Monday, 9 January 2017

Core Plugs Still in Place

It's so difficult writing for an international audience. I know, I'm assuming that I do actually have an audience, but, well, one can dream. I mean, the title of this post contains the term 'core plugs" and then I go off Googling and find that somewhere across the pond they might be calling them 'freeze plugs' or even 'frost plugs'.

Whatever, it's my blog so I'll call them core plugs because when all is said and done I'm a British lad and that's what we call them in Blighty.

So, why am I talking about core plugs? Well, oddly enough an experience I had many years ago back in my home town in the UK came flooding back to my mind as I examined the max/min thermometer we have mounted in our car port at 8.30am this morning. I know I keep banging on about how many years we've lived out here, but my theory is that there's always the remote chance that I may have attracted a new reader or two and they won't be familiar with our story. So, as I already said: 

So, in our eleven years plus of living here we've never had temperatures as low overnight as we're getting at the moment. We watch the weather forecasts by our illustrious leader in all things meteorological, Sakis Arnaoutoglou (let his name be blessed) and he shows the entire European chart (which still shows Britain, so we haven't left yet, eh?) and this past week or so there has been a decidedly chilly-looking dark blue smudge all across the Eastern med, especially the Turkish mainland (maybe the Turks are trying to freeze these islands into submission) that translates into Siberian temperatures for the region, at least overnight.

All across the Aegean there are islands under a foot of snow, many of which are ill-prepared and have lost the electricity supply for many or all of their residents, their pipes have frozen and burst, their solar panels have been damaged beyond repair. Here on Rhodes? Well, in the more elevated regions there has been snowfall, not perhaps to the extent of islands further North or West, but enough to have residents (especially the ones with kids) charging up the mountains in their cars so that their children can have a snowball fight, something which it's quite possible they'll not have the opportunity to do again for many years. Maybe build a snowman or two as well.

Here in the South East of the island, well, I took these pictures in Pefkos yesterday. Judge for yourself...

These first three were taken at the shells of some new builds way up in the heavens a very long way out from the centre of the village. These shells have been like this since we arrived in 2005. So, if you fancy putting in a ridiculous offer for somewhere that you absolutely can't live or stay in without a vehicle...

A bit tricky to describe exactly, but you can see where we live from here, way across the bay.

It may be a long way from anywhere, but at least the view is amazing.

As you can see, we're still snow-less and liable to remain so, but that doesn't stop the temperature plunging to record lows at night. last night we had -1ºC, and there have been reports from villages not all that far from us of frozen pipes. Fortunately for us here, it looks like that may have prevailed probably only for a short period, maybe an hour or two before dawn, because all our waterworks are still functioning today, thankfully.

I filled up the car at Lardos Beach yesterday and, since I'd decided that, to comply with the new laws about card use, I'd pay by plastic, I actually got out of the car, which normally (and mercifully!) one doesn't have to do here in Rhodes, yet. I still suffer from forecourt shock if I drive when back in the UK these days. I drive on to the forecourt and open my window, start to get really irritated at how long the pump attendant is taking to get to me, before my sweet better half says something like, "Waiting for Armageddon are we dear?" Only then do I remember that over there you have to do it all yourself, which is something I've now come to resent greatly.

Anyway, since I didn't want to hand my card over to anyone else, despite the very low risk of fraud at the local village filling station, I got out and, before trotting into the office, found myself having a natter with the bloke who was filling the car up. He told me that the last time they'd seen snow in Lardos village was back in the 1980s. Doesn't look like they're going to see it this time around either.

So, core plugs, why core plugs? Well, just for a panicky moment, when I considered how low the temperature had fallen overnight, I got to thinking about my car's engine. When we first came to Rhodes and had a much older vehicle, I used to top up the radiator with water. 'Something one would never need in this climate, I theorised, 'would be antifreeze.' I was soon disillusioned of that idea by Gary, the bloke who built our house and was a dab had at all things mechanical. He said: 

"Always put antifreeze in, even out here, because it's not only for stopping your engine from freezing up, it also inhibits corrosion and clogging in the vehicle's water cooling system." Thus, you should not only use it, you need to use it, especially with the kind of water you get here, so full, as it is, of mineral salts.

I have vivid memories of two specific occasions during winters back in the UK. One was when we lived in a place called Beddau, in South Wales (pronounced by the locals "bather") back in the 1990s. We had a lot of snow, which had then thawed, but during the thaw we'd seen the overnight temperatures plummet to way below zero and at the time my car was kept on a driveway, but with no shelter over it. Not only me, but several of my neighbours discovered early one morning that our engines had frozen solid. Antifreeze only works down so far. I had to get one of those low paraffin heaters and place it under the engine bay of the car for a few hours before I could risk trying to start it up without damage.

Longer ago than that, back in the 70s when we still lived in our home town of Bath, I'd stood in the drive of my friend's house during a wickedly cold spell and we'd opened his bonnet (hood, guys) together to see if we could get his car going. It was a Morris Marina, if I remember right, and when we peered down at the engine the core plugs were sticking out on either side of the block like alien eyes attached to stalks, which were composed of solid ice. It was so cold that the engine coolant had frozen and the expanding ice had forced the core plugs out, which was the first time I even realised that they existed. Seems it's what they're designed for. No core plugs and you get a split engine block instead.

Of course, my transatlantic friends, especially those living in the Rocky Mountains or in Canada, will right now (assuming anyone over there is actually reading this stuff) be thinking "what a bunch of woosses." See, I know, 'cos I have friends in Canada, that the cars over there have block heaters that keep the engine just above freezing overnight, thus avoiding damage and enabling the owner to start it up in the morning. In the UK they're just not prepared when such arctic conditions arrive, since it's not that often that they do.

So, here in Rhodes, although many folk in the UK are once again saying "it's warmer here than there", I'm afraid it's not actually the case. When they say in the UK that "it's mild" during winter, they mean it's maybe 10ºC. Here we still consider 10ºC in the day to be darned cold. Not that I like getting into this constant competition about what it's doing here compared to what it's doing there anyway.

The fact is, Greece is indeed in the grips of the coldest winter spell for many years and, although it's making for some spectacular photos on Facebook, it is causing some real serious problems for some islands and mainland areas.

Fortunately for us here in Kiotari, it's only causing us to bank the log burner up slightly more than usual.

My core plugs are still in place.

Postscript from Monday evening, Jan. 9th...

The TV news is talking about the worst snow in Greece for over 40 years and it is very bad in places. These photos were taken of last night's bulletin and the captions explain them:

This is Kymi, near the North coast of the island of Evia, where the report says they are "entombed for the 4th day, submerged in darkness with no electricity or running water."

Same report as above, just a different picture. I've never seen anything like it in Greece, apart from the mountainous regions to the North where there are ski resorts. 


  1. Core Plugs eh?
    That brings back memories of "proper motoring" back in the 60's and 70's.
    I remember well fitting new ones to my MK2 Ford Cortina, removing the old ones with a screwdiver and hammer to perforate and lever out the old ones.
    Then using red hermetite, I think it was, to seal in the new ones.
    Thank goodness those days are gone.
    Do modern cars have core plugs?
    With all the pipes and wires under the bonnet these days would you ever see them anyway.
    Anyway; I hope the temperature ratchets up a few degrees in your part of the world.
    It seems that my favourite haunt in the Sporades is taking a bit of a hammering at the moment.
    The infrastructure is not there to cope too well so I hope they don't suffer for too long.

    1. Yea, I too remember fingers covered in red Hermetite. Back in those days I re-fitted a few head gaskets, on my Lambretta before I started with cars too!

    2. A Lambretta man? And admitting it?
      I refuse to let others know that I started on, horror of horrors, a Vespa. Don't scoff, it's true, somebody had to.
      Then onto the Ariel Arrow before the AJS.
      It's more years ago than I like to remember but I think that the cylinder heads came off regularly, weekly maybe, for "de-coking".
      Probably not a phrase you'd use lightly these days!
      Won't bother you anymore.

    3. Yea, well I was only 16 and - sorry but - hated Vespas! Mind you, in later years used to hire Vespa 125 autos on Kefallonia and love them. They'd do 65 mph and carried a spare, which we needed more than once! Graduated later to real motorbikes. Never had a huge machine but my fave was the Honda 400 Superdream, which was a beautiful bike. Regarding de-coking, I used to de-coke the Lambretta almost every weekend!

    4. I just re-read your piece John. Yes you're right the same thing happened twice. I hadn't learned my lesson. My repair job by squirting a liberal dollop of Plastic Metal may have even been at your suggestion as a temporary measure. It worked so well that it became permanent.

    5. Phew, success eh? For a moment I was going to deny all knowledge.