An African Roadside Mechanic

Nov 14, 2011

RAY: This was sent in by Jim Hawking. He writes:
“I work in a small country called the Central African Republic, which is severely underdeveloped. My trained national team (I trained them) does a fantastic job of keeping things, i.e. our vehicle, going. But despite their fine efforts, things do go wrong.
“We were traveling one day through the middle of the rainforest in what is called the fourth parallel road, when lo and behold, the right front caliper of our 2004 Nissan Patrol fell off! Evidently the individual who performed the last brake job had neglected to tighten the two mounting bolts sufficiently and those two bolts fell off, as did the brake pads, somewhere on the 75 miles of unimproved road that we had just been traveling.
“The caliper was now attached to the truck only by the rubber hydraulic brake hose. It was just dangling there. By the way, this dangling caliper went unnoticed until I attempted to slow the vehicle on a downhill stretch, and felt her pull to the left, of course, because the right front wheel wasn't working, while the brake pedal sank ominously toward the floor.
“Finding the lost bolts or reattaching the calipers in some fashion was absolutely out of the question. Did I mention we didn't have any tools? But I did feel confident that we could press on with three brakes working if only we could somehow disable the dangling caliper. So while four of us pondered the situation, kind of like magic, a tribesman just appeared out of nowhere, and offered his assistance. While one of my team explained our predicament, the tribesman squatted by the front bumper and studied our caliper situation.
“He then kind of then walked up and down the road as if he was looking for the bolts we had lost, and after a while he walked over and pointed to my shoes and he asked if he could have my shoe laces. I watched with great skepticism as he began to wrap the laces around the caliper and then secured it to the undercarriage so it wouldn't drag I guess. I was sure this guy had no idea that after a few applications of the brake pedal, that caliper piston would pop free, spilling our brake fluid onto the mud that we would be traveling on, leaving us stuck in the middle of what, nowhere.
“As he told us to proceed, “you'll be safe now,” he said, I studied his repair. I got down there and looked more closely. By Jove, he was right! We would be safe and we did complete our journey safely, albeit with just three working brakes.”
The question is, what could he possibly have done?
RAY:  Here's the answer. So this guy who knew nothing about brakes, probably never seen a brake in his life –- when he walked up and down the road he found a rock.  And he shoved the rock between the caliper piston and its bracket and as such basically with the rock replaced the missing pads and the rotor right? 
TOM:  Of course!
RAY:  And it constrained the movement of the caliper piston so it couldn’t fall out.  He then used the shoe laces to tie up the caliper to the frame so it wouldn’t bounce around and dangle and break off.  And off we went.  Pretty cute eh?
TOM:  Wow.
RAY:  Do we have a winner?
TOM:  Yes we do.  Our winner this week is Alan Massey for Baltimore Maryland. Congratulations Alan!

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