4WD Woes & Smoky Saturdays

Certainly varied week, from the awards in Inverness to inking casks and generally enjoying the frosty, beautiful weather we’ve been lucky with. This Saturday was the first chance to get out and make the most of it, so after I drove Mary up to work and was lucky enough to snap some landscapes of the amazing weather for the distillery social media pages:

I wish I could have put up my favourite shot, but I don’t think the general public is too interested in the view featuring the Jimny 😉

Along with some of the other grafters at the distillery, Mary has been flat out painting public and guest areas of the house. It’s looking amazing, but the race is on to finish before guests arrive for Burn’s Night this coming weekend. It was for that reason I beat a hasty escape so I didn’t get reeled into working! On the road up north, I spotted a pair of beautiful Buzzards that were fighting on the road over something. They hung around for a while, sweeping over the coast and making a hell of a racket as they went from tree to tree. The fact they were so keen to stay in the trees on the road makes me think there must have been something pretty valuable down near the road as I was passing.

I also met another interesting animal as I took the Jimny partially off the beaten track and along the Burma road. She certainly looked the part out there:

But as I took a walk over to one of the bridges, I was ambushed by a particularly savage Canis lupus Cockapoois:

Needless to say, I barely escaped with my life.

After meeting mum and the pooch, I took a off to get a few photos of the forest and a spin up to Ferns.

Really pleased with how this came out. There’s a bit of lightroom trickery to bring out the colour in the hills, and it makes a somewhat messy border in the clouds, but I think the effect works well enough.

However, it was just after leaving Ferns and wanting to test the 4WD mode that trouble began. With the Jimny, sliding the transfer lever from 2WD to 4WD will be accompanied by a very distinctive ‘clunk’ as the drive shaft engages. No such such sound greeted my ears, however, and after a few seconds, the 4WD light started flashing instead of fully illuminating. Uh oh. I tried a few different things, but she was remaining firmly 2WD. On a literal level, that flashing light just means the 4WD controller hasn’t gotten a signal from the wheels, but on a more general level, the 4WD isn’t working for some reason.

The part-time 4WD system on the Jimny is interesting in that part of it’s pneumatically operated. I probably can’t explain it very well (or correctly) but the bigjimny wiki has a good run down of the system as well as this basic diagram of the wheel and hub.

When the lever in the cab is moved from 2WD to 4WD, it sends a signal to the controller that then engages the front propeller shaft to the transfer box. After this though it then needs to ‘lock’ the front wheels so that power can be sent through them. Normally, like a regular 2WD car these wheels are free to spin as they want, and so it’s all very well sending power to them, but if they aren’t locked, they’re not going to be doing anything useful. After this and when you’re done churning up the mud, you switch back to 2WD, it disconnects the prop shaft and ‘unlocks’; the hubs, allowing them to freewheel again and function the same was as most two-wheel drive cars. In a lot of older, simpler 4WD vehicles, you’d usually have to get out and manually ‘lock’ these front hubs by going up to each wheel and locking them by hand. With a pneumatic (or vacuum) system, this allows you to sit in the relative comfort of the Jimny and switch from 2WD to 4WD and back seamlessly. The problem is, like everything, the more complex things are the more they can break, and this system can and does break. It’s probably not too serious, and looking at the Jimny wiki diagnosis shows it’s probably a leak in the vacuum system:

These little pipes wear down and break over time, but it leads to the question of whether it’s really worth fixing. Obviously, I still want a 4WD system but I’m all for simplicity in my vehicles and an easy solution to this problem is simply to rip out the vacuum hubs and replace them with manual locking hubs. You can always switch back to vacuum hubs if you find the inconvenience of getting out of the truck too great down the line, and although some people tear out the whole vacuum system it’s really not necessary if you just cap the pipes to trick the system into thinking it’s all working correctly. I’ll have to see, should it be an easy pipe to track down and fix I’ll consider that, but I may go down the ‘easy’ route of getting a more reliable manual system since I really don’t use the 4WD all that often.

Anyway, I left that mechanical quandary for the moment and instead contented myself with painting the axle, a job on the list that’s part of my idea to get the differential cases painted a nice bright yellow, and finished off the night with a wee impromptu bonfire. Our friends Iain & Artemis have got a new house in Inverarish (next door to the house I grew up in, funnily enough) and as a result, have a huge amount of wood, panels, old books(?) and scrap to burn. Myself, Ross, Iain and Chloe were there first to get it started at about 7.30, but we ended up huddled around the fire well into the wee hours with a good group of folks. The evening was wonderfully clear and crisp, and it was hard to believe only a few hours beforehand we had been shivering in winter coats and jackets. The huge fire (and a handy supply of beer and whisky) made it feel like the long summer evenings we’ve all now started to long for.

I feel I take it for granted somewhat, but the capability of the Sony A7III is really, truly incredible. The depth of detail you got in those photos at the fire blew me away (and they have absolutely no editing applied to them at all). I’d already seen the possibilities at the last Whisky, Fire & Song event back in November when I got a great range of photography for the torchlight procession, but it never fails to impress.

Myself and Mary both woke up a bit groggy the next day but otherwise pretty content that we’d risen before 9am. You’d think we’d have been sick of the smell and taste of smoke (especially as I finished a great 20cl bottle of Coal Ila at the bonfire last night) but we celebrated with a treat of some tasty ‘smoked over walnut’ cheddar cheese that was gifted to us just before Christmas (literally by one of Santa’s elves– long story). It’s from the Cotton Foundry Smokehouse and paired very nicely with fresh ground coffee and a mild hangover.

Smoky End to a Smoky Saturday

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