Short Fuse - Faine 410

By: Jon Faine

Presented by

faine electrics faine electrics

Another reason why Jon is not an auto electrician

I drive the Alfa Spider home from the panel beater on a temporary permit. It is running like a nobbled favourite at the Dapto dogs… They have three working legs, my Alfa has three cylinders. A massive flat spot as big as Lake Eyre somewhat spoils the otherwise exhilarating cruise down the freeway.

I take it straight to Tony for a roadworthy. He is generous in only mentioning the most obvious faults and throws me out onto the street. I walk home.

Three days later, a roadworthy certificate, an application for red plates and some money all change hands at VicRoads. Above the counter. Not below. I emerge with the simple trophy of number plates. Are they still made in prison industries by armed robbers, drug dealers and defrauding solicitors?

I triumphantly apply my plates to my newly painted car. The old front number plate sits under the bumper in a perspex holder designed for a half-size version. The full size plate looks ridiculous. I decide to get a half size replica. The rear has a full size clear number plate protector screwed into the rear panel. There are four plastic semi-circular clips to undo. The first one breaks. The second and third come off easily. The final one refuses to move at all. I get a small screwdriver and give it a nudge. It does not budge. I apply more force, the screw driver slips and scratches the three-day-old paintwork.

I weep.

I go to Officeworks and ask the teenager behind the counter to make me a smaller replica plate in laminated plastic. He explains it is against company policy to make a copy of ‘anything to do with the government’. I use their colour photocopier and make a copy anyway. It sits in nicely.

Alfa -romeo -spider -engine

I start driving the Alfa around. It stutters and farts. I go for another long drive and it slowly clears its throat. I take it to show Ettore, the Alfa guru, and his son Gabriel at Il Bolide Rosso in Thornbury. Their workshop is like an intensive care surgery. Ettore is 70 and has worked on Alfas for most of those years. He winces in actual physical pain as he listens to the sclerotic noise from my wheezing motor.

I offer to book it in for some serious attention after Christmas. He refuses to let me drive home with it the way it is. It offends him. He attacks my Del Ortos with a screwdriver and, working by ear and feel, within fifteen minutes the flat spot is 95 per cent gone. The balance and mix was wrong, the o-ring on one accelerator jet was broken and amongst other faults it lacked charisma. Yes, charisma. And no, it is not in the parts book.

I drive home with my right foot itching to extend to the floor. Occasionally maybe it did. The horn had stopped working and the front indicators take an early Christmas break. The stereo works as a CD player but the absence of an aerial explains why there is no AM/FM reception. Only one speaker exists – it is a six-inch ancient survivor protruding from the passenger-side footwell, and has a pronounced cover that interferes with the bonnet release. The empty hole in the driver-side footwell looks small – it is for a 5-inch speaker. Odd that one side is different to the other, but my feet are different sizes and they aren’t Italian.

I spend an afternoon tracing the wiring and discover a loom clip undone behind the nose cone. I recruit some double- jointed, midget, left-handed Italian apprentices to get into the tiny crevice and then sit back to enjoy my triumph. The side button indicators now work, but still nil from the main front blinkers, and no klaxons.

I upend myself into the footwell, head under the dash, torch in hand. After ten minutes the torch dies. I arthritically extract myself and, armed with inferior substitute torch, I re-insert myself upside down into the footwell, study the back of the fuse box with a test light and discover there is power going to only half the fuses. I trace the dead wires back to underneath the steering wheel where they disappear…into a conduit towards the ignition switch under the steering column.

As I wipe the sweat dripping into my weary eyes, I give up and decide that professional auto electricians will get this done in about eleven minutes for about a dollar fifty. They deserve every cent.


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