Monday, April 30, 2018

The Left-Handed Spanner: Flesh Wounds

The Left-Handed Spanner by Kaibeezy.   I was away last week on business, which is not unusual, except this time I left just as we were getting started with a substantial renovation of our downstairs loo (bathroom) and utility room. When I left, we had agreement on the work to be done, which was fairly modest and involved adding Kingspan (insulation) behind new plasterboard (sheetrock), replacing the bathroom furniture (fixtures), and most ambitiously, breaking up the old tile floors, leveling, adding subfloor heating elements, and then installing new tiles. (Fig. 1. Note: not the actual loo, I just like that one)

A couple of days later, my wife texted me a photo of the progress, and, yep, the entire space was stripped out down to the stone walls. Completely scooped out like an avocado. I remember a friend of mine once showing me the result of that surgery they do for some sleep apnea sufferers, where they cut back all the uvulas and tonsils and other fatty, floppy bits that rattle when you snore, and his gullet looked like a largemouth bass, basically. Similar.  (Figs. 2 and 3)

What does this have to do with cars, you are wondering. Well, when I got home, the utility trailer was full of what still didn't fit in the unexpected second and even larger skip (dumpster) and it needed to go to the recycling centre (recycling center). I've never had a camping trailer, driven a semi, hauled a snowmobile, operated a mobile pizza oven, or any other activity that involves regularly or even occasionally connecting and towing a trailer. I've literally done it 3 times in 35 years of driving, and each time had someone with me who knew what they were doing.

We bought said trailer (Fig. 4. Note: actual trailer. Guess what those brown garbage cans are called... yep, "green bins", because they're for green waste, aka: grass clippings, food scraps, shrubbery prunings. Guess what color bin the regular trash goes into... yep, it's green.) a few months ago partly in anticipation of this upcoming project and needing to haul a couple of loads of materials around. It's 8' x 4' (4' x 8') and can hold quite a bit of stuff. Fine. The Land Cruiser has a towing ball (no, not the squicky Euro banana kind that is so happy to see you; Fig. 5) and it's pretty straightforward, so I got it physically connected. The eleventy prong electrical plug (Fig. 6. Note: actual plug) is another story, never cooperates, and then you have to check it. The (indicators) turn signals I could check myself and they were fine, but the brake requires a helper, in this instance my 7-year-old. "Did it light up?" "Yes, daddy." What could go wrong?

On the drive to the dump, 15 miles or so, I noticed cars behind me coming closer than expected when I slowed down, and after that following further away than usual. Isn't it amazing how you are able to notice something that subtle? It's almost like a seventh sense. Like when the wildebeests, thundering across the savanna in their thousands, turn in synchrony as if telepathic. (Fig. 7) So obviously my brake lights are not working. I slowed it down substantially, took majestic, unhurried turns, and wafted into the dump area unscathed.

Most of the debris was plaster lath: old, jagged splinters of 150-year-old cedar, spiked every couple of inches with old-school diagonal cut nails, the really, really, really, really needly sharp kind  (Fig. 8). I had those rubbery coated work gloves on, got poked several times by both vegetable and mineral, but didn't draw major blood, which seemed like success. I'll follow up here if I'm unable to move my jaw tomorrow. (Fig. 9)

Checking and fixing the brake light seemed like a good idea, so scootched (made my way carefully a short distance) over to the Halfords (Pep Boys) and asked for free help, which they do for bulbs and wiper blades and such. Mainly, I wanted not-a-7-year-old to confirm the brake lights. "Did it light up?" "Yes... no... try it again... yes... no." That's actually not bad. It's not the bulbs, it's an intermittent connection, likely corrosion. Inspecting the electrical connector, it looked clean though. So I stood there and stared at it for a while and the light bulb went on... in my head. I thought the last time (which was also the first time) I connected it, that prongy thingy there went into that hole there. Sure efreakingnough, the connector comes apart in two places, like there's an adapter inline, and it was the second connection that had corrosion inside the little brass pluggy tube-y bits, about 3/16" inside diameter. (See Fig. 6, above)

All I needed was something to scrape out the foost (crud) and I'd be good. Ah, some shrubberies. I reached into the bushes to pick up a twig. People going into the shoppe (shop) are looking at me funny. "YEEEEOW!!!" The twig was armed with half-inch-long needle spikes! (Fig 10. Note: Berberis Thunbergii or very similar; not the actual twig) One has sunk hilt deep into the fleshy part of my thumb. People looking at me funnier. "Gah, it's a hypodermic needle!" Said the big, hairy American reaching into the shrubberies in middle of the parking lot at the far-northern UK auto parts store. People scootching away quickly.

I snapped the needles off, the twig did its thing, the foost was loosed, and the brake lights were back to normal. Go ahead and accuse me of clickbaiting. You thought there was going to be some Russian-grade dashcam carnage, didn't you? (Fig 11)



  1. Excellent Kaibeezy! So much life-experience rolled into a single story. The reno gone bad, what home owner has not been there. But the heart of the matter: Trailer Lights! The bane of my existence. I cannot think of a single time that I have borrowed a trailer without having to futz with the lights. Everything from simple burned-out bulbs to bad sockets to bad connectors to dead harnesses on the tow car. It never ends!

    When I built my dream utility trailer a couple of years ago, the first thing I did to the used chassis I started with was to cut out the entire lighting system and start with a fresh install. I sanded and di-electric-pasted every ground connection. It was PERFECT. Then I hooked it up to my car, and got only a faint glow for brakes and intermittent flashing! After much cursing and head-scratching, and clamping jumper cables to anything that didn't move, I discovered that somehow the tongue was partly isolated from the frame. Rust at some critical point, no doubt. So I ran a separate ground directly to the bed. Two years later, I hook up one day, and no lights! What the f*@% !? I eventually found that the ground wire had broken inside the virtually-new flat-four-wire connection on the trailer harness. So even with all best efforts, and knowing the enemy, still we suffer. Thanks for letting me vent. It was therapeutic....

    1. Luckily in California it is okay to dolly-tow a car with non functioning trailer lights, but ONLY if that car is a 24 Hrs of LeMons car decked out in full race trim. Usually the cops are too busy laughing to finish writing the ticket.

    2. Florida, too.

      Weird, right?

    3. Kind of you to say, Bobinott :)

      Gutting the room turned out to be smart. There was substandard work underlying every subsystem -- weird plumbing, live cut wires (at 240V, yow!), sinking concrete, and rotted lintels. The only things in good shape were the timeless bits -- the 18" thick granite walls, square cornered roof timbers, and what looks like original 150-year-old roof slate. Well, the plastic coated windows are plastic. We don't cut corners on replacement work, so now it will all be solid and reliable.

      All of the above sounds a lot like some... actually, many, cars I have known.

    4. I'll be profiling any trailer I deal with from now on for a mandatory stop-and-frisk. Suck it up, buttercup. A ticket is one thing, but I'm not going to have an accident that's my fault.

    5. @Kaibeezy - I am told that my maternal grandfather used to say: "It's not them that don't know and don't try that worry me, it's them than don't know and DO try". Your reno clearly was executed by the latter.

    6. to be clear, it was the previous work done 30 years ago that was such a mess - as my current fixers started pulling stuff away, they saw nothing but chaos and halfassery - so the decision to nuke it from space made sense - my plumber just finished up all that aspect of the rejiggery today and it is as satisfying as one of those "oddly satisfying" videos - there's something about shiny copper pipes going where they need to go, or other fancy plumbing

      [image src="" width="400px"/]

  2. More like this please!

    And I must say that car is very happy to see you, any relation to Dangerboat?

    1. Don't encourage me.

      Yes, Dangerboat is the progeny of Happy Towball and Shinobazu Swan...
      [image src="" width="400px"/]

  3. Long time readers here will remember a light teal MGB GT that graced these pages sometime around December 2015. I called the seller in Tampa from my brothers place in DC where I was visiting for the holidays. The car sounded like it was solid, had only “minimal” rust and was “too nice” to restore. I returned to FL a few days later and drove across the state to pick up the u-haul trailer I had reserved about 3 minutes from the MG. Suffice to say, my connector fit perfectly...but wouldn’t energize the trailer lights. It wasn’t the trailer either, and the u-haul dude wouldn’t even consider turning a blind eye. So...5 hour round trip for nothing.

    The MGB GT? It was a rusted rocker project but I bought it anyway. Turned out the minimal rust was actually meant to refer to the amount of body that wasn’t malignant, after all. Sold it as the same project for a third what I paid. I curse that seller every night before brushing my teeth but I have come to realize that the universe told me to not buy the car that day my trailer lights wouldn’t work.

    Always trust the universe. Oh, and KBZ.

    1. [image src="" width="500px"/]


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