EDITORIAL NOTES. Ramblings, Rumours and Reminiscences. Being Asides About All Sorts of Things.
Is it possible for motor repair work to be carried out on I systematic lines ? That is the burden of my princi
pal Rambling this month, which, by the way is the first month of a New Year, so here’s a. Happy New Year to all our readers. That, of course, suggests new resolutions and as I am never able to keep those made on my own behalf I am about to suggest a few for the benefit of those who are engaged in the business of straightening up our cars and motor cycles after the rigours of competition work, or in supplying our modest needs in the way of small repairs.
Now, for some obscure reason the business of repairing is considered a somewhat undignified way of earning a livelihood and consequently very few people have tackled it on buiiness-like lines. There are exceptions, naturally, but the inside of the average repair shop is a deplorable mess and messy too are the general methods that prevail.
As far as I am able to judge, the matter of system ends with the preparation of the job instruction sheets and thereafter the unfortunate customer has to take pot luck as to how the job is completed. And why do small repair jobs cost so much money ? I am firmly convinced that what we have to pay for is not so much the actual work that is done, but for the time that is wasted !
The car goes into dock for a few jobs, and Tom, Dick and Harry are detailed to do certain things. The trio pick up their time sheets and carefully enter the job number, after which figures are added to represent the number of hours during which it is under their care. Dick borrows Harry’s spanner and takes it away to adjust the brakes on another car, leaving it on the floor in some other part of the shop. Harry misses the tool and after arguing for a long time with Dick sets off to find it for himself. Meanwhile the clock is ticking steadily round and the search continues at the rate of 3s. per hour for which the customer pays. This kind of thing could be elaborated to an indefinite extent without the slightest exaggeration and so the charges mount up.
In many repair garages entrance is forbidden to customers, probably for the simple reason that if they saw the dirt and disorder they would never allow their cars in the place at all. But is all the dirt and disorder necessary? No, Sir, emphatically NO!
There are tidy and well conducted repair shops for only last week I saw one with my own eyes. I happened to be making a business call at a provincial omnibus garage and from the window of the Chief Engineer’s office, caught sight of something which almost made me gasp with astonishment. There were a number of clean looking mechanics working like billy-oh on all kinds of repair work. On looking more closely I could see no vestige of dirt or grease (No, this is not a Christmas fairy story), and like the thatched cottage of the poem, “Everything within it was wondrous neat and clean.”
On arriving in the morning, the men hung up their coats on a rack which immediately went up to the roof out of the way and from then until dinner time there was no inducement, or excuse for them to leave their respective places.
The lay-out of the shop was a marvel of organisation. First of all, all the dirty work was performed downstairs where the parts to be repaired were cleaned in caustic soda. This done, a lift conveyed them to a Viewer’s table, where everything was measured up and classified into Scrap, Repairable and Good classes, each job being handed out accordingly. Thus the mechanics were not called upon to decide upon any important technical points, a responsibility carried by a man who was thoroughly qualified for the job.
Tom, Dick and Harry no longer pounced upon any car to do their work in the ordinary irresponsible manner, but had their movements ordered by a system and a particularly good system it was too. The job of refitting bearings was one man’s work and his bench was adjacent to the lathe and grinding machine whereon bearings were bored and journals re-ground and so the work proceeded sectionally until at the end of the day the complete engine was on the test bench for final passing out.
You can call the spotless benches and floors, the painted machines and the polished tools ” eyewash ” if you like, but the fact remains the work was turned out in incredibly quick time and with perfect accuracy too. After all, wily should not repair work be performed with just as much care as production jobs ? Goodness knows, I don’t.
Having tried at various times most of the devices claiming to promote easy starting in winter, I have come to the conclusion that there are few things more effective than a small piece of firewood, an example of which now occupies a place of honour inside the dashboard of my car. Prior to my discovery of its wonder-working qualities, the process of starting was a four handed affair, two hands being required to” wangle” the carburettor, another to swing the starting handle and a fourth to hang on somewhere, while swinging. Occasionally a third person was needed to press the starter button during the process ; but now the piece of firewood acts as my sole assistant even on the coldest of mornings.
This is how we do our respective jobs. The firewood, cunningly inserted in a particular way, holds the air strangler closed and at the same time retains the throttle in the “full open” position. The carburettor is then flooded and the handle swing with the switch off. Then by switching on, the engine starts eagerly on the second pull up. The dodge will render starting quite easy in almost every case, with any kind of carburettor, though of course the stick can be dispensed with on cars with dashboard controls for the strangler and a hand operated throttle, the latter being absent in many small cars of the sporting variety.
Using a car for business puposes practically all the year round and naturally not being desirous of wasting much time on the road—even if that means an occasional infringement of the 20 m.p.h. speed limit—one cannot but be grateful for the good services of the Automobile Association road patrols. I estimate that during the past six months they have saved me about 250, which but for their silent warnings would have gone into the coffers at various police courts.
On those rare occasiohs when a car packs up with some serious mechanical trouble it is a great comfort to find a garage owned by an individual with real sympathy for a traveller in distress. Last month a small but very important part of the transmission of a car I was driving came badly unstuck, and it looked as though the ‘bus would have to be abandoned at a wayside garage, whilst the return journey was made home by train—a most undignified proceeding.
Fortunately, however, the breakdown occurred near the Bracknell Garage on the Wokingham Road and Mr. Strachan, the proprietor, turned out to be a really good Samaritan. Though it was late at night, he kept his premises open whilst we awaited the arrival of the makers’ service van with a new part, which by dint of pulling the car half to pieces and working all through the night, was duly fitted. Mr. Strachan lent his tools, kept his lights burning and gave us welcome hospitality and by his help the car was repaired in a few hours. Had he taken a less sympathetic view of the business, it would have meant a long delay and much expense, though many a garage proprietor would shut up shop and let things take their course when the day’s work was done. With a reconstructed company and a new works, the famous Aston-Martin car is shortly to make a welcome
reappearance. Rather on the expensive side, perhaps, but a little thoroughbred in all its details is the Aston-Martin and if the production models are to be anything like the masterpieces built by ” Pa” Martin at Kensington, the ” A.M.” will very quickly become a firm favourite with the sporting motorist once more, especially if by quantity production it will be possible to bring the price down somewhat.
There still seems to be room for a great deal of detail improvement in car design and many a promising car is found wanting when the smaller points which concern the owner are considered. Take the question of using the jack for wheel changing for example, and observe how difficult it is to get the jack into place under the rear axle, leave alone the hazardous procedure of removing the wheel with such a ricketty support. One man I know dreads having a puncture in the near side rear wheel of his sports car, because the only place under which he can put the jack is the bra kedrum. Recently, he has had some trouble with his brakes and wonders why !
The idea of using jacks permanently attached to the chassis is good in some ways, provided one only travels on good roads and that the jacks are not often used. Perhaps my own experience in this way was unfortunate, because after fitting two of these jacks I went through a London—Land’s End Trial, knocked the off side jack off on Blue Hills Mine and a boulder a little further along the rough part of the route nibbled off the other. Thus I found myself jackless during a trial. In spite of all arguments, I cannot bring myself to agree that it is good for the bodywork to raise a car from
the middle oi the frame at one side and as long as makers will leave a wee space for the head of an ordinary jack under the axles, a good quick acting jack carried in the tool box, seems to be the best kind of appliance.