2019 Trip – Day 1

Due to early flight I spent Saturday night at the Heathrow Radisson Blu hotel. They did a deal with 8 days parking which was very reasonable. At a most unpleasant hour I caught the bus to the terminal for the uneventful flight to Stockholm. The plane was only about 1/3 full.
Whilst in Stockholm airport I tried to make use of their free WiFi. Now, I know that my travel laptop is old and weird, but it has worked fine in many places. Unfortunately, it only has the Opera web browser and this refused to connect to the WiFi login page as it claimed it was insecure. Only by turning off all of Opera’s security checking could I get it to work. Unfortunately, I managed this only seconds before needing to board the flight to Oulu.
I was hoping to catch the 15:10 bus from Oulu to Jurmu, but this was always going to be tight – even with a taxi – with an arrival time of 14:40 and this timing fell apart when a delayed departure from Stockholm. I therefore took a bus to Oulu centre and then spent a very long time waiting for the 18:40 to Oulu. The bus station hall was shut, but fortunately I was able to shelter in the adjoining cafe.
Despite selling me a ticket to Jurmu, the driver didn’t stop when we got there. I have never had this problem before! Fortunately, I was able to call Timo and the re-directed Milla to pick me up from the stop in Taivalkoski.
I had previously agreed with Timo that following their disastrous fire in October which destroyed the guest accommodation, I would spend the first night in Kylkeinan and she said that as I was quite late she would drive me straight there and that she had my meal with her.
Well, I coped, but it took even longer than normal to light the fire. Primarily this was because I couldn’t find the axe and therefore was rather short of kindling.

Pushing for the re-test

Following the Fiesta’s MOT failure on Monday, today was the time to try and fix it so I can get a re-test before the end of the week.

This morning I rushed round to get what I needed.  At Tyreland I was going to get two new tyres and a slow puncture fixed on a third.  But, when I got the wheel off it looked very badly worn on the inside edge.  I decided that it wasn’t worth repairing so I got a third new one.

Euro Car Parts sold me two disks and a set of brake pads and Halfords printed a new number plate for me.

I then set about replacing the disks.  According to my Haynes manual this is only a two spanner task, but as always it was a bit trickier than it looked.  Starting on the offside, I got the brake caliper off OK but struck a snag with unbolting the caliper mounting bracket.  This has never been removed before and unsurprisingly was a but tough to move.  The bolts needed a 13mm socket, but the lower one just rounded off when I tried to shift it.  I decided that I needed an impact socket but I don’t have a 13mm one so then I was a bit stuck.  I couldn’t obviously see anyone in Salisbury who could sell me such as socket and thing were looking bad until I had a brain wave.  The basic problem was that the bolt head had corroded and was now a bit less than 13mm.  It was still too big for a 12mm, but then I remembered the old trick of finding an imperial socket which you can force on with a hammer.  It turned out that my ½ inch AF socket was ideal. I walloped it on and then with my breaker bar shifted the bolt.

After that things went quite smoothly.  The disk came off with a bit of releasing spray and a lump hammer and the new one fitted on easily.  I took the opportunity to line up an old and new disk to compare thickness.  See the considerable difference in the photo below:

Old and new brake disks.

It was the work of a few minutes to re-fit the caliper with some new pads and the job was done.

New brake disk installed on Fiesta.

With the tyres and brakes done, all that was left was the number plate.  This needed drilling to match the old one and just screwing on.  As it was raining a decided to drive the car most of the way into the garage so that there was enough room in front of the car to work at the bench and I could shelter under the door whilst fitting the plate.

This scheme worked well.  It was the work of a moment to drill the new plate using the old one as a template and screw it on.

Disaster!!!  When I then came to move the car the remaining metre into the garage it wouldn’t start!!!  How the hell has that happened?  It turns over just fine, but there isn’t so much as a cough from the engine.  Thinking that the problem might be damp as the bonnet was open for part of the day when it was raining I pushed it in and have left it with the bonnet up to dry overnight but I don’t hold out a lot of hope.

If it doesn’t start tomorrow morning I shall have to cancel the re-test a booked for the afternoon.  It then seems unlikely that I will get the car to the re-test with the 10 days allowed as I will be in Finland next week (don’t forget to follow the blog).  If that happens then not only have I got the cost of repair, but also a full re-test where something else is bound to be found wrong with it!


MOT for the Fiesta

Time for the Fiesta’s MOT.  I put it off a bit this year as part of my scheme to move the MOT period into the summer (working on the car in the rain and cold is getting less pleasant).

Following my dissatisfaction with Graham Dimmer, I decided to try out Brunel Motors.  I wasn’t particularly impressed to start with as I was left hanging around in the reception for about 10 minutes while the chap behind the desk finished a very drawn out phone call.

However, they did the MOT and failed the car on three things:

  • Tyres – Both rear tyres had tears in them.  This is annoying as they still had quite a bit of tread.  It looks like a fault with the tyres as both had started to split in the same way and they were both fitted at the same time.
  • Disks – Had to come sooner or later as they are looking very worn.
  • Rear number plate – Been deteriorating for years.
  • There was also a long list of advisories including a hole in the sill.  Welding going to be needed.

Of course, the good news hear is that all three are easy to fix.  I have 10 days to get a free re-test but since I am going to Finland next week I shall need to get it sorted soon.

Binding brakes on the Golf

  • The nasty black gunge that came out of my clutch hydraulics.
When, a couple of weeks ago the Golf failed its MoT, there was an advisory about binding rear brakes.  Well, they weren’t joking!  A few days later, there was an obvious loss of power and some mightily hot brakes.  I hoped, when I bunged the car up on the axle stands, that just fitting new pads and clearing out the grooves in the calipers would be enough, but sadly the caliper pistons were seized solid and couldn’t be re-wound.  A year or so ago I renovated a caliper on the Fiesta, but it was a tricky job and the calipers on the back of the Golf are more complex as they include a handbrake mechanism.  So, with the car needed for visiting relatives over the festive season I opted to buy some refurbished calipers and today I finished fitting them.

As it happens, the calipers went on quite easily.  The only significant snag was that I couldn’t find my 15mm open ended spanner which is needed to grip the guide pins.  I had to use an adjustable and this was a bit too thick.  The brakes seem to work OK (the car stops!) but they feel quite a bit softer than they used to and much more like the feel of the brakes on the Fiesta.  I think in a couple of weeks I’ll have another go at bleeding them.

Whilst I had my pressure bleeding kit attached (an excellent Christmas present from a year ago) I decided to have a go at bleeding the clutch. To my knowledge this has never been done and that is partly because you can only bleed it by pressuring the system.  Anyway, I opened the bleed valve on the slave cylinder as directed and was shocked by the black gunge that came out.  Never have I seen old brake fluid looking anything like it.

MoT at last

Following the problem with the used wing mirror I bought a new third party one.  For some loony reason it didn’t come with a mirror glass, but fortunately I could use the old one.  After a great deal of pain I managed to screw it on and re-fit the door panel and now I have an MoT.

I mentioned the concern other places had had about the exhaust fault to the MoT people and they were most dismissive.  I think I will investigate other MoT providers and see if I can get a better deal.

Kit parts missing

Well, my forum contact has been back in touch and it looks like the kit is missing the etches for the chassis so it’s not a lot of use.  I have let the seller know and suggested that he might want to list the wheels and motor as separate items.  I might even bid for the wheels if the price is right.

Malcolm Mitchell 44xx kit

For my forthcoming model of Princetown station I need a GWR 44xx Class locomotive as these were practically the only type used on the line.  Unfortunately, since only 11 of the prototype were ever made, model options are limited.  So far as I can discover, no ready to run models have been made but several manufacturers have made kits over the years.  Unfortunately, all of the kits are currently out of production.

The Malcolm Mitchell kit seems to be particularly well regarded, and in his excellent Etched Loco Construction, Iain Rice described it in 1990 as “…the finest etched locomotive kit yet produced.” and “…a suitable kit for the beginner…”.  But, where to get one.  Well, by great good fortune there is one for sale on eBay and no-one seems to be bidding for it.  It has been listed several times with the starting bid dropping from £200 to £150.  It addition to the kit, there is also a set of wheel – which by great good fortune are in my desired EM gauge – and a motor.  With the kit costing £120 when it was in production and the wheels and motor being worth £80 and £20 respectively, it would appear to be a complete bargain so why haven’t I snapped it up for £150?

Well, the kit has been started already and it isn’t clear if it contains all the parts or a full set of instructions.  So, about a week ago I decided to take advantage of my membership of the EM Gauge Society and ask for advice on their forum.  A member replied to say that he built the kit a few years ago, but couldn’t tell from the eBay listing if it was complete as the etches were all stacked up.  He did however offer to send me a copy of the instructions if these were missing.

I contacted the seller to ask if he could spread out the etches and send me a photo.  He has now done so and I have forwarded them to my forum contact.  Hopefully he will give the OK and I can submit a bid.  It will be just me luck if I then get outbid!

A tale of an exhaust

This morning I took my Golf round to the tyre and exhaust place I normally use on Churchfields.

I showed them the MoT failure certificate and asked them to fix the problem. First they went into huddle round the certificate as if there was something they didn’t understand. Then they put my car up on the ramp and for about 15 minutes a succession of people came and stared at the certificate and then peered at the car with the aid of a big torch. They would keep going and collecting colleagues to look at it and in the end one of them came and collected the manager from the reception and he did the same thing – stare at certificate, stare at car, stare at certificate.

Finally, the manager came out to reception to talk to me. He explained that whilst they had found a tiny hole in the exhaust, in their opinion it was much too small to be a failure, and might just about count as an advisory. Apparently, two of the people who had inspected it were qualified MoT inspectors and they both said that they would have passed it without a problem. They seemed surprised, I might even say outraged, that the MoT centre had found two major exhaust failures.

He then went on to explain that the failed section was welded to the catalyst and couldn’t normally be changed with the huge expense of a new catalyst. He said that in his opinion I had two sensible courses of action:

1. Fix the wing mirror and then take the car to them for an MoT. They would pass the exhaust, but of course they might find something else expensive which my normal MoT place had missed.

2. Take the car to a specialist exhaust place in Wilton which had the skills to make and weld on a new section of exhaust without needing to replace the catalyst.

I opted for (2) and drove round to Torque Technique in Wilton who advertise themselves as a company making custom exhausts for classic and performance cars. What I different establishment it was from ProTyre with its plush waiting room with large windows looking over the spotless workshop and clean attentive reception staff. I entered a pokey little reception with a strong smell of oil and pressed the bell.  After a while a well built gentleman with an oily overall staggered in and I explained the situation.  ‘OK’, he said, ‘drive it in and bung it on the ramp’.

I drove into a large and gloomy garage with bits of exhaust and various metal bashing machinery all over the place.  The chap I spoke to was the only person there and after lifting the car up in the air he invited me to stand underneath whilst we inspected the exhaust.  I have to say that this was much more my idea of what a garage should be like!

After a thorough inspection the mechanic expressed the same amazement as ProTyre that anyone could have failed the exhaust because of such a tiny hole.  However, he said that he could make and fit a new section for £70 and have it done by 15.30.  This seemed like a bargain for a hand made bit of exhaust so I agreed.

I then had the problem of getting home for lunch!  I elected to walk, but the route via the road is very sadly lacking in footway.  After plodding up The Avenue for some distance I found a gate leading to a track across a field.  it pointed roughly in the direction of home so I set off.  Fortunately, it did go in the right direction and after about 30 minutes I was able to climb over the back fence into the garden.

There was then the problem of needing to take Sophia to school at 15:45 and still manage to collect the car.  In the end I had a very hectic afternoon consisting of:

  • Drive Sophia to school in the Fiesta.
  • Drive on to Wilton to pay.
  • Drive Golf home leaving Fiesta at Torque Technique.
  • Walk back to Wilton via same cross country route.  Now wearing walking boots, but having to do the last bit along the road in the dark.
  • Collect Fiesta, drive home and then back to school to collect Sophia.

So, what can we deduce from this remarkably long winded experience?  Firstly, I was very impressed with ProTyre.  They could have simply accepted the MoT failure certificate and tried to charge me to replace the catalyst.  In the end they sent me elsewhere and didn’t charge me a penny.  I shall use them again.  I was also impressed by Torque Technique who seemed to know what they were doing and gave me a proper garage experience (sadly so often missing these days).

I was a lot less impressed by my MoT centre.  I am unable to understand why they would have issued a failure for such a minor fault.  It is possible – as some have suggested – that they are short of work and hope people will pay them a lot of money to repair minor faults.  This is possible, but I have taken both my cars there for 10 years and they know perfectly well that I do my own repairs.  It makes no sense therefore for them to try to rip me off in such a manner.  I shall have to give some thought to whether I continue to use them.

Gad, I hate working on car interiors

What I pain I have had trying to change my wing mirror.  My trusty Haynes manual says that first you must remove the passenger door panel.  Sadly, it doesn’t contain photos related to the passenger door, only the driver’s and rear doors.  However, the instruction and almost the same for both front doors.  So, it started by basically following the photos for the driver door and didn’t get anywhere.  I levered so hard I nearly snapped some of the plastic off.  Then it occurred to me that the passenger door looks more like the rear doors so I followed those photos and then I could make a start.  As is often the case with interior fittings, screws weren’t good enough and much of the fitting is via hidden plastic clips which won’t release until you are pulling so hard you think they are going to snap!

Anyway, after a great deal of cursing I got the panel off and managed to release the old wing mirror.  I fixed the new one with just one screw, plugged it in and tried to test the indicator lamp.  Of course, it doesn’t work!!!!!  Now, it might be that there is a general fault, but I don’t think so.  The electric mirror adjust works and there is the correct on-off voltage in the socket it plugs into.  It looks like the lamp is broken and now I’ll have to send it back!!