Fiesta lives for another year

I took the now repaired Fiesta back for another go at the MOT. Regular readers will recall that in addition to rear suspension bushes and a rusty brake pipe, it also failed the last test with truly awful emissions. The natural idle CO reading was 5.39% against a limit of 0.5%.

With such a huge discrepancy I was seriously concerned that something very expensive had failed but I couldn’t see how since it had only drive 6 miles since the previous failure when the CO reading had been 0.3%

Remembering the garage’s opinion that maybe it needed running hard to clear out the engine, I decided to run it for a while just before the MOT. I started the engine and then turned on as many electrical items as I could to load the alternator. Then I slowly increased the revs to 3000 and held it there for five or six minutes. The engine temperature went well above its normal running range and I hoped that this would encourage any gunge to burn off. I also hoped it would help the engine management computer to re-learn the engine after the battery had been disconnected when it was off the road.

Anyway, I took it to the MOT centre and left it whilst I went in to town to buy new glasses. When I got back I was shocked to discover that it had passed the MOT and had sailed through the emissions test first time. When I say sailed through, I mean that it had almost no emissions whatsoever. The CO reading had dropped from 5.39% to 0.00% (yes, zero) for both fast and natural idle and the HC reading was a miserly 1ppm. It wasn’t that good when it was first tested at three years old!

Polyurethane rules!

Today I fitted my new polyurethane suspension bushes and it was ridiculously easy. Just as in the YouTube videos, all I had to do was bash them in with a lump hammer using a lump of wood to add some protection. Then the rubber mallet to drive home the steel tube in the centre.

The supplied grease made this even easier and I found that I could push the bushes about 20% of the way in by hand! No more rubber bushes for me.

  • Polyurethane bush ready to be installed

It was then time to tackle the rusty brake pipe. I experimented first with my new brake pipe flaring tool and it was very easy to use. Essentially, you push the brake pipe in against a stop, tighten the clamp, remove the stop and then screw in the flaring bit. The only tricky thing is remembering to put the required fitting onto the pipe before you flare it!

Since only the part of the pipe in the wheel arch was rusty I elected to cut the pipe where it passed behind the engine and use a joining piece to add a replacement end.

Bending the new pipe to the same shape as the old one was easy as it is very thin and flexible.

Once the new section was fitted it was just a case of bleeding the brake with my splendid pressure bleeding kit.

  • Rusty old brake pipe

Interference fit? Pah!

Time to try to fit the first of my suspension bushes and what a disaster it was! I understood from my Haynes manual that the bushes were something of an interference fit. I therefore bunged them and the freezer several days ago and today cut some scrap pieces of oak flooring to allow me to force them in with a G clamp.

It was a complete none starter. Even with heating the mounting hole with my blow lamp and applying copious PTFE lubricant I couldn’t even get the bush started!

Applying my vernier calipers to the problem I discovered that the hole was 62mm diameter whilst the bushes appeared to be 63.4mm diameter. No wonder they wouldn’t go in! If they had been 62.4mm diameter they would have been a very tight fit but there was no way on God’s earth I was going to be able to force something that big in.

The old and new suspension bushes.

At this point I became rather despondent. Researching online (which I should have done more of before I started) I found many commentators who agreed on two points:

  1. The stuff in the Haynes manual about being able to force them in with a threaded rod and a couple of nuts was complete rubbish.
  2. There were only two workable solutions: (a) buy a special tool based on a hardened threaded rod which might work 50% of the time if you were really strong or (b) use a hydraulic press.

I was contemplating removing the entire back suspension and taking it to a garage with a suitable press when I came across a YouTube video which seemed to offer the answer. It showed a man replacing his old metal and rubber bushes with modern polyurethane bushes. Instead of fitting them with the aid of a hydraulic press, he bashed them in in a few seconds with a lump hammer!

I had noticed the plastic bushes on the Euro Car Parts web site but had assumed they were aimed at high performance cars and they were certainly twice the price of the rubber ones. But, given the option to not remove the suspension it seemed worth every penny so I promptly ordered a set.

Removing the first bush

Today I made a start on fixing the rear suspension bushes on my Fiesta. I spent a long time (and nearly all my bricks) raising the back of the car and unbolting the suspension trailing arms. The near side wasn’t too difficult, but on the offside a found that I couldn’t remove the trailing arm support bolt because the exhaust was in the way. In the end I had to unbolt the suspension support bracket from the bottom of the car before I could get the bolt out of the bush.

It was immediately obvious that getting the bushes out would be tricky. There was a lot of rust and clouting them with a hammer made no difference at all. In the end I concluded that I would have to cut them out. Using a combination of my drill, reciprocating saw and a hacksaw blade I managed to remove the centre from the bush and then slowly cut outwards through the bush casing. I had to be careful not to cut into the end of the swing arm!

With the bush mostly cut through I was able to use a large screwdriver to peel the casing back until it snapped and then knock out the remains of the bush. I was gratified later to find several YouTube videos where others had reached the same solution.

With the bush out I used a sanding tool on the end of my drill to clean out the end of the swing arm ready for the new bush.

Good God, its failed again!

Took the Fiesta back for another go at the MoT. I was quite confident, as I had fixed the three failures from last time (tyres, disks and number plate) and since I can’t drive it it had only done about 6 miles and spent all its time in the garage. But, of course it failed again. It appears I got a different inspector and he took a different view of the car’s shortcomings!

The failings were:

  • Rear axle bushes.
  • OSF brake pipe.
  • Emissions!!

The first two were advisories last time and clearly the new inspector just takes a annoyingly more stringent view of them. The emissions is however a bit of a mystery as it is much worse than last time.

The garage agreed that it was unlikely to be the catalyst suddenly failing and that the most likely problem was simply the long time it had been stationary in the garage. The solution is to give it a good drive, but since it is on a SORN I obviously can’t do that!

Their solution is for me to go away and fix the suspension and brakes and then bring it back for another go. If it passes the emissions then great! If not, they will bung some trade plates on it and run it around the ring road for a while to see if that helps.

So, now I need to order some new suspension bushes and the bits to make brake pipes.

I feel a fool!

Today, finally, after weeks of work trips, holidays and being ill I found the time to try and diagnose the fault with the Fiesta which – you will recall – failed to start after I replaced the number plate!!

I was expecting to have a long task to locate the problem and read sections of the Haynes manual about checking such things as the coil and the fuel injectors.

One key test mentioned was to check that the fuel pump makes a noise when the ignition is switched on as it pressurises the fuel system. Well, it was hard to be sure about this as the ventilation system makes an awful grinding noise at the same time but I didn’t think I could hear anything. So, on the basis that it was an easy thing to check I looked at the fuel pump fuse and it had blown!

One replacement 10A fuse later and the engine was running again! How I feel a fool. If I had spotted that the day it conked out I could have gone back for my free re-test, passed easily and had the car on the road for weeks!

Of course, this leaves the vital question of what caused the fuse to blow. One option is that the fuel pump is fouled up after years of use. I don’t want to have to remove it as you have to take the entire fuel tank out so perhaps the best plan is to run a bottle of fuel system cleaner through it. I will however wait until after the MoT.

Oil Patterns

Today I finally got round to changing the oil in the Golf. The warning light had been on for quite a while and I had been hoping to get the Fiesta out of the way first.

Since the last oil change my oil collection tray has been lying around outside at the back of the house and has been rained on quite a few times. For some reason that had produced a most peculiar pattern which a took a couple of photos of.

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.