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Blackboilersuits Bodging Blog - Naughty Astra!

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After many a long year of occasional contribution on here I've probably got enough old shite on fleet now to do something I should have done yonks ago and start a project thread.

The story so far.........

I had an 02 CRV for 6 years and it performed faultlessly as an car taking everything in it's stride. The only issue with it was the 25mpg it returned but as I worked close to home that wasn't an issue. Cue December last year and a new job saw my commute go up from 4 miles a day to 32 miles a day.


By March I was drowning in green shield stamps so  bought the mighty diesel disAstra from Davehedgehog of this here parish. Shown here on the only off-road parking and only second car parking space I have. The garage contains a few motorbikes so I've always stubbornly stuck to a single car rule so I don't have to move motors to get bikes in and out. More on this detail in a bit.....


A combination of broken motorcycles needing worked on, a bike trip around the Baltic and work meant that I soon realised that I had no time to prep the disAstra for its MOT  at the start of this month. It wasn't worth enough to pay to have the work done so I decided that the poor old thing would be scrapped in favour of a replacement motor.........

The mighty Volvo (V70 D5) was purchased from Ma & Pa forddeliveryboy of this parish and migrated north of the border back to it's natural home.


Three days after being pressed into commuting service the mighty volvo suffered a (badly) sticking caliper and much burning brake smells that had to be stripped and rebuilt before work the next day. Sticking piston at that so the whole thing was off and the brakes had to be bled afterwards. Two and a half hours in the pissing rain was a bit character building especially as the still MOT'd (by 3 days) and taxed (but not insured) astra was sitting on the drive. Decision made, insurance checked and a soon to be taken out Admiral multi-car policy will see me with two cars on the fleet again. I could have used one of the bikes but motorway commuting in the pissing rain on two wheels is no fun. The volvo needs an MOT in december so having the astra back on the road will take the pressure off getting that done if it needs work and the weather is bad.

And so as the volvo continues to provide daily service, project astra revival starts. Known MOT work needed is frilly arches,  broken number plate and front discs and pads so nothing major. Thus far the arches have been sorted without resort to duct tape.

After a bit of prodding.......


And after the angle grinder was let loose surprisingly it was only the return lip that was rotten so the welder was broken out to lash on some roughly cut fresh metal.


Linished off filled, sanded and primed. Note the use of a farmfoods brochure pulled out the bin being used as masking paper for extra shite points.


Followed by a near perfect colour matched (*) top coat....


Well I had black on the shelf and it's good enough to stop the primer soaking up the water so that'll do for now.

Hoping to get brakes and MOT sorted in the coming week so more to follow soon (hopefully).

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52 minutes ago, davehedgehog31 said:

Glad to see the Astra living on, it's definitely with the right person. 

Has it been OK to you after it's fuel jettisoning issue early on? 

It hasn't missed a beat once all the initial issues got ironed out. Still has many issues as with any old car so we'll see what the MOT man says but I'd like to see it live on for a bit yet. Even though wafting around in the Volvo is comparative luxury and great fun I have missed the utilitarian charm that only a base spec diesel astra can provide 😂

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21 minutes ago, davehedgehog31 said:

Glad to hear it, felt like a bit of a knob after it's incontence but had no way of knowing. 

They're great cars, the fuel economy was stupendous. 

Definitely nothing for you to feel bad about. Lets be honest it's hardly surprising a £300 car developing a problem is it. I think you just lucked out more than anything during your ownership  being able to run it without having any problems.

Just imagine if Cavcrafts 12,000 mile astra (in the for sale section) was a diesel estate. We'd need to organize a last man standing cage fight to select a winner there'd be so many of us queuing up to buy it 😅😅😅

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Get in............


Had to use a garage I'd rather have not gone to as my favoured one was fully booked all week. Outcome not as bad as it could have been. Front subframe although not crispy is very rusty so mild concern as to what the testers hammer would find but it held up to scrutiny. Also windscreen wipers look to have been moving gravel at some point as the screen is quite scuffed right in front of the driver but again nothing mentioned. Advisory for front damper was a desired outcome as the oil on both front dampers was removed with brake clean/TFR/power washer the night before! Advisories for rusty springs, can be ignored. Fail was from an broken headlight that wouldn't adjust. It was secure and did work ok so I missed it in prep. I had the garage replace it and felt a little drybummed that they fitted a new Vauxhall part instead of a pattern one. Never mind for £160 it has a years ticket now and I have a backup car to take the pressure of the Volvo's up and coming MOT in December. Celebrated by splashing out £12 on a new set of mats and putting a spare wheel (with very borderline tread depth) back in the boot. 







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Was going to leave the advisories on the astra but the parts are sooooo cheap that I'll probably do them when I have some free time. When it's not pissing rain and once the Volvo has it's MOT renewed that is so that'll more than likely be some time off yet.

Talking of the Volvo, yesterday with 5 minutes to spare before a thunderstorm I decided to replace the wiper blades and made an arse of removing the old rear breaking the plastic retaining clip on the arm  rendering it scrap. A replacement was duly ordered off ebay and tonight I decided to remove the old arm in preparation.


Remove plastic cover to reveal very vulnerable looking washer jet. Have brainfart and think removing said jet for safe keeping is a good idea(*). Snap washer jet clean off after applying almost zero force. Arsebiscuits!


After much wrestling the arm came off and the alloy fur sticking to the spindle was cleaned off. Now insert self tapper to expertly remove the plastic remains of the broken jet.


Deftly pull remains of jet out with pliers. Arsebiscuits part 2 as the brass delivery tube comes with it. Only once the remains of the plastic jet was burnt out the tube with a blowtorch could the comedy of errors came to an end with the successful re-insertion of the tube. Everything was then tested and found to be still working. 

New washer jet ordered off ebay taking the parts spend (so far) to replace a single wiper blade to around £35. Not one of my more cost effective repair sessions!

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I'm about to put a new pair of shocks springs and top mounts on my Astra 1.7

The nearside shock is a Monroe unit that doesn't look that old to me, I'm fitting a matching new pair of springs, mounts and shocks so it will be surplus. All the other 3 shocks are knackered but the front nearside has had a shock and spring at some point recently.

I ll check it once its off and bung up a pic. Yours for postage, or shitely from dunstable.  


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Quick update from Monday. How long does it take to shampoo the velour interior of a Volvo Estate?? All day that's how long! Decided to go full valet on the barge and the whole carpet and velour palace of an interior got  a going over with the carpet shampooer. That, rebuilding the rear wiper arm (see above) and cleaning all the door checks took me a whole day. Thanks to the miracle that is HEATED VELOUR front seats (seriously do seats get any better) it only took a couple of drives out sitting on a towel with the car set to "maximum sauna" to get the front seats dry again.


As is the way with autoshite though you do all that work and immediately something else is dangled in front of you that is even more appealing! Potential fleet movements up and coming so watch this space............. In other news the disAstra continues to function perfectly as "an car" so is definitely staying. No car ever represented value low cost motoring more than a MK4 diesel Astra.

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Heated velour sounds immense. Especially on days like today, first windscreen scraping of the season this morning. 

The Astra continuing to car as always then. My polo was very much acquired to fill the gap left by the most car-like Astra. Its very similar feeling. If it proves to be as good on fuel I'll be delighted. 

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The Astra is set to be the mainstay of the fleet again you'll be glad to hear. While the Volvo is an awesome car to drive I find it's a bit frustrating as a daily. My commute is a mix of congested motorway and city and that's at odds with the Volvo's natural habitat as a high speed cruiser. I have found that I drive like a bit of a knob at times in the Volvo because I'm constantly wanting to stretch it's legs and the outside lane is always full of people who are getting in my way by daring to drive at the speed limit! By contrast the Astra is smaller, content to sit at 50-60 without making you frustrated and has better all round visibility thanks to not being burdened by the thick pillars etc that come with Volvo's obsession with tank building and crumple zones. 

I never intended to have 2 cars but since man maths and autoshite logic say it's worth while I'm going to have the Astra as the cheap to run daily commuter and a "Sunday Best" and backup commuter No 2 car. The Volvo is going to be moved on now as I've agreed to but another car from a mate of mine to fill the No2 slot. Arrival is a few weeks out for now so all I'll say is that it's petrol and has a lot of GLF about it. Watch this space...........

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Astra fettling time.......

Check out my sexy new gear........


... lever and handbrake gaiters. £10 and and half an hour to fit both. These and the £12 set of tailored mats have really transformed the interior into a nice place to be.

I've also swapped out the remaining two alloys for steel wheels and added a set of gen-yew-ine Vauxhall trimz. While I did like the look of the original alloy wheels old alloys are just a never ending source of rim leaks and slow punctures in my experience. This and the steady supply of mint steels with new or nearly new tyres coming up on facebook marketplace for around £20 prompted the move. Just one more to source to go in the spare wheel well which is currently filled with an alloy. On the subject of tyres Landsail can get in the fekkin sea (no pun intended). One of the alloys that came off today had one of those POS tyres on. Three quarters of the tread still there and massive deep cracks between the treads so straight in the scrap pile. 


While I had the rear wheels off I checked out the springs which were an advisory at the recent MOT for being rusty. Rusty they are but rotten they are not. Just no paint and surface rust all over so I'm pronouncing them good. You can buy new rear springs for £13 a pair delivered on ebay but I recon that they'd probably snap before the current rusty (probably original) springs would.

While swapping over the spare wheels I whipped out the boot carpet which has now been shampooed and  is currently propped up against a radiator in the house to dry. One step at a time the car is getting better and better so I'm just keeping chipping away whenever I can. Having said that if I could pay £2K for an absolutely mint sub 100k mile example I would jump at the chance. Absolutely brilliant cars for what they are.

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Bye bye Volvo WBAC will look after you now............



In truth I'm quite glad it didn't sell on here as it wasn't a good car at all. It would have done somebody a turn and been ok until the MOT expired but realistically it was at that stage when there are so many things wearing out and starting to fail that it's not worth throwing money at it. 

Insurance has already been transferred over to the Volvo's replacement. In true Autoshite fashion I've spent £400 on a car that's going straight into a garage to get a £500 gearbox repair done before I hopefully collect it at the end of the week. Stand by for "teh big reveel" in a few days!

If there was ever any doubt that the autoshite way isn't the most economic route to modern motoring consider this. Lad in front of me at WBAC this morning was selling a 17 plate Golf GTD with circa 10k miles on it that he'd owned from new. He had to PAY  WBAC £250 for them to take the car off him because the outstanding finance was more than WBAC could offer him. This is after he'd been paying £350 a month to the finance company for a couple of years, who knows he probably put a deposit down as well. That's right, about FOUR GRAND a year just to drive a poxy Golf in Zanussi white.  It sort of puts all the "massive losses" I've suffered with cars over the years into perspective!

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9 hours ago, blackboilersuit said:

Bye bye Volvo WBAC will look after you now............



In truth I'm quite glad it didn't sell on here as it wasn't a good car at all. It would have done somebody a turn and been ok until the MOT expired but realistically it was at that stage when there are so many things wearing out and starting to fail that it's not worth throwing money at it. Insurance has already been transferred over to the Volvo's replacement. In true Autoshite fashion I've spent £400 on a car that's going straight into a garage to get a £500 gearbox. 

I'm a bit sorry to hear about the lack of love for the big silver beastie, but despite the heated velour it left my Ma and Pa cold despite providing 40-odd thousand FTP-free miles over 2-3 years. Just the relatively needy nature of big modern stuff compared with 90s stuff to swallow - my Dad struggled with the idea of a clutch pedal sensor to smooth bad gear changes when it failed and caused a EWL, similarly the injector which failed and prevented starting one afternoon - no polite warning, as with any electronics bother. Parts exist which once didn't and are potential bother for the autoshiter, those which once lasted indefinitely without failure are consumables for the higher mileage user and Volvos don't feel quite liken they once did - in some respects that's no bad thing. 

What makes for a "good car" is in part a personal thing, it very much wasn't sold because it was causing bother, far from it. I did miss the key not working in the driver's door (sorry) but mentioned everything I was aware of including the overdue fuel filter. It didn't have any starting issues, when the mechanic had changed the pads in Spring there was no mention of sticking pistons (he mentions this sort of thing) and as a fast, economical long distance machine I rated it pretty well. Just glad you didn't offer it for long here or I'd have taken it on as a veg oil test bed for common rail. 



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Long long overdue update. Work and life very much getting in the way of tat fettling and autoshite posting.

With the Volvo gone and the Astra providing sterling service I did an impulse buy and bought a Saab off a mate of mine. It's a 9-5 Aero Hot estate. 260bhp of turbot petrol goodness with a manual box. Very cheap because said box was foobarred. What was supposed to be a (relatively) cost effective gearbox rebuild turned into a (more expensive) replacement box as the old one was beyond economic repair. To compound the madness I hadn't driven the car until after the box was replaced as I'd had my mate just take it to the garage. This meant that I didn't realize that the clutch bite was very low to the floor. It never bothered my mate so he didn't mention it but had I known I'd probably have opted for an (expensive) clutch kit too. To be fair to the garage the clutch still works fine and they were probably trying to keep the costs down as the car looked a total unloved shed and is on nearly 200k miles. 

It has taken some time for me to get over the buyers remorse and feeling like I've been committing automotive self harming again. It is now growing on me however and under the lacquer peel, grubby interior (mate is into mountain bikes and has 2 young kids) there is a decent car trying to be saved.

Plus points are 4 good conti tyres. Engine had timing chains done in the last couple of years. Air con and heated leather all work as they should. It came with almost a full 12 month ticket and the insurance is £100 cheaper than the Volvo. Presumably because everything for a Volvo costs eleventy million quid. Oh and boost, it's got lots and lots of BOOST! It's a hoot to drive and handles really well for such a big old barge. Bonus is it has a towbar so will be useful for the next six months or so as I continue to sort out my collection of two wheeled shite.

Seen in the pic below moving my "spares" Honda Dominator from the lock up back to the house. Said two wheeler which was no more than an incomplete collection of largely worn out "useful spares" i'd collected over the years assembled on a frame with a V5 sold on the bay for over £400. What was even more amazing was the buyer cane all the way from Belfast to collect it and was over the moon with his purchase!


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Very long time with no updates, mainly because bad weather, crimbo and various motorbike projects have meant that the cars have largely been running quite happily(*) on neglect.

Driving to and from work for the last couple of weeks has been somewhat like being stuck inside the cargo hold of a transport plane. The ever increasing din signalling that one of the wheel bearings was about to shuffle off it's mortal coil. Well this afternoon it's replacement arrived courtesy of ebay. Quite how it's possible to but a whole hub assembly complete with ABS sensor and a 2 year guarantee for a mere £26 is beyond me but I'm glad you can, thank you ebay.

The weather was cold and wet but at least the morning snow had stopped so I donned overalls and waterproofs and set to work. 


Nothing that heat hammers and a pneumatic impact gun couldn't sort out. Quite surprised how easily some of it came apart given that everything looks like it's just been dredged out the canal.


After cleaning off the scale on the knuckle with a grinder and wire wheel the new hub was bolted in and torqued up using the factory approved(*) three stage torquing sequence. 1. Six dugga dugga's on the impact on the long hose. 2. Ten dugga dugga's on the impact connected to the short hose right off the compressor and the air wound up to 150psi. 3. Clamp hub in vice and give it one final horse up with the breaker bar.

After that it was plain sailing with the re-assembly. The impact really comes into it's own putting old tie rods back on. If you tried to re-install the rusty old nyloc with a spanner you'd get the nut half on/half off and refusing to go in either direction with the taper merrily spinning away refusing to bite. Using the impact just zips the nut straight back on without any fuss.

No more photo's I'm afraid as the rest of the assembly was done in the dark with a head torch. Test drive revealed that noise levels were back down to normal diesel Astra levels.

All this activity has made me have to decide if the car should just be sacked off and replaced or if I should spend a modest amount on it keeping it going as there's lots that needs doing. The latter argument won out and I've just ordered a pair of struts and drop links for a modest £66 and a front engine mount for £15. The existing drop links are ok but won't survive being removed from the struts, the struts have been utterly borked for the last 6 months/4000 miles and the engine mount has been making the car kangeroo in slow traffic if very careful clutch control isn't exercised for the last 11 months/7000 miles. Poor car probably deserves a better owner than me!

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I really must figure out how to post pictures from my phone so these updates can become a bit more regular and close to happening in real time. This update is from way back in the distant past and takes us up to the start of lockdown. 

New shocks mentioned the the previous post duly arrived and were fitted. Top mounts and springs were in acceptable condition so were refitted. The old ones really were borked with zero, nada,  nill not a simgle bit of damping left at all!


Oil and filters were duly replaced as with damping all round and wheel bearing drone gone the idea that this could still be a usable daily for another year was starting to sink in. The eagle eyed will spot the rainbows under the car indicating that yet again I managed to get the drain pan in the wrong place when the sump plug was pulled.



Replacing the air filter revealed a split intake hose that was duly repaired* but has subsequently been replaced by a shiny new one for cheeps off ebay. 


Next on the "make it last another year" agenda was to check the wiper linkage. A mate of mine who's worked on dozens of Astra vans over the years told me that the wiper linkage is prone to seizing up and trashing itself. As it's NLA from Vauxhall he advised checking/cleaning/lubing if my wipers were juddering. As they are a bit juddery when parking on a dry screen I thought it best to investigate. First up was to improvise a puller to remove the arms.


With the linkage removed it was clear that the issue was the exact opposite of seizing, one of the spindle bushes has massive amounts of wear but looks to be happy to wobble along for a long time yet. Mind set at ease I cleaned out the scuttle and refitted the wiper assembly with a generous dose of spray grease to all the moving parts. In the long term I'll probably pick up another linkage from a scrappy. I'll leave that till the yards are open again as  I could do with finding a few bits of trim in better nick than what's on the the car and bulk buying in person is going to be a lot cheaper that one part at a time from ebay.


The last thing to happen pre-lockdown was the purchase of a pair of replacement wings. No dents and no rust but a few  scratches from being stored. It's no show car so I can live with a few scratches when it's only £60 for a pair of rust free wings in the correct colour delivered to my doorstep. Amazingly they made it the length of the UK by courier and arrived dent free. Wasn't expecting that at all!



So that's where we go to by the end of March, I'll try and be a little more timely with the next updates 😊 

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Into lockdown we went and the only thing that immediately changed was that the Astra battery which was starting to be tired on very cold mornings during the winter showed that it was only capable of sitting for 4 days tops before it wouldn't start without 15 minutes on the charger. No biggie, I'll just keep charging it before use for now.

Time to replace the scabby wings. I must admit I was rather nervous removing the plastic sill covers and fully expected to end up having to weld up the odd hole or three. Remarkably, although there were a few scabs there was no rot so the sills, inner wings and inside of the new wings were all treated to a coat of stonechip before re-assembly.


I always knew the passenger side front wing was a pattern part so it came as no surprise to find said wing was bodged onto the bottom of a (mildly) misshapen A-pillar. with a self tapper. Nothing very bad though so a hammer was deployed to square things up before fitting a nut insert to secure the replacement wing using a stack of stainless penny washers to space it out and get pretty decent panel gaps all round.


Old and "new" wings for comparison. What the photo doesn't show is that the rusty part of the old wing is thin enough to stick your finger through.


After doing the wings the car was parked up again for a couple of weeks and it became apparent it was leaking a lot more oil than I thought it was. Mainly gearbox oil but some from the engine too. The puddle under the rear wheel here was from when the car was facing down hill and was directly under the diff pan. New driveshaft seals duly ordered and the car was spun around on the drive to give everything a very thorough power washing.


I even de-greased and power washed the engine bay. Not something I really like doing but it was the only way I'd have half an idea where all the oil leaks really were. Battery and tray were removed because the gearbox was so filthy and needed cleaning from the top.


Car was taken a run round the block and parked back up while I waited for seals to arrive. 

All boring stuff, I promise the next instalment will be much more interesting!  

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This is on chrome:

Use the click to choose files


Then where your media is, files in my case.


Then scroll through the stuff you want, press and hold if you want to add multiple.


Then they get added below the box you type in, when you want a particular picture you put the cursor where you want it and press the little + symbol on the picture.


Then submit reply.

I've been adding to mine while doing the job as it is an excuse for a break from getting covered in weld splatter and grinding sparks.

If you don't use the + the picture gets added to the end of the post.

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