Wheel alignment

Sunday 30 July 2023

A near miss and some good stuff

NZ has had more than its share of bad weather in 2023 and the peninsula we live on has been directly in the firing line for most of the storms.  Although there has been an improvement in recent years, power cuts often occur due to trees falling on the power lines.  Outages these days typically last from as little as a few minutes to half a day or more.  We have a gas BBQ on our covered deck which is handy for cooking when we lose power and have various gas and battery lights so that we can see ok at night.

One backup power source we've used for a few years is a 12v sealed lead acid battery which is about half the size of a motorcycle battery.  We keep it in the basement garage, connected to a small solar panel fixed to the outside wall so that it's always fully charged.

Solar panel supplying power to the 12v battery

The battery is light and easily transportable with many uses.  Typically, we use it with an inflator for our vehicle and cycle tyres (don't trust gas station pump accuracy!), fish finder power on the boat, attaching to an LED panel as a handy portable light source and charging phones via an USB connection when the power is out.  Sure enough, we lost power during the last storm which coincided with me being low on mobile phone charge.

12v 7AHr replacement battery and phone charging lead with better connectors

A quick trip to the garage with a torch and connected the phone to the battery via the lead.  At that time, the battery connection was via crocodile clips.  A few minutes later, there was an odd smell and I went to investigate.  The battery was hissing and smoking, with the casing horribly buckled.  One of the crocodile clips had shifted, causing a dead short across the terminals.  A lucky break to have smelled something amiss and the outcome could have been a lot worse.

It was a salutary lesson to make more reliable connections and after buying a replacement battery, all the connections were changed to shielded bayonet types with heat shrink reinforcement.

On a more positive note, I recently mentioned the design and commissioning of more stained glass windows for our house at the end of THIS POST .  The subject was a native Tui drinking nectar from a plant in our garden that I'd taken a photo of.  We'd engaged a local craftsman to make a window in stained glass from the photo and last week, it was ready for collection.

The glass ready to install in a bedroom

It's not designed to replace the clear glass already in the window, but to nestle up to it, leaving a small air gap.  I'd made a template for the craftsman to build it on but it was still an anxious time in case it was a fraction too large.  Needn't have worried though - a perfect fit.  The only worry was teetering on a stepladder and holding it in situ whilst fixing it permanently in place.  It looks absolutely fantastic, both in sunlight and moonlight.  It's wonderful that there are still people around who practice the traditional crafts.

Safely installed with no glitches

The week concluded with a pleasant Sunday run with members of the Whitianga classic car club to a beachside restaurant for lunch.  A great bunch of people with a wide age range of cars.

A good spread of ages

Parked up for lunch

Wednesday 5 July 2023

The reality of classic car maintenance

We bought the MG nearly 2 years ago to actually drive, as opposed to spend time restoring it. This was particularly relevant with both Jennie and I being in our mid-70's.  The excessive but enjoyable time spent building drag bike engines a lifetime ago is best not revisited to maintain matrimonial harmony.  Buying a car with most of the restoration done has really paid off.  The upside of most classics is that that they're not all that complicated to work on, don't need too many special tools or computer-based diagnostic equipment.  The downside is that they need a bit more maintenance than modern vehicles.  Much of that work will be D-I-Y as most main line auto shops won't want to touch them as they all have their quirks or special requirements.  Even our village garage owner who is "old school" and a near neighbour makes a sign of the cross when I drop in, even for a social chat. 

Ever since we took ownership, the engine has had a slight oil weep from one of two tappet/pushrod covers. Slight enough for just an occasional drip onto the strip of vinyl sheet I have under the car in the garage to protect the carpet.  Yes, our basement garage has carpet, albeit the proper heavy duty industrial grade.  I can see the shaking of heads now but the garage was a once handy place to stick the multiple mates of our kids and similar when they were looking for a place to lay their bodies overnight. Even grandkids when they all descended at the same time.  Invasions of that magnitude are largely a thing of the past now.

Right, getting back on track with the oil weep......

It wasn't a big deal but being an anal retired professional engineer, it was like a slight itch that you couldn't scratch.  It would have been fixed earlier but for the fact that the carbs, heat shield, inlet manifold and exhaust manifold all have to be removed, then replaced for what is an hour's work at most to replace the leaking gasket.  Having never done the job previously and not wanting to cock it up big time, I reckoned that would take up to a couple of days being ultra-cautious.  A poor return on my time when I could be out driving it.  

The leak is buried under all this plumbing - bloody typical!

The North Island has suffered an extremely wet autumn and winter thanks to the La Nina weather system so it was an opportune time to bite the bullet and prepare to do the job in the face of an indifferent weather forecast.  Both of my repair manuals gloss over the job, but the MG Experience website forum had multiple posts on how to avoid further leaks so clearly, a bit of care was needed.  All relevant parts were purchased online, including some contingency materials just in case.  The good thing about owning an MG is that parts are relatively inexpensive and available.

First job was to remove the air cleaners and carbs.  I'd done this before to get the carbs rebuilt, including making a simple jig to stop carb linkages and springs from flying off and disappearing into dark recesses.  Removal of the heat shield and inlet manifold was also straightforward, even though it was uncharted territory.  Nuts, bolts, spacers and washers all went into labelled ex-catfood plastic containers to stop the Garage Elves from making them disappear without trace.

Carbs and inlet manifold off, just the exhaust manifold to pull clear

I wasn't looking forward to disconnecting the manifold from the rest of the exhaust system as access to the retaining nuts was a hassle, best accomplished from under the car.  Fortunately, the whole assembly could be pulled clear by a few centimetres and supported with a jack under the car.

The weeping tappet cover ready for removal

The front tappet cover was weeping from both the retaining bolt and from the joint surface with the engine block.  It virtually fell off once the bolt was removed, indicating poor adhesion between the mating surfaces.  The red sealant (see photo below) looked suspiciously like a previous owner had used Red Hermetite.  I remember using this on Triumph motorcycles back in the 1960's.  Triumphs of that era were notorious for oil leaks and the use of Hermetite did little to improve the situation.  To use a succinct and somewhat unambiguous description, the properties of snot as a sealant would have been an improvement.

Not much adhesion or sealing on display.........

The mating face on the engine block

Fortunately, members of the website forum previously mentioned had extolled the virtues of Hylomar Universal Blue jointing compound.  Developed by Rolls Royce for aircraft and turbine applications, it has a serious pedigree.  Not cheap, but a tube was purchased in advance.

It can be seen in the photo above that what remains of the cork gasket is narrower than the flange of the cover and the mating face on the engine block.  Several forum members recommended not using the official gasket and making a wider one from rubberised cork sheet.  Which is exactly what I did......

A pristine gasket cut from rubberised cork sheet

All mating surfaces were wiped with methylated spirits to remove any oil contamination and Hylomar was applied to all surfaces.  The torque setting for the retaining bolt was a miniscule 5 lb ft - well below the minimum setting of most torque wrenches.  However, an approximation given by one of the forum members was to gently tighten the bolt whilst grasping and gently pulling the vent pipe on the cover.  When the cover no longer moved about, that was pretty much spot on.  Easy peasy - worked a treat.

Front tappet cover in place with new gasket

The rear tappet cover showed no sign of weeping.  I spent a moment or two wondering whether to replace that as well but decided to leave well alone in case Murphy's Law decided to put in an appearance.  Reassembly of the plumbing and fuel system was simply a reversal of disassembly, with the proper torque settings and use of Hylomar on critical mating faces.  

All assembled and ready for a test drive

A 40 km test drive revealed no weeping at all and interestingly, there was little or no smell of hot oil.  Even though it was a weep rather than a leak, the proximity relative to the exhaust manifold must have previously carried the odour back into the cabin.  The real test will be over the next few hundred km but there's no reason to think that the weep hasn't been fixed.  There's also a slight weep from the overdrive unit but as that involves grovelling under the car, the inclination to fix that hasn't reached the "scratching the itch" stage yet.

Although the 1 hour basic task took most of the weekend to accomplish because of all the disassembly and reassembly involved, not to mention an abundance of caution; it was nonetheless an enjoyable experience gaining more knowledge.  Every day is a school day!

There's actually another reason I wanted to get the MG in pristine condition for the warmer months ahead. In a few weeks, I'll be having a replacement knee joint which will keep me out of action for a while.  Not looking forward to it one bit but it should address something which has become increasingly problematic over several decades.  New horizons beckon!

Test drive - Oamaru Bay, Coromandel Peninsula.  Someone has to do it!