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Working on it

Minor update

This past week I:
  • Spent quite a while messing around with bits of sheet metal and a blowtorch, as I've already written about.
  • Sent my freshly painted wheels and new Bridgestone 145x14 tyres off to be fitted and balanced at a local garage. They're doing it a bit cheaper but fitting them in between other jobs so I'm not sure when they'll be done.
  • Plumbed in the new heater matrix and checked the cooling system for leaks - it seems to be fine now, and I think it's pressurising as it blew some excess water out of the radiator overflow when it got hot. I think there is probably no thermostat (or it's stuck open) because the radiator starts to warm up almost straight away, but fixing that can wait until after the MOT.
  • Diagnosed a faulty flasher unit as the reason why the flasher warning light wasn't working.
  • Fixed the charging circuit - first I took the dynamo off and had a look at the brushes (plenty of carbon left, but they were sticking in the slides a little, and the commutator needed cleaning), then I traced the fault to a corroded pair of contacts in the voltage regulator box.
  • Bought an unleaded cylinder head. Second hand but unused, and a fair bit cheaper than what the dealers charge. Fitting it can wait until after the MOT.
  • Fitted a replacement interior light (the car just had three wires dangling from the ceiling when I bought it) and fixed the two door switches.
  • Re-fitted the striker plate on the rear door. This was one of those things I found among the boxes of spares that came with it and thought I don't know what it is, but I bet it came off the car - a few weeks later I noticed a couple of empty screw holes on the back door next to the lock mechanism, and put two and two together.
  • Put the boot floor and the back seat back in - this turned out to be a bigger job than expected, largely because the original screws were all knackered and I had to source suitable replacements and cut them to the right length (for future reference: the captive nuts in the Traveller boot floor are 2BA).
  • Turned the car around so the back end is now over the inspection pit. Easier said than done when your dad's broken-down camper van is blocking the garage door, it's gone dark by the time you get the van out of the way, then Fenchurch runs out of petrol in the middle of doing a 3 point turn in the front garden and we don't have a spare can.
  • Fitted a new suspension bump-stop on the front driver's side. One of those jobs where you need three arms or a helper (I tried growing an extra arm but it didn't work and I had to ask my dad to help instead).
  • Fitted an air-horn (there was no horn on the car when I got it, and I prefer the sound of air horns to ordinary ones). It fitted nicely onto the original horn bracket after enlarging one of the mounting holes slightly.
  • Greased all the grease nipples. Strangely the workshop manual talks about two grease nipples that don't exist: one on the water pump spindle and the other on the sliding part of the prop-shaft.
  • Oiled the steering rack, after spending about an hour and a half finding an old grease gun and cleaning all the grease out of it (you need to inject Hypoid oil through a grease nipple accessed via a plug in the passenger footwell).
  • Removed the front passenger-side suspension damper, cleaned it, and replaced the hydraulic fluid (the old stuff was very black and had an "interesting" odour that I've smelled somewhere before but can't quite put my finger on where). This task was made far more difficult thanks to a particular tapered socket joint in the suspension refusing to come apart until after I'd got it off the car by dismantling a different part of the suspension, heated it up with a blowtorch, and hit it very hard with a very big hammer, thus damaging it in the process (luckily I have a spare - I don't think I'll even bother trying to dismantle that joint when I do the other side). My hands are rather battered and scraped as a result of trying unsuccessfully to get this joint apart while it was still on the car. As usual the method described in the manual assumes the components haven't seized solid.

In other car-related news, the engine in my Dad's Renault Laguna wrecked itself last week. The fanbelt came apart, as they do sometimes. Normally that wouldn't be a big problem, but on this engine there is apparently a big open hole in the cambelt cover next to the fanbelt, into which the bits of fanbelt fell, causing the cambelt to chew itself up and the valves to crash into the tops of the pistons. It's in the garage having the top-end rebuilt now, estimated cost £600.

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