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Cleon-Fonte

CF's Lockdown Diaries

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Like most of Western Europe I recently gained a surfeit of free time, for the first time in years. Much as I'd happily sit on my arse for a few months and wait for the bullshit to blow over I've decided instead to use the time productively.

I've owned this Fiat 1.3 Multijet-powered Vauxhall Corsavan for nearly two years now. It was my work van most nights for six months and it charmed me immensely, proving an incredibly pleasant way of completing a shift.  When it was about to be scrapped over a minor coolant leak I stepped in to save it, being the only one who could see the jewel beneath the grime and neglect. Since then it's been cleaned up and de-dented, done daily duties (except for a two month period where the clutch didn't work) and then served ably as a long distance cruiser/backup car for the R4. I took it off the road a few months ago to sort out the rear brakes and seized handbrake cable and it's been out of action since due to a massive pocket of air in the braking system that stubbornly refuses to bleed out.

 

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So I've decided to use the next few weeks of captivity to get the van moving, if not roadworthy, and thought I may as well document my misadventures here. I'll tackle the brakes at some point but the first job (of many) is to replace the turbo, which has been on its way out for a while. This will also afford me the opportunity to swap out the knackered thermostat which requires many of the same items removing (it turns out changing a thermostat is quite an involved process on a modern).

Stay tuned for Part 1 of the turbo swap.

 

 

 

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Are these any good then? The reason I ask is that I was under the impression that the FIAT 1.3 engines were meant to be troublesome (I have no empirical knowledge of this, just hearsay). I used to have an 03 plate Corsa with the 1.7 Dti engine which I was very fond of, it was pure white goods motoring, never let me down and cost buttons to run. Unfortunately it had a cambelt change at a garage and shortly after one of the tensioners shattered, lunching the engine. I think these are very well made and underrated cars and I would quite like another one based on previous experience.

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Step 1 is to separate the front exhaust pipe from the cat, however it seems these two are in a close relationship and refuse to part. Plusgas has been applied and I'll come back to it later.

After draining the coolant it was time to remove the front bumper. This would have been easy if the wheelarch trim fixings hadn't been previously bodged (the mechanic at work is limited to a very tight budget) but eventually it came free.

 

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With the bumper off remove the lower section of pipe from the intercooler to the inlet manifold.

 

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To access the upper section the fuel filter housing and expansion tank must be removed. The fuel hoses have 'quick release' clips which are a pain in the arse and require three hands to remove if you don't have the right tool (I don't have the right tool). The filter housing is attached to the bulkhead by two nuts, now it's off I can stick it in the vice and try and remove the very stuck lid somehow, this thing's well overdue a new filter.

 

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The expansion tank is held on with one of these clips. Being hit by one of these when it pings off at light speed is probably on the top 10 list of most painful experiences known to mankind.

 

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With those off the engine bay is opened up considerably.

 

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The upper hose is visible for the first time. It's held on by a bracket where it meets the lower hose and is connected to the manifold by two awkwardly placed bolts.

 

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The contents were not very pretty, the turbo has clearly been burning oil for a while and I imagine cleaning out all this clag should regain me a few lost horsepower.

 

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And with that the first afternoon of work was over, with most of the relatively minor, less fiddly bits out of the way and only the bits I was dreading left to face.

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Excellent. I've taken this attitude to lock down as well; if I can't get some jobs done on the fleet now, when will I ever? And I reckon the activity will help the time to pass more easily. I'm going to finish cleaning up and painting the Ami's floorpans tomorrow.

 

Shall be following this with interest 👍

 

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Another day, another few hours spent on the Corsa. The next job was to take off the engine lifting bracket and the exhaust heat shield nut (or what was left of it).

 

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Cleaning up the nut didn't help, it's clear it fused to the stud shortly before they both rusted away virtually to nothing. The heat shield itself doesn't look too clever either.

 

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There was nothing for it but to bring out the Dremel*. This does leave me the problem of what to do with the remains of the stud, but I'm sure I'll figure something out.

 

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With the heat shield off it's time to remove the oil-to-coolant heat exchanger pipe.

 

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Removing the pipe from the heat exchanger was easy enough, removing the bracket holding it on under the manifold was another matter. I couldn't see a bolt, I could barely get my hand in to feel for a bolt, I could find no suggestion of where the bolt might be and even if by some miracle I found it I wouldn't have a clue what size socket to use. This picture was the only evidence I had of the bolt's existence.

 

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With a bit of trial and error I managed to get a 10mm socket on it, but finding and locating a socket on the thing had taken up quite a substantial proportion of my spannering time that could have been better used.

Once that pipe was off it was the turbo oil supply pipe's turn, access to the bolt on the heat exchanger was again dire.

 

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And with the bottom coolant hose removed the four bolts holding onto the heat exchanger itself were ready to come out. Anyone doing this should be be prepared to be showered with both oil and coolant when separating the heat exchanger from the block.

 

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Both oil filler and oil filter housing are combined in one unit with the heat exchanger, this will be a good opportunity to clean any crud out of both.

With that done it's finally time to start separating bits of exhaust and remove the manifold and turbo itself, but that's for another day. I also have to remove the intercooler and clean it out as part of the warranty for the new turbo, so I'll do that at the same time.

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Absolutely the right approach to lockdown in my opinion! Trying to share my time between a) actually working from home b) working on the garden which requires a lot of work and c) The fleet - which require a bit of work.

 So far this week a and b have won, but I think the fleet will get attention next week.

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17 hours ago, warch said:

Are these any good then? The reason I ask is that I was under the impression that the FIAT 1.3 engines were meant to be troublesome (I have no empirical knowledge of this, just hearsay). I used to have an 03 plate Corsa with the 1.7 Dti engine which I was very fond of, it was pure white goods motoring, never let me down and cost buttons to run. Unfortunately it had a cambelt change at a garage and shortly after one of the tensioners shattered, lunching the engine. I think these are very well made and underrated cars and I would quite like another one based on previous experience.

 

What swayed me towards this one was the condition, despite being ragged everywhere and barely maintained for 10 years it's still in remarkably good nick, not a trace of rust on the bodyshell and the mechanical bits are mostly fine, or could be improved with minor maintenance. These Corsas are clearly indestructible, the number of them still about attests to this. Sadly there are a few dodgy bits of design here and there and GM clearly took a few cost cutting measures, plastic gear linkages for instance, but it's easy and cheap to replace the shit bits with improved aftermarket items.

I've known a few 1.3 Multijets and they've mostly been hassle free. We had three Corsavans (this one and two Corsa Ds) when I started working at my current place, all with these engines, and whilst the two later ones were falling apart the motors carried on regardless despite the extreme treatment they received, both vans died of other things in the end. They're much better than the horrid PSA/Ford 1.4 diesels most of the fleet is equipped with now, which are much less pleasant in use and not nearly as unbreakable.

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1 hour ago, Cleon-Fonte said:

 

What swayed me towards this one was the condition, despite being ragged everywhere and barely maintained for 10 years it's still in remarkably good nick, not a trace of rust on the bodyshell and the mechanical bits are mostly fine, or could be improved with minor maintenance. These Corsas are clearly indestructible, the number of them still about attests to this. Sadly there are a few dodgy bits of design here and there and GM clearly took a few cost cutting measures, plastic gear linkages for instance, but it's easy and cheap to replace the shit bits with improved aftermarket items.

I've known a few 1.3 Multijets and they've mostly been hassle free. We had three Corsavans (this one and two Corsa Ds) when I started working at my current place, all with these engines, and whilst the two later ones were falling apart the motors carried on regardless despite the extreme treatment they received, both vans died of other things in the end. They're much better than the horrid PSA/Ford 1.4 diesels most of the fleet is equipped with now, which are much less pleasant in use and not nearly as unbreakable.

I agree on the build quality, really well made cars. I might consider getting another one as a daily driver. BTW I was tidying my shed yesterday and found a set of genuine and bloody expensive trim clips for my old one.

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I spent most of today at the workshop doing rust repairs on the R4, so only had about an hour or two of daylight left and didn't expect to acheive much with the Corsa. However I decided to see how far I'd get.

Today's first job was to remove the bolt holding the cat to the sump.

 

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With that done I could support the cat with the trusty old jack and undo the three bolts holding it on.

 

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I mentioned previously that before doing anything else it's recommended that you separate the cat from the front pipe, but that in my case the two bits had seized together. They still refused to come apart, but after a brutal few minutes of beating them with a big hammer and wiggling the cat they came apart. There is no way I'd have been able to do it with the cat still bolted on so it's possibly best to just leave the exhaust in one piece until you really need to separate it.

 

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Once the cat was off it was time to remove the two bolts holding the turbo oil return pipe to the block.

 

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Finally it was finally time to loosen off the manifold nuts and, with the light fading rapidly, the turbo was out at last.

 

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I'd been told the turbos on these engines were tiny but it's only when seeing one for the first time that you realise just how tiny they are. There are probably kei cars with bigger blowers than these. Have a comparison with a Citroen BX 1.8TD turbo, which is bloody huge in comparison.

 

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The next job is to swap the new turbo onto the manifold, clean up the various bits I took off the engine and then it's time to do the thermostat.

 

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Yesterday I decided to change the thermostat. My idea of a thermostat change involves removing a couple of bolts on an accessible housing, swapping out the thermostat and bolting the housing back on. Fiat appear to have taken a different view, with the thermostat and housing forming one unit and a load of electronics thrown in, all wedged awkwardly in the worst possible place beneath the injector pump and various other bits of fuel system, inaccessible until you remove half the engine bay and held on by two bolts whose very existence is questionable given how well hidden they are.

First up, remove all the bits I detailed in the first post about turbo removal above (only the top end of the lower intercooler hose needs to come off, so you can leave the bumper on at least), then the next step is to remove the four coolant hoses attached to the stat, starting with the top hose.

 

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This little section of connecting hose was one of the causes of the leaks that nearly got the van scrapped (along with the incorrectly placed clip on the top hose). It was replaced with a section of Marina 1800 top hose I had lying around, which fortunately seems to be holding up well.

Once the hoses are off the wiring connector can be removed.

 

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Then it's a case of locating the two T45 bolts holding on the stat and undoing them. This is an infuriatingly fiddly and time consuming process, but eventually the stat was out.

 

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Reassembly is the reverse of removal, apart from putting the two bolts back in. The process goes: spend several minutes wrestling thermostat into place, attempt to locate bolt, drop bolt into inaccessible crevice in engine bay, retreive bolt, repeat 10 to 20 times. Eventually I got lucky and the new stat was on.

 

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So, yes, changing a 1.3 Multijet thermostat yourself is possible and theoretically quite straightforward, but don't put yourself through it. Accessibility is appalling (probably as bad as the worst things an XUD can torture you with) and it's just not worth it for what should be an easy job. Get somebody else to do it, ideally someone you despise.

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The BINI is easy in comparison. 

Remove air filter box

Remove battery. 

Remove battery box.

Find a way to reconnect battery

Run it up to temperature to find leak.

 

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23 hours ago, New POD said:

The BINI is easy in comparison. 

Remove air filter box

Remove battery. 

Remove battery box.

Find a way to reconnect battery

Run it up to temperature to find leak.

 

 

I'm truly envious, clearly the Bini was designed by rational, sane folk rather than a bunch of pissed up Italians. If it had been that easy I'd have done it months ago.

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I was going to say that this thread is garage porn, but given that you are working on the gravel path to the side of your house, it's ginnel porn! (Respect)

Great work, tackling  desperately unpleasant jobs on a worthless* motor when the rest of humanity is frantically subscribing to as many streaming services as it can, in between buying 'essentials' (a cube of Carling and however much Bushmills they can afford with the leftover cash).

If perchance you still have the bumper off and the crash bar/bumper beam exposed,  could you take a look and tell me if your Corsa has two large, off centre curved indentations  on the back of the beam? I've just had the o/s headlight unit and bumper off mine (to address issues of only one mounting bolt of three doing anything to secure said lamp assembly, and the front bumper mostly resembling Stallone's jaw at the end of 'Rocky') and noticed these aberrations in the shape of the beam - if they were at the front, I could put them down to the front having soaked up some slow-ish speed impacts in its chequered past, but they're on the reverse of the beam and there's nothing near them that could explain how they got there unless the beam was manufactured like that....

Regarding the handbrake, this has been a PITA on mine until I found that the automatic adjusters really DO work, as long as every metal-to-metal contact in the brake mechanism is greased. It's still horrible that you have to remove the hubnut to get the drum off, but at least the shoe release mechanism, accessed through a hole in the backplate and activated by a sharp tap with a drift, also works.

*Worthless but worthy. I can attest that these seem to be indestructible motors - mine's just sailed through its 100k milestone and another MOT, with a brutal 50 mile hammering over the country's worst road surfaces six nights of the week, every week. Previous owners have treated the front to some dedicated giffer work, with the bumper all over the place, the headlamp mounts smashed to bits and both wings looking like they had the worst teenage acne. And yet neither have the slightest hint of rust, they seem to be more zinc than steel...The 1.4 engine seems to be just right for it and well matched to the durable slushbox - I'm sure I'd have lunched a clutch and possibly a gearbox by now given the same treatment.

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17 hours ago, chodweaver said:

I was going to say that this thread is garage porn, but given that you are working on the gravel path to the side of your house, it's ginnel porn! (Respect)

Great work, tackling  desperately unpleasant jobs on a worthless* motor when the rest of humanity is frantically subscribing to as many streaming services as it can, in between buying 'essentials' (a cube of Carling and however much Bushmills they can afford with the leftover cash).

If perchance you still have the bumper off and the crash bar/bumper beam exposed,  could you take a look and tell me if your Corsa has two large, off centre curved indentations  on the back of the beam? I've just had the o/s headlight unit and bumper off mine (to address issues of only one mounting bolt of three doing anything to secure said lamp assembly, and the front bumper mostly resembling Stallone's jaw at the end of 'Rocky') and noticed these aberrations in the shape of the beam - if they were at the front, I could put them down to the front having soaked up some slow-ish speed impacts in its chequered past, but they're on the reverse of the beam and there's nothing near them that could explain how they got there unless the beam was manufactured like that....

 

 

Cheers, to be honest the work hasn't been that bad so far (thermostat aside). Certainly nothing like the battles I've had with a certain old Citroen.

I can confirm mine has the same two indentations, which do indeed look like accident damage at first glance. My best guess is they're there to add extra strength to what would otherwise be a flat sheet of steel, but surely then they'd be a feature on both sides?

 

17 hours ago, chodweaver said:

Regarding the handbrake, this has been a PITA on mine until I found that the automatic adjusters really DO work, as long as every metal-to-metal contact in the brake mechanism is greased. It's still horrible that you have to remove the hubnut to get the drum off, but at least the shoe release mechanism, accessed through a hole in the backplate and activated by a sharp tap with a drift, also works.

 

I didn't find the rear brakes such a bad job on these - aside from the sheer number of springs - and taking off the rear hubnut is quite easy compared to anything French (where you usually need a 40mm+ socket and they're done up to ridiculous torque settings). The major problem I had with handbrake cable reassembly is that the clips on the suspension beam are knackered and the nearside cable kept popping out, easing off the tension seems to have helped a bit but new clips are probably on the horizon somewhere (joy!). If the air would bleed out of the braking system that'd be nice, though.

 

18 hours ago, chodweaver said:

*Worthless but worthy. I can attest that these seem to be indestructible motors - mine's just sailed through its 100k milestone and another MOT, with a brutal 50 mile hammering over the country's worst road surfaces six nights of the week, every week. Previous owners have treated the front to some dedicated giffer work, with the bumper all over the place, the headlamp mounts smashed to bits and both wings looking like they had the worst teenage acne. And yet neither have the slightest hint of rust, they seem to be more zinc than steel...The 1.4 engine seems to be just right for it and well matched to the durable slushbox - I'm sure I'd have lunched a clutch and possibly a gearbox by now given the same treatment.

 

Welcome to the 100,000 mile club, it should do the same again easily. They do shrug off abuse well. I wouldn't mind a slushbox on this, changing gear is hardly something you'd do just for the fun of it with these things anyway, sadly Vauxhall never gave people the option. At least you never have to worry about your gear linkage falling off at the worst possible time.

Having serviced a neighbour's 1.4 slushbox occasionally they're definitely somewhat easier to work on than the little Fiat oil burners but I'm still quite enamoured with the latter. They add a bit of Italian flair and character to what is otherwise quite a dour, teutonic car, plus I love the way it flattens out Derbyshire hills and the fact the fuel gauge never really moves.

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I seem to recall having a right old battle with the load sensing valve on the rear suspension beam on mine, in the end finding that one of the pipe unions was badly borked with no thread left in it and only staying together due to the shape of the pipe keeping the end pressed into the valve body. No wonder the brakes were shit. Once I'd disturbed it, it leaked, so a used replacement valve and new short section of pipe going to the nearest wheel cylinder were fitted. Pressure bleeder on the master cylinder was the only way to get the air out after reassembly - iirc, there's no nipple on the valve and it's higher than the wheel cylinders... brakes are much better now though.
What a pity we're in lockdown or I'd run the bleeder to you, if it'd help.
Ta for checking the front crash bar shape - if they're factory, I think the indentations are there to make room for oil cooler/a/c radiator on higher models/options.

Sent from my BV6000 using Tapatalk

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