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Fuel system

Water in petrol or diesel tank

If there is a chance that water has got into the fuel tank, let the vehicle rest for 30 minutes or so to let the water and fuel separate and then undo the drain bung a little and let the water seep out around the thread until fuel starts to seep out. While you are waiting you should drain water from the carburettor, fuel bowl and filter.

After you have drained the water out of the fuel tank pour in about one litre of methylated spirits to absorb any remaining moisture. This will not affect the engine’s performance.

In most diesel filters there is a water trap with a circuit hooked up to a warning light on the dash which indicates the presence of water. Drain the trap immediately the light appears and if it appears again suspect water in the fuel tank and take appropriate action.

Dirt in fuel

If the fuel in the tank is so dirty that stoppages are frequent, disconnect the fuel line from the fuel pump. Blow into the fuel tank through the filler hole. (Some large breaths may be required.) This may drive the dirt out of the fuel line.

If no fuel flows from the fuel line, the line is blocked. It may then be necessary to blow the line back towards the fuel tank. Empty the tank and filter the contents through some fine material to get rid of any dirt and return the clean fuel to the tank.

Leaking fuel tank system

Smearing soap into the defective seam can repair a small leak temporarily. If you have a small hole, a sharpened stick smeared with soap and driven into the hole may block it. A self-tapping screw with fibre washer can also be tried.

Fuel pump failure

Disconnect the fuel line from the fuel pump. Place a container of fuel above the level of the carburettor or the injector pump, say on the vehicle’s roof, and ensure that it is secured.

Using a suitable length of pipe or hose, siphon fuel from the container to the carburettor inlet or injector pump. Fuel will continue to flow, due to gravity, and be regulated by the carburettor or injector pump.


In an emergency, engine oil can be used in the transmission and vice versa – but not in an
automatic gearbox! Power steering or automatic transmission fluid can be used as a substitute for oil in all but the engine if absolutely necessary. You can avoid these sorts of stop-gap measures if you carry plenty of oil, along with spare brake fluid and power steering fluid if appropriate.


Broken fan belt

Always carry a spare belt. A nylon stocking, pantyhose or piece of rope can replace a broken belt temporarily but will not always work. Take care that the knot in the rope does not catch when engine is running.

Broken fan blade

If the blade can be removed, remove the broken blade and its opposite blade. Fans with odd numbered blades will need to be removed altogether. Drive steadily.

Radiator leaks

Small leaks in a radiator can be temporarily stopped by using one of the many commercial radiator sealants. If none are available, leaks can be blocked by a tablespoon of flour, mustard or black pepper per 4 litres of water. Put the additive in the radiator while the engine is running and water is circulating. The filler cap can be left off to reduce the pressure within the cooling system. Crimping the tube’s ends, using pliers, can stop leaking radiator tubes.

Leaking radiator hose

Wind adhesive or insulating tape round the leaking hose. Strips of cloth smeared with soap and wrapped tightly can also be used. The radiator cap can be left off to reduce water pressure.

Broken hose clip

Fencing or similar wire can be used to clamp the hose ends. A few turns around the hose end and tightening with pliers will usually do the job.


• If it is necessary to remove the radiator cap with the engine still hot, allow engine to cool for at least 10 minutes; then remove the cap slowly to release pressure, using a cloth or glove to protect your hand.
• When working on the vehicle, always chock wheels to prevent vehicle moving.
• It is not safe to work under a vehicle that is only supported by a jack. Support the vehicle with a solid block of timber, rock or wheel.

Blocked radiator

If the radiator gets blocked with dirt you will have to clean it out to avoid the engine overheating causing possible damage. Again, check at home to see how difficult it is to clean the radiator in place – or will you need to take it out to do a satisfactory job? Is the air conditioning radiator in the way, is there an oil cooler, what else will need to be removed so you can do the job properly?

Air filter

At any time out in the field you may need to check the air filter if you have been through very dusty areas or have made a deep water crossing. With many filters it is just a matter of flicking a few clips and pulling the top off, but others may require the use of tools, because hoses, pipes, wires and screws have to be removed before you can get the top off the filter. Check your filter at home so you have some idea what will be involved.

Makeshift filter

If your air filter is the kind that basically falls to bits when it gets wet you will need to put in some temporary filter to keep the dust out of the engine. A couple of tee shirts stuffed into the filter box would do as a temporary fix until you can get to a service station.

Electrical system

Broken or faulty high tension lead (running from coil to distributor)

Replace with a spark plug lead. The engine will run but will miss on one cylinder. However, this will get you home.

Coil ballast resistor

If you discover this has died you can replace it with the left hand headlight bulb to get you home. Use the left hand one so if it gets dark your vehicle will still be safe to drive on the road.

Problems with starting

A lost key, or a damaged ignition switch? This advice does not apply to ignition switches fitted with a steering wheel lock, unless the locking device can be disconnected.

Petrol engine

Run a length of wire from the positive (+) side of battery to the positive side of the coil (low tension lead). This will complete the ignition circuit. Start the engine by shorting out the starter solenoid between the battery lead terminal and the solenoid trigger terminal. This is ‘hot wiring’.

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