It is Thursday Evening 9 o Clock and it seems that the sudden onslaught of work has been conquered.

Tomorrow is the start of a long weekend and it seems that only yesterday people started preparing for it. While I ponder human nature and its inability to plan ahead on a lot of items, I realize that I am just as much as fault with no plans for the Weekend ahead. Since I prefer being left alone on my holidays, I phone a friend who lives on a farm nearby. Of course I may come provided I bring my tools along since his one Bakkie is a bit sick. Well Friday is hectic as always and somewhere in the afternoon I manage to sneak out and leave the city, happy to know that a peaceful and quiet weekend is ahead. During the evenings talk it turns out that his Landcruiser- which we had implanted a 350 Chevy in 3 years ago- was not that happy. I told my friend that he would also be unhappy if he had no attention for 3 years.

                The next morning we went to the nearest town. He went off to get Broetchens and other groceries while I went to the local Spares shop, where the following scenario unfolded. I asked the Lad behind the counter for the necessary service parts by brand and type such as Oil as well as Filters, plugs, fan belts etc. This prompted a reply “Vir watter car oom ?” I really see no necessity in specifying this as I had already advised on exactly what I wanted, but being in a relaxed frame of mine I replied “Vir ‘n Cruiser”. The lad disappeared and came back a few minutes later with 6 instead of 8 Plugs and all the wrong parts. After explaining that the Cruiser ran with a Hamundatu he replied “ Ons hou nie 8 cilinder parte aan nie” and proceeded to help the next customer. Knowing the owner of the shop I disappeared in the back and returned a short while later with all the necessary parts. When the Lad finally acknowledged my presence again he replied “ Daai olie is vir sedan karre, jy moet Rotella gebruik”.

                This brings me to the point “why don’t we have many qualified parts salesmen left?” In days of old we could walk into our spares outlet and ask for “I need the thingamabob that turns on the heat in my Hilux, you know the one that always breaks” and the spares salesman knew that it was the water circulation switch under the Bonnet on the Firewall without asking for “ model year chassis number and color”. If the Sparesman does not know what breaks and is in demand, how is the place supposed to stock that item. The same goes for workshops, if the mechanic does not know what is a sore point on that specific vehicle, how is he supposed to get there. Who is to blame? Sorry bud, it is us. You know why, because a mechanic or sparesman has been viewed with disdain in the past. If you could not take std 8 you became a Macky. Well I have news for the crowd that thinks along these lines. On today’s cars you need matric and good Math to cope and on older cars you need ingenuity, understanding, common sense and a whole bunch of things that prevent a dummy from becoming a mechanic.

                I recently saw a mechanics post advertised on a major route far from Windhoek for N$ 7000 net plus free lodging. This isn’t bad and it will get better (for the mechanic that is) with more cars being Fuelinjected and have fancy gizmo’s. And note we are not getting Unleaded fuel just because the Namib is dying, it is so we can hop on the Hi-tech bandwagon. Where are we going to get the mechanics to do fault finding? What is this going to cost? And with the current state of affairs will it work? We Namibians are a complacent lot, we only moan amongst ourselves and get the story distorted in the end. Look at the rest of the world and see what they got with technology. Ask an American what he thinks about the new on-board Computer called OBD2, I’ll tell you his reply will not be pretty. I will be the last person to reject technology, but to introduce such without the manpower to service or understand it is beyond me.

                When I returned from Europe at the end of 93 I was trained on the cutting edge of Automotive Technology and was involved with designing Electronic Engine Management systems. I recently talked to an ex colleague of mine now designing for Siemens and realized that my knowledge is obsolete. If you will not let your dealer/manufacturer know what you want, you must accept what you get. And within 10 years that might mean that you are forced to drive old vehicles- if fuel for them is still available or accept your new vehicle with “no user serviceable parts inside”. Your local agent will of course have the necessary trained staff plus analyzers, is that reassuring? With conventional technology we are often told by the factory that we have unique problems due to our conditions, and our maak ‘n plan technology sorts it out. When your future analyzer tells you “Ignition Computer malfunction code 11” and your book tells you that means “replace non serviceable part” and that cost N$ 500, are you going to be happy? Especially that you are replacing it every 8000 Km and the factory tells you “we don’t experience that problem over here”. It might be utopia, but let me tell you USA 1997 it is real because OBD2 is here.

                So what am I getting to? Force your kids through school, make them learn something and if they wish to become a mechanic or parts man don’t stop them- but make them learn.

Back in the 60’s LA had a bad Smog problem and the easiest way to combat that, was to hit the Automobile (Cars are not gross polluters- factories are). Then the government was only worried about: CO, CO2, and HC. The best way to reduce emissions is to have a Sond in the Exhaust that tell the Motor Rich/Lean and have it correct that- Later to fight Nox Gasses we got Catalytic Converters. Well these units get fouled by Lead. So Unleaded was born. Ask your fuel representative what chemicals are in Unleaded, you might be horrified. If emissions are such a big deal, why don’t we go for Natural Gas, apparently there are huge reserves. Scrap Epupa, scrap Fuel reliance from outside; we are told we have it on our doorstep. Natural Gas can drive our PowerStation’s cleanly, as well as our Cars and to Boot it has more Energy than fuel plus a far higher Octane Rating than Petrol.

                As in Europe we can have Gas in our Household for Cooking etc. Look at Australia, Gas is a Cheap fuel there. It is also safer since when compressed it is Liquid and once released it rises rapidly into the Atmosphere. So your tank ruptures in an accident. With conventional Fuel a Bonfire is the result while with Gas it might cause a quick combustion above the vehicle. What do you prefer, a possible deafening or being toasted to death?