
again: but it hasn’t in a further 1,000 miles. So what lessons to draw?

  1. Check your pipes with the engine running.
  2. Make sure the new pipes are clean inside before fitting them.
  3. Consider cleaning the carb when you fit new pipes.
  4. Sort your voicemail before you venture abroad, BUT don’t be afraid of going: your problems will get sorted and you will meet some really nice people. Well, we’re already planning next year’s trip.
    Robert Girt