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Working on it

Minor update

This past week I (with some help from my dad):
  • Welded another patch under Fenchurch's driver's side sill and replaced the rotten part of the strip on the bottom of the crossmember, then dressed the welds and painted the patched area (I'm going to paint the whole under-floor at some point, but that can wait a while). We've done more than half of the welding now.
  • Tweaked the brake adjusters a bit. The pedal still feels a bit soft, but I'm not sure whether it's because there's still some air trapped in it somewhere or if the shoes just need to bed in properly (unfortunately there won't be the opportunity for that to happen before the MOT test).
  • Lightly pressurised the heater matrix with compressed air and sprayed soapy water on it to locate source of the leak. It turned out to be leaking in several places, all along the bottom edges of the galleries. The way it's made is that each gallery is fabricated from two dished discs of thin copper, crimped together and soft soldered along the edges. Unfortunately the joint between the two was starting to break down due to corrosion. I spent a couple of evenings trying to repair it (tricky because resoldering one section caused new leaks further along the same gallery), and eventually got it to the stage where no bubbles came out under pressure, but then I connected it back to the car and filled it with water, and the next morning it was damp on the bottom again. I gave up at that point. More on the heater later.
  • Fixed the clutch linkage. When I bought the car I suspected there might be something wrong with the clutch because of the lack of pedal movement, but it appears that the mechanical linkage simply needed freeing up and adjusting.
  • Bucketed quite a lot of water out of the inspection pit. It's been raining a lot, and when that happens water trickles into the pit through the walls at up to three or four buckets an hour. I have a pump, but it's only really useful when the water has reached a few inches deep, and if I let it get that far while I'm working in it I'd end up with very wet feet.
  • Removed the seats and spent about six hours scrubbing them with cream cleaner and a nail brush. See the picture below for the effect this had on them.
  • Replaced the back axle oil. The front oil seal is leaking slightly, but I don't think it's anything to worry about as long as I check the level every six months or so.
  • Replaced the gearbox oil. Morris Minor 1000s use 20-50 engine oil in the gearbox, but from the smell of the old oil I suspect a previous owner had put hypoid gear oil in it, which is much thicker and can apparently cause problems with the synchromesh. They had also massively overtightened the drain and level plug, presumably with an impact driver, which caused about three quarter of an hour's struggle to remove them.
  • Replaced the gearbox stay. This is a short steel cord that's supposed to stop the engine and gearbox flying out of the front of the car if you have to stop suddenly, and they have a habit of fraying and snapping. My old one was down to about three strands.
  • Re-fitted the transmission tunnel. Used loads of new brass screws and about half a tin of Dum-Dum sealant. One of the captive nuts had to be replaced because the bolt had seized and sheared off in it. I replaced the gear stick gaiter at the same time because the old one had split.
  • Re-assembled the driver's side suspension. This wasn't as tricky as it might have been, and the balance between the two sides appears to be perfect.

Here are the front seats, one cleaned and one not. Can you guess which is which?

Here's what I'm doing about the heater. Apparently these old circular heaters are a known weak spot on the early Morris Minors, and nobody (as far as I am aware) sells rebuilt ones because of their rather unorthodox construction. It might be possible to get one custom made but I doubt it would be cheap. They also apparently have very little heat output even when they are working properly. The obvious thing to do would be to try to obtain a non-leaky second hand one on eBay, or use something like Radweld to try to stop it leaking, but I doubt another forty-something year old matrix (they changed to a different type in 1963) would be in much better condition, and I don't much like putting stuff in the cooling system that might block it up. The next most obvious thing to do would be to fit a different heater from another car, but it would still have to be a pretty old one (from before they started making heaters that are a giant weirdly-shaped plastic box), and might possibly be a bit tricky/expensive to obtain. So I have instead gone for the non-obvious and possibly slightly over-ambitious "make my own heater from a modern blower and matrix and some scrap steel shelves" option. Annoyingly, it seems that all modern cars and vans (at least all the ones in the scrapyard we went to) have the heater jammed up underneath the middle of the dashboard in the most inaccessible place possible, and scrapyard owners tend to get a bit annoyed if you wreck a dashboard trying to get to the heater under it. We wandered around in the driving rain for about an hour without finding one that would take less than about another hour's work to get out, and we were just about to go home empty-handed when I spotted a heater that had already been removed from an eight year old Toyota Avensis. The blower was missing, but the matrix was in perfect condition, and I remembered seeing an Asia Rocsta that had a separate blower unit which looked relatively easy to remove. 15 minutes later and I left £25 lighter, carrying the component parts of my new heater, as well as my umbrella, which was whipped out of my hand by the gale and blasted a hundred yards away before a tall fence stopped it.
This is the fan from the old heater next to the new blower unit (I've since cut off the inlet box on the left). At a rough guess I'd say the new blower is at least four times as powerful as the old one. It takes about 220W to power it at full blast, and I'm definitely going to have to rig a speed controller up to it to control the flow.

This is the matrix from the old heater next to the new one. It's a bit hard to tell from this picture, but the new matrix has far more galleries and much finer fins, giving vastly more surface area even though it isn't physically much bigger. It's also made from all tig-welded aluminium rather than crimped and soft-soldered copper galleries and corrugated steel fins. It isn't visibly corroded at all. I suspect the limiting factor in the heat output of the new heater will be the water flow rate, which will be limited by the necessity of connecting it up to the old small-diameter plumbing.