Today though has been a day of triumph. Despite my numbed and lacerated frozen fingers, the blood streamed cooling hoses came away from the motor of my Golf. A job I have been putting off for months. The auxilliary water pump had been leaking, though this was not evident until after I got it out today. I'd thought the loss of coolant was due to age related deterioration of a couple of rubber hoses.
There was a time I liked mechanical work. It used to be so logical. I'm speaking of course of the mechanical age when a problem could be followed back along lever A to pin B, to spring C, thence on along a mechanical pathway all the way to the faulty component. Not only were these kinds of problems interesting to solve, repair could often be made by bringing manual machine arts to bear on the damaged component, even more interesting. And great was the reward when mind and hand worked together to create a solution and implemented it.
Not many people today will understand this. When I studied IT it was with a later generation: children of the digital age. It puzzled me for a long time that IT was taught as button pressing knowhow. Being knowledgeable meant knowing which button to press in order to get the right screen display. Identifying a hardware fault was by the method of replacing components until the problem went away. In other words, having knowledge meant you could answer the "what" question "What next, what is the right keyboard sequence, what is the next component to replace?"
In the mechanical age, being knowledgeable meant you could answer the "Why" question. "Why is this happening?" Being extremely bright meant you could figure out an original pathway to find your answer. Being expert meant, after identifying the "Why" you could do manual work to make a solution.
Pirsig wrote of the emerging transformation of values in his 1971 book "ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE". His book was rejected by more than 100 publishers. Then it became a best seller. It remains, not only a remarkably insightful work, but now it's an archeological record of the change that may yet end the modern age. Pirsig was an IT guy. He wrote technical IT manuals for people who did not want to understand WHY. But he knew the higher importance of WHY and the importance too of symbiosis between man the creator and the tool he creates. Pirsig had it already then, that when man lives in his immediate mind, concerned only with the "Whats" of life, he is living on luck.
Only an amateur gambler lives on luck.
So anyway, I pulled the hoses and, because the clamps are so inaccessible, I pulled the auxilliary water pump too. Looking at the pump when it lay in my hand, seeing the traces of the leaking coolant around it, I realised I had been doing "What" too. I had not troubled to understand the auxilliary water pump. If I had, I would have started with a very different reading of the evidence. In fact, I realised then the evidence could never have indicated a hose anyway. Had I just replaced hoses I would not have solved the problem. So why didn't I suspect the auxilliary water pump?
Well, the answer is simply that it was unfamiliar. I had never seen an auxilliary water pump before. I had no idea what it was. Why would VW put an auxilliary water pump on an engine anyway. Why wouldn't they just make the main one work properly like every other engine maker does?
See where the "WHY" question takes the problem solving?
After all, Volkswagen are not amateur engine makers. They are innovators and leaders and have been for more than half a century. I should have realised the auxilliary water pump would not be doing the same job as the main water pump. Indeed it doesn't. While the main water pump is part of the engine, turning as the engine turns, the auxilliary water pump only works after the motor has been shut down. For a period after shutdown it circulates coolant through the engine to ensure the rate of engine cool-down is uniform and consistent across the entire engine. It is there in the context of high design attention to detail. Its presence should have aroused at least my curiosity.
And what was the evidence that should have pointed me to it in the first place?
Well, I could drive all day without coolant loss, however on returning to the car later, the coolant level would have fallen. If I had done "Why", I would have known a failing hose would have been more prone to leakage while the engine was running. In fact, any other kind of leak would have been greater while the engine was running. Leakage after shutdown should have pointed me right away to a component that was not affected by the engine running, the only component of the engine cooling system that operates after shutdown. If I had asked the why question correctly I would have been led quickly to the correct solution without the cost of purchasing new hoses etc.
Once upon a time correct diagnostic reasoning would have been my normal way to solve this or any other problem. Sadly, I see now the consequences of living too many years in the mind-dead professional class, in which to be an expert is to be a one trick wonder, a groomed show pony, to prance in a ring defined by immediate clear boundaries of knowledge and duty defined by a paymaster.
God, its good to get out. To find my knuckles can still bleed. My brain, though lethargic, can still crank up, belatedly perhaps. Its good to get out in 5 degrees with howling winds and sleet.