My old man was a fairly competent muddler. He could drill holes through things and he understood where volts came from.
By the time I was 15 or so I’d emptied the old man’s recollections into my own experience pit. That and a couple of years at Bolton Tech (OND Mech Eng, like the 11-plus equivalent of fixing stuff), interspersed with a stint at Riversdale College, in Garston, on the banks of the Mersey, messing about with big, proper engines with pistons the size of four-gallon buckets, and con rods straight out of Isambard Kingdom’s book of how to ‘mek’ anything out of steel.
However, now I’m old, the hair that used to take half an hour to dry appears to have scarpered, along with the spring out of my step, but if you ask me how best to fit a wheel bearing or who the best bloke is to spark-erode a broken stud extractor, broken in a drill that’s broken in a head that’s the only one left on the planet, I’ll possibly have an answer. Or if not, I’ll know a man who can give a BS-less opinion on the best way to ease yourself out of the mechanical minefield with wallet and sanity intact.
So the question is this: when is one of these Bill Gatesy, Alan Sugary boffin-heads gonna come up with a way of tapping into the wealth of useless facts, theories, mistakes and conundrums lodged between my ears, and for that matter betwixt the ears of many other old blokes far brighter than me, or should that be I?
What, it strikes me, is needed is a couple of bits of wire and a USB socket. Then, I suppose the tricky stuff starts, where to put it and which bit connects to the red wire and which bit to the blue ‘un.
Not really a problem though, there are enough of us about to, erm, absorb a few errors and surely if they can trap a Higgs Boson particle in a philosophical molecular handkerchief, this should be a doddle.
Some of the information would be suspect, corrupted by opinion and not based on facts, but there would be so much raw data drawn from the two ultimate sources: trial and error.
The first few times I fitted wheel bearings I’d smack ’em out and in true Falklands-style I’d smack ’em back in again. Then, I bought a single-ring Ufesa hot plate. Pop the hub (or any other aluminium-based housing, cast or otherwise) onto the plate, retire for a brew, chat, pie etc, for 10 minutes, and the bearings will slide out beautifully, with perhaps the tiniest bit of assistance from a medium-sized tapping stick.
Now cometh the clever bit: clean out the housing while it’s still hot, put it back on Ufesa mark 3 for five minutes and prepare to fit bearings. Take the spindle with a shoulder or nut on it, pass the spacer on to the spindle and pass this through the hub (casting, whatever), now pop the second bearing on the other side. Take a compothane hammer (chunky, plastic, dead-blow whacking stick) in one hand and, as deftly and quickly as possible, slide the two bearings towards each other using the back one to align the spindle relative to the bearing location.
Now tap the end of the spindle with the shoulder on it to seat the number one bearing (it should really slide straight in if the hub is hot enough), reverse the spindle to the other side so that it fits straight through and tap number two home. I know, I know, this all sounds so complicated; if you saw me do it, it all happens, the fitting bit, not the pie-eating bit, in about 30 seconds.
And the nice part is, that when it’s all cooled down, the bearings are perfectly in line and no bearings or housings get hurt or injured in the process.
I’ve seen bearings indented, housings ‘mullered’ beyond belief and much frustration after bods have got a bearing halfway in and then attempted to bludgeon their way into the record books, usually painful, always costly, invariably frustrating.
So, when do we start on this USB thing, then?
Tap into the collective memory bank, click on ‘how to’ sub-section bearings/fitting/removing, and there’s the knowledge, just waiting at your calling.
Mind you, I’m not certain that it would work in every instance.
Some of you might remember a few years ago I built a slightly insane Suzuki, the crankshaft had 10 main bearings and the throws were re-orientated at 120 degrees instead of the ‘180’ on the standard four-pot GSX.
I’m not certain that they’ve created a memory stick yet that could cope with the information required to complete that little chore… on second thoughts, forget it, we’ll just let trial and error do their worst.
I’d hate somebody to ring me up at 10pm on a Saturday complaining that their six-cylinder Katana was running backwards after they’d followed all the online instructions.
Might put me off my beer.