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Phil's Automotive Activities

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Rather than starting a topic for every car I reckoned it might be better if I just dumped my motory musings in here.

The fleet is rather unexciting these days, currently consisting of the camperised ex-roofer's van Hiace and the ex-Cavcraft/dieselnutjob Rover 420.

First off, the Hiace, it's absorbed a fair amount of my life (and income) in the last few months. I've managed to turn it from a tatty, scruffy old roofer's van to a slightly less tatty basic camper van.

It had a thread here:

Which I had completely forgotten about. It started out like this...




And now looks like this...



Radical difference, I know. Two proper windows professionally installed and a set of hubcaps plus a new towbar socket and a bit of cleaning. Most of the changes are on the inside, I will eventually gather all my photos together for the work done to line and insulate it and do a proper post if anyone's interested.

So, the Rover - bought with suspected HGF due to a problem with coolant bursting out of the header tank every time it warmed up, no wipers and a broken door handle, it has been perfectly reliable since after replacing the ill-fitting aftermarket header tank lid with a proper one and changing the knackered wiper mechanism. It has a brief thread here...


Mostly all I have done is make it dirty and add over 800 miles to it. Finally, this weekend it was time for some maintenance. First off, a trip to the local tyre centre and the slow puncture was repaired by re-sealing the wheel.


Investigation underneath showed nice newish brake pads and discs on the front and very little rust underneath. They confirmed that the noisy, rattly exhaust is down to a blowing manifold gasket and broken up rear silencer and cat insides. Most of the noise can be reduced with a new gasket and back box so I'll get around to that eventually, it's not bad enough to be a real problem yet.

I had a spare hour so started to get servicing bits sorted, it hasn't had one since 2014 so it's long overdue.


New spark plugs and air filter...



Plugs didn't look too bad but shiny new ones are an improvement. Next up, cam cover gasket which seems to be the source of most of the oil caked onto the block.


Finally, the thermostat needs changing as it never gets above 1/3 on the gauge and takes a long time to get there. This is where things went wrong. I took the housing pipework off and was greeted by this...




There is a thermostat wedged tightly into the rubber pipe, causing it to bulge, and nothing in the housing. It doesn't look right to me and the 'stat is properly wedged in there, I couldn't get it out. I think I'm going to have to replace the pipe in its entirety which is annoying, unless I'm barking up the wrong tree here. More annoyingly, I removed the plastic bleed screw on top of the pipe to see if it would help in pushing out the stat but it didn't and now the screw won't go back in - it seems to have been threaded onto a nut inside which has now dropped into the pipe. Bugger.

This is the new thermostat I have, which I now think is wrong for this model (it is the same one as correctly fitted the older 220SLi).


I suspect I need this one...


Any thoughts on that? Anyway, with the screw not going back in, it's stranded on the driveway for now until I can sort that particular little issue out.

To finish the job, it needs an oil and filter change plus a full coolant flush as the stuff in it now seems to be mostly brown water. The lumpy idle hasn't been fixed by the new plugs so I'll also change the ignition leads as they're possibly the originals and are caked in oil where they're attached to the ignition module. Removing and cleaning them seemed to improve matters slightly but it still sounds crap. That said, it revs cleanly and pulls very well, with plenty of power and smooth delivery so it drives extremely well despite this.

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^ the stat thing reminds me of a way of sorting the stats on diesel rover 75s. The original stat is somewhere none too accessible, so an acknowledged bodge when it fails is to shove a Renault sourced one (IIRC) in the top hose instead. Maybe it's all the skinflint repairer had lying around and it doesn't fit in the dedicated housing?

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^ the stat thing reminds me of a way of sorting the stats on diesel rover 75s. The original stat is somewhere none too accessible, so an acknowledged bodge when it fails is to shove a Renault sourced one (IIRC) in the top hose instead. Maybe it's all the skinflint repairer had lying around and it doesn't fit in the dedicated housing?


Yes, that came to my mind too. 

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Yeah I think the inline stat is off a Renault 5, it's also a popular bodge in Alfa circles as a proper thermostat comes in a housing with a small hedgehog of pipes attached for about £100.


The Renault 5 stat is a fiver or something.

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Cheers chaps, I've heard of this sort of bodge before but not come across it until now.  I'll get the 'right' stat ordered in and see if I can extract the old one, however I won't be entirely happy until I find the nut for that plastic screw!  I could probably find one to fit but can't be sure it'd seal and I don't want random bits like that knocking around the cooling system so I'll start by taking the pipe off, I'll try the warm water trick while I'm at it too, thanks for that idea.


I can't believe it was easier to ram that stat into the pipe than it would have been to go and get the right one!

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Took the van out last night and had a mild surprise when braking for the first junction out of my road, the pedal went almost to the floor.  Brakes still work and after a few pumps it was fairly normal but gradually dropped again after a while, not ideal.  It's recently had new brake lines front and rear and the master cylinder looks new, no obvious leaks but the fluid (which is sparkly clean) has dropped a little in the reservoir, not quite on the Min mark yet but obviously it's getting out somewhere.  Not sure if these have a slave cylinder or not but it certainly needs attention ASAP.  The brake warning light has been coming on and off when turning left for a while now, it started around the same time as a binding rear drum (which turned out to be full of sludge and dirt), I foolishly assumed it was a dicky sensor for the handbrake but realise now it was due to the fluid level being too low and tripping the light when going around corners; only left, so I guess the sensor's on one side of the reservoir.


That'll be the next job on the list, then.

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Another vote for wheel cylinder dribbles........ it should be pretty obvious once you get the drum(s) off.


I'd also pipe up for the camper conversion details - I have a trailer (two wrecked Taunus Transit rear ends) that I'm going to convert. Would love to see how you did it, I'm busy reading up online everything/anything I can find on doing this. Teardrop build sites seem to be pretty good info.

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I spoke too soon, that stat is supposed to be there!




Also, price-wise, ouch!  I will have to try and find the nut that the bleed screw connects to, I'm not paying £100 for a rubber hose.  There's absolutely no thread in the bleed screw hole so there must be a non-captive nut in there which by now is probably somewhere in the radiator...what a daft design.  I moved it off the driveway this morning and it's running like a three-legged dog, jiggling the HT leads improved matters slightly so that seems pretty strong confirmation that they're knackered.  I'll order some new ones ASAP.


In other news, topped up the van's brake fluid and the pedal is now perfect again, very firm and the brakes are nice and sharp.  I'll keep an eye on the level, it's possible I suppose that some air has worked its way out following the brake lines being changed.

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This thread on mg-rover-lickers.org suggests bodging it by cutting the bleed screw section out and replacing it with a piece of metal pipe and jubilee clips. Then to bleed it just slacken off one of the clips. Might be a bit tricky though seeing how close the bleed screw is to the flared part of the hose.



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Cheers Rob, thanks for that.  Luckily though, I won't need it!


I had a sudden burst of enthusiasm this evening so, lit by street light and torch, I extracted the offending pipe and brought it inside to poke at.  Shaking the pipe out produced a rattle, then this fell out...




Bingo!  It was there all along.  I suspect it was originally meant to be captive, there's traces of rubber on its edges, but it had fallen out.  I managed to extract the old thermostat, which looked a little aged.




It's actually quite a neat fit but it's a lot easier to prise out with the pipe off the car.  With the old 'stat out, I refitted the bleed screw and nut and the new one fitted in neatly with minimal force, nice easy job.  I do like fitting shiny new bits like this.




I refilled the coolant (read: added a couple of litres of clean water to dilute the brown muck that passes for coolant in this car - a full flush through is called for and a dishwasher tablet will be introduced before I refill with nice clean, fresh OAT) and then took it for a spin.  It now warms up much more quickly but the temperature gauge still doesn't get much beyond 1/3 - no drama though, it definitely gets warm enough, the heater works nicely so I'm not complaining, I guess it's just the way this engine is.  There's no leaks anywhere so I'm chalking that up to a win.


Turns out, this odd 'stat arrangement is unique to the T-Series on cars fitted with air con, which mine has (although it doesn't work - just needs a regas I hope).  The coolant pipe is also therefore unique and perhaps this is why it's so flipping expensive.   


Next up, new ignition leads which are on order, followed up with an oil change and coolant flush.  It's going out on a nav scat next Friday which I haven't done since I had the Puma, it's probably just as quick and a bit more roomy so should be fun.

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Well, the temperature gauge certainly went higher on Monday night, when it became apparent there was a slight issue.  After 5-6 miles it started bouncing between near the top of the gauge and its normal position, plus I realised there was no heat from the heater at all.  Fortunately it was only a short trip and I was able to park up fairly promptly, popped the bonnet to be greeted by a sizzling hot engine and evidence of my own idiocy - I obviously hadn't tightened down the jubilee clip on the stat hose properly and it had managed to let a fair bit of water come out under pressure from the edge of the hose.   As I was several miles from home, a quick trip to Morrisons provided two 18p 2l bottles of water, most of which went in the header tank, I then tightened the clip using my front door key (not really recommended) as I'd stupidly taken my toolkit out of the boot only the previous day, all is now well.  Fortunately it doesn't seem to have suffered from getting a bit hot and I've now done the clip up properly with the right tools.  Always carry a screwdriver with you, kids.


I've also since changed the ignition leads which has mostly cured the grumbly idle.  It pulls very cleanly and feels a little more lively now, the old leads were quite crusty and Lucas-branded so probably the originals.  Next up, oil change and trying to do something about the blowing exhaust manifold, it sounds rather crap at the moment.  The block around the manifold is caked in oil from the previously-leaking rocker gasket so I suspect this has something to do with it.  The two manifold studs I could easily access were a little loose but tightening them hasn't made much difference, I'll need to strip off the alternator and a few other bits to get the manifold off and see if the gasket needs changing or just cleaning and re-tightening.

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Last night the 420 took two of us on a nav scat (bascially orienteering in a car) near Taunton.  Covered about 150 miles all in, loads of fun, quite a bit of driving on very bad roads and with a lot of stop-starts and three (or twenty) point turns looking for the clues.  It performed perfectly, not quite as much fun to hoon around as last time I did it in the Puma but it did a cracking job nonetheless, kept all its coolant in and didn't complain at all, even when I nudged it into an embankment trying to turn around in a narrow lane in the dark (no damage done, fortunately).


Today it was rewarded with a thorough wash and polish.  Sparkly!  It does look a lot better, admittedly it was not my best work though, most of my decent cleaning kit is on loan to my dad so I made so with what I had, which was T-cut and dark green wax I bought for the Jag.  Did the trick though, it looks heaps better.






It also got an oil and filter change, the stuff that came out had been in there for 3 years going by the service history and it looked pretty rank.  Nice clean oil and more tightening of exhaust manifold bolts, it sounds a little better although the lumpy tickover is still present.  I can't work out what's causing it to be honest, it's knackered the cat where it's been misfiring at idle, presumably for months (although it's a lot better now with the new ignition leads and plugs) and it would be good to sort it fully.




Gave the engine bay a quick wipe over with an oily rag, looks much better in there now.  There's been quite the oil leak and it marks its territory everywhere it goes but I am hoping it's residue running off the block, it's absolutely caked in it but the rocker cover gasket that was causing it has been replaced now so fingers crossed it'll do.  It doesn't seem to use any that I have been able to notice, it was slightly above max on the dipstick when I got it and it still was when I drained it today.

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I've noticed the fuel consumption is rather high and, combined with the poor idle, I started to wonder if the lambda/o2 sensor might be responsible.  I vaguely recall an error relating to this sensor when dieselnutjob plugged it into his diagnostic laptop when I collected it.  A new Bosch sensor is about £60, not the end of the world but given this is a budget undertaking it's £60 I would rather not spend if I don't have to.  Having done some research, it seems that a leaking exhaust manifold can cause the o2 sensor to read excessively lean, causing the ECU to make the engine run rich to compensate.  This makes a lot of sense to me, the manifold gasket is blowing and really needs removing and cleaning up as the block is very oily around there.  So it's not just making the car sound like a neglected old banger, it might actually be affecting the way it runs.  Might also explain why the cat has broken up as it may be dumping unburnt fuel in the exhaust.  Feel free to tell me if this all sounds like complete nonsense, mind.


So the next job is to strip the manifold off, which will be a hassle as the alternator and various air con pipes are in the way, put on a new gasket (about £ 8) and see if that sorts it.  


I also need to attend to the brakes, they work well enough and the discs and pads look recent but the pedal is mushy and the front discs are badly warped.  The brake fluid looks a bit grim, I'll look out for a master cylinder seal kit as I think it's past its best, the pedal can be made to go to the floor when pushed down hard.

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Alas, the Rover is dead. This morning it finally succumbed to head gasket failure in the same way as the Dopehead Castoff 214SEi, blowing compression gases into the coolant. Sad days, and the end of Rover/MG ownership for me, at least for now. I don't have much luck with them.


It is available for anyone wanting it intact, just been serviced! Otherwise I'll pull a few useful bits off and call the local scrapyard.


Next step is finding a replacement I can actually keep for a while. I'm thinking Saab 95 or Volvo V70 at the moment in petrol auto flavour. I'm quite fed up of working on cars in a hurry, in the dark and rain and cold, so something low maintenance would be nice.

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Alas, the Rover is dead.


It is available for anyone wanting it intact, just been serviced! Otherwise I'll pull a few useful bits off and call the local scrapyard.


Whereabouts are you? 

Could be interested in some bits, possibly even whole car if West mids based.





Edit: just done a search after posting above and found you are in Barnstaple. Bugger...

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Whereabouts are you?

Could be interested in some bits, possibly even whole car if West mids based.





Edit: just done a search after posting above and found you are in Barnstaple. Bugger...



West midlands is above oxfordshire

Devon is below oxfordshire

There is someone in Devon who wants a certain laguna that is in oxfordshire and would drive to Devon...

Then epic collection thread drive the rover back to the midlands?

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Yesterday...all my troubles seemed so far away. 


It all started so well, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, all was well.  As ever though, the moment I picked up a screwdriver it all went a bit downhill.  I went to tighten up another leaking coolant hose on the 420 and as soon as I started to refill and bleed the coolant it started frothing the water in the header tank.  Revving the engine caused water to boil out of the tank, it is affected by engine speed and went on for a good few minutes so it's no air lock.  Sadly, it is buggered and I am not going to fix it, I'm very tired of constant fiddling with cars right now as I have too much else on, I yearn for something low maintenance and reliable.


As far as driving it goes, I wouldn't.  There's a lot of compression gases getting into the coolant, I doubt it would get 10 miles now before soiling itself.  It is a real shame but the headlining and door cards are falling apart, the exhaust is knackered from manifold to back box and the brakes need work, plus the windscreen seems to be leaking as the headlining above the passenger side is damp and mouldy in the corner.  All in all, I cannot justify any more time or money and I feel I've had my current money's worth, it only cost £50 and has absorbed about as much again in parts so I can hardly complain.


It does have four Rover 45 alloys with almost new Arrowspeed tyres, a decent blue leather interior with a bit of wear on the driver's seat, tidy bodywork and a fair bit of MOT left.  The engine is great, pulls well and plenty of power but the blowing exhaust manifold and rattling cat and back box makes it sound rough at idle.  All in all, it could live on if someone had the time to put to it, these are getting rarer and rarer but this one seems likely to end up a statistic.  


Yes, it's in North Devon so miles from everywhere (pretty scenery though).


It wasn't the best day in all yesterday, I spent quite a bit of it doing the annual service on my sister's 2008 Hyundai i10.  It got treated to a partial coolant flush (didn't have time to muck about hosing out the entire system) as well as the usual oil and filters.  I also cleaned up the brakes and took out the pads, only half worn after 3 years and about 30k miles surprisingly, wire brushed the calipers, re-greased bolt threads and pad backs and reassembled.  What I didn't notice was that one of the caliper bolt washers had dropped off on the driveway, so when I retightened the bolt, it touched the brake disc.  Cue hideous noises on the test drive, a deeply scored brake disc and a hasty trip to my local GSF.  The guy in there was a hero, mind, they close at 4pm but at 4.25 the door was still unlocked and he sold me a set of discs and pads.  Without the usual online discount it set me back £90, not bad really but a costly lesson learned.  


I then spent 90 minutes in the dark and rain installing them by torchlight, confirmed that it was now sorted on a test drive, found the bottom hose was leaking coolant, swore a bit, lay on the ground in the dirt and pouring rain in my clean clothes, moved the spring clip around to try and seal it, with reasonable success, then sent her off back to my parents where she is staying.  All in all, not a great day but it did end with a superb meal at a local Thai restaurant with the family (top tip: if any of you are ever in the Bideford area, Morans in Westward Ho! is a little pricey and needs booking weeks in advance but it's well worth it, the food is consistently brilliant).


Anyway, I've pretty much decided to sack off home maintenance for now, I end up rushing it or forgetting things, the weather is crap and I have very little spare time so it just ends up being stressful, I'd rather suck up the expense of using my trusted local mechanic and not having to worry, likewise I think the sibling's i10 needs to start being taken to a professional who doesn't have to try and work on it in a small window of opportunity one weekend prior to the car being taken on a 4 hour motorway journey immediately afterwards.  


I've got my eye on a couple of local-ish Volvo V70s and would also consider anything else that has the potential to be reliable, of reasonable size, ideally petrol and auto with decent power and comfort for under a grand.  I know, moon on a stick but I am hopeful it can be done.


This fits most of the criteria, but the interior looks a bit rank.  Needs a wheel bearing but the MOT history is excellent, clearly has been well maintained in the past.






Or this, which is a remarkably disturbing colour but likewise seems to have been looked after.






I'd welcome suggestions and advice on these, Saab 95's and anything else the AS hivemind might suggest.

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