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Out of brake fluid

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There is a serious leak in the brake system of your vehicle – you step on the brake and pump until it is later flat on the floor board. The brake fluid holder is empty and you are in the middle of nowhere. The same thing can also happen with the hydraulic coupler. If there is no other option, then you must drive further without brakes and rely on your mechanical hand brake or by using lower gears for the engine to brake the vehicle. You can also rather succeed to drive without clutch. With my old 1962 Series 11 Land Rover I change gears easily without clutch (don’t know if it is that easy with the modern vehicles) and we could, for a long time, manage in Botswana, when the clutch failed there.

To start an emergency plan to fix the brake or clutch system, you must first stop the leak. Look out for moist spots, and if you cannot fix the leak, close the relative part of the system down. You can, if need be, squeeze the problem pipe closed with pliers if it is not the main supply pipe. With only two or three wheels that can brake you can still, with care, go on.

Now the system is shut again but there is still no fluid – what now? Well, emergency is emergency. To get you out of the dilemma, you can use dish washing soap, the very well known green Sunlight Liquid. Dilute it with a little bit of water, but do not let it foam. Just remember it is just for an emergency. You will have to clean the whole system and check everything when you are home because rust can easily start in the pipes or brake cylinders.

To start without a clutch you must get into second gear, switch the key on to get it to start with the starter. Confine it only to emergencies because the starter will work overtime in the process.

Dr Wallace Vosloo is an Engineer and Scientist by profession. His family has lived in Africa since 1696 and he has a deep love for the continent. He is a practical outdoorsman and loves traditional hunting, axe and knife throwing, longbow shooting, black powder rifle- and cannon shooting, salt and fresh water fly fishing and tracking. The art of survival is Wallace’s main field of interest and his passion is to transfer these old forgotten skills to young hunters.

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To change gears you must drive the vehicle until the engine revolutions are higher than you normally would use for that gear. Gently remove your foot from the petrol and slip the gears in neutral when you feel the vehicle has little torsion power on the wheels. Allow the engine revolutions to go still lower until you feel the vehicle move at the speed of the gear you selected and get it then in to gear. In the beginning things might be a little scratchy, but you will get the feeling. Don’t even try to change gears like that when you are on a gradient or when the vehicle is pulling heavily. Rather stay in a lower gear and take it easy.

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