Testing can make you slower, but not if your throttle sticks open
I've been using my little Zeta four-wheel drive tractor - a Czech thing it is, built in Brno - to ferry stuff around because I'm filling in the gaps in the driveway round the house, and widening it at the same time.
I bought the Zeta as a non-runner, but I fixed it up and it runs great. I also bought a little tipper trailer, made out of a two-tonne Dodge flat-bed truck with the front cut off and a towing hitch welded on.
Since it's about a tenner a tonne for crushed stone to be delivered to your house, but two quid if you go and get it yourself, I decided to pick it up myself. When this trailer was a truck it was plated (that's the industrial version of an MOT) at two tonnes. But as a trailer it could take four tonnes without a problem. The road leading down to our place and up to the quarry is unclassified, but still public road. It's narrow, with banks on each side and then a wall on top. As I was never on anything but this 'C' road, and never see cars on it, I just filled it right up on each trip.I went up to the quarry again last week, got my four tonnes, and when I was driving back to the house I approached the steep downhill bit, about 100 yards long, which then turns square left, along the top of a wood.
That hill had never been a problem before; the tractor's brakes worked perfectly. But this time one of the brake pipes popped - it had just rusted through, as I found out later.
So the right hand side had no brakes at all. The left side worked, because these tractors have independent systems, but it locked up when I used it, dragging the whole thing round, almost jackknifing.
It was torture - you want to hit the brakes but you can't because it turns the thing sideways. So the speed built up to around 20mph, and there was not much I could do about it. And when there's nothing you can do to stop, even 20mph feels on the quick side.All sorts of thoughts went through my head. I wanted to jump out, like people do in those old black and white films. Then I remembered the grass banking on each side, as tall as the height I was jumping off from. I would just get bounced back under the wheels - and squashed by my four tonnes of heaving trailer.
The next idea I had - and I am cleverer than this, so I don't know where I got it from - was to take the tractor out of gear, and put it into a lower one. Bloody hell, as soon as I knocked it out of third gear to put it into second, it was like I'd hit the turbo button! It just took off!
As the turn loomed I just banged on the brakes, it slewed the whole thing to the left and the front end went up the banking. My trailer - the driving force of the problem - luckily has its ball joint below the tractor's wheel spindle so it didn't turn over. Once the trailer had skidded round it just jammed itself into the banking on the other side - the right way up as well!
Lucky escape or what?
I can't emphasise enough how dangerous the whole thing was and how close I came to being killed, but the funniest thing in hindsight was the fact that my main concern afterwards was to check that nobody had seen me. You know, like when you trip over on the pavement...
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