Normandy 2019 – Day 5

Today was the day to visit Bayeux, obviously to see the tapestry, but also other delights which might present themselves.

We started with a look at the cathedral. This was fairly interesting and the crypt contains some medieval paintings which Dad spent some time trying to photograph in the poor light where flash is not permitted.

Moving on to the tapestry, the good news was that there wasn’t too much of a queue. The tapestry is well displayed – indeed probably rather better than when Dad last saw it more than 40 years ago. The bad news was that the audio guides with which everyone was supplied didn’t have a pause button. For Dad this was of course a complete disaster as he wanted to look at every detail and was soon well behind the commentary. At this point he just gave up with the guide. Mum and Sophia were rather cleverer. They followed along with the guide and then walked all the way back round the 70m of tapestry to look at it again.

  • Medieval painting Bayeux cathedral

The Bayeux town museum was in a similar vein to the one in Caen but not as interesting. There was a reasonable selection of paintings, but they were all rather second rate. At one point Dad’s eye was caught by one that looked like the work of his favourite, Hans Holbine the Younger but when he scurried up to it he found a notice saying it was by one of his assistants. It was however still probably the best painting there. The other highlight worth seeing was a wonderfully decorated old chapel at one end of the museum.

One final point of note it that Bayeux had undoubtedly the most expensive parking of the trip.

Normandy 2019 – Day 3

Today we intended to visit the zoo, but on the way there it rained heavily so we decided to visit Caen instead.

Caen is a big city and Dad did quite a bit if hyperventilating as he tried to drive to the centre and park. In the end we found a central underground car park which wasn’t too expensive.

Dad and Sophia started by heading for a large ruined church near the centre. Bizarrely, this was not only completely fenced off, but there were no signs anywhere to indicate what it was called or why it was ruined. Subsequent research showed that it is the Church of Saint Etienne-le-Vieux which hasn’t been in good repair since the 100 year war! It is a pity that the city of Caen cannot erect a modest sign to this effect.

  • View from Caen castle

After a modest lunch, Dad headed for the castle whilst the others headed for the shops. The castle turned out to be free to enter, but there was a charge for the two museums in the grounds. Dad opted for the local history museum over the modern art one.

The museum followed the familiar pattern of starting with flint tools and working up to local industry of the last century. It had some excellent Roman artefacts including a fascinating coin collection, but the highlight was certainly the display on lace making. Dad remains completely amazed by the intricacy of this process.

Normandy 2019 – Day 2

Today we had a bit of a lie in and then went over to have a look at the local town, Vire. Dad strongly approved of their parking policy which seemed to be the novel idea of having large free car parks in the middle of the town!

After lunch – where Dad got into the swing of being in France by opting for Moule Mariniere – we had a look round. Unfortunately, the extensive town museum was closed for even more extensive renovation! But we did manage to have a reasonable look round the centre and visit the cathedral..

  • Outside of closed Vire museum

Normandy 2019 – Day 1

The start of our summer holiday in Normandy. After depositing Gordon at the cat hotel we made our way to Poole to catch the ferry.

There weren’t many passengers which made the advantage of our cabin rather less than it might have been, never the less it was handy having somewhere to retreat to and it also allowed us to keep the cool box plugged in to keep the sandwiches chilled. We ate on the ferry as we were intending to eat our sandwiches on the drive to the cottage.

  • Ferry leaving UK

On arrival in Cherbourg, Garry the Garmin showed his normal behaviour by selecting weird routes. The initial route involved a huge detour and the second rather shorter one had the tendency to leave a main road, wend through a town and then re-join the road we had left. Needless to say this tended to waste a lot of time! Fortunately, Sophia managed to get the hang of the paper map and spot some of these detours in advance.

As always when in France, Dad found driving rather stressful. Fortunately, there was very little traffic.

We stopped to eat our sandwiches in Pont-H├ębert where, to Sophia’s delight there was a pizza dispensing machine. We didn’t use it, but it was a joy to observe such a technological advance.

We arrived at the cottage at about 2215. The hostess (confusingly also called Marina) spoke good English and also excellent Russian.

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.