24 April 2021 Going Dizzy

Crikey, its been a while since my last post. What can I say, I’ve been busy.

Anyway, today was a good day. Recently I’ve been trying to resolve a misfire and due to my low level of competence, I had unsuccessfully tried to change the points in the distributor and managed to convert the misfire into a non-starting issue. So I left things alone for a few weeks while other events took precedence such as work, volunteering at Church, Gardening and walking with Helen. Of course Dad had been saying why not just fit the Electronic Distributor that I had bought originally but I had got it in my head that it was a horrendous, virtually impossible job. Then Thursday of this week, later in the evening instead of slumping in front of the TV, I popped into the garage and stared at the distributor. Then I reached for a 7/16th spanner and sort of offered it up to the bolts. It’s really fiddly, but I got some movement going and then the bolts were getting slack. I reached down to the distributor and just like that it came out. I was that surprised I just stared at it in my hands. How did that happen?

Buoyed up by this, today I slotted in the electronic distributor pretty easily and then just wondered if it would start. It did! I was really chuffed, and the misfire had gone, so success all round. I did have a bit of fun with tweaking the timing and having to adjust the carbs but before too long I had it idling nicely and cleanly revving, so this was a big step forward.

I spend the rest of my time pottering around. I fitted the twin horns, discovering as I connected them to the loom that the switch was live. That made me jump alright. With both units connected, they make a pleasing ‘honk’. I did give the heating controls a good check over and discovered that I need to buy one new one. I stripped the cables and connections off the old units ready for re-fitting. Completing the heater installation is going to be quite a project in itself I reckon. I then spent some time stripping the spare door that I recently bought in readiness for installing the glass from that door into my car. Finally, Helen and I sat out the front of the house with a cup of tea and a piece of cake in the sunshine. I had the usual couple of nice chats with passing neighbours and the postie who all admired the MG which was looking very bright in the sun.

Enjoying the sun

28 Feb 21 Milestone Day – we have a brake pedal

Actually it was yesterday. Another sunny February day and it was time to fill up the brake system for the first time since I had replaced all the brake lines and the entire front brake assembly, disks, pads and callipers. I had a Gunson kit to help and my friend John was on hand to direct me from a suitable distance on the driveway. The Gunson kit uses pressure from the spare tyre via a rubber tube which goes into a bottle filled with brake fluid with an outlet which fits to the master cylinder. Had to inflate the spare first, which was flat obviously. We also jacked up the rear, removed the rear wheels and verified that the bleed nipples were okay. With the kit connected up, the fluid started to go down as the brake pipes were filled. I was watching at the back of the car, and the level was going down but no fluid. Then we spotted the rapidly growing pool under the engine bay. We had a leak at the four-way junction with one of the joints leaking fairly well. There followed some rapid reaction work with me in charge of sluicing the spilt fluid before the nice new paint melted while John disconnected the four way junction for inspection. I should mention that we did first just try nipping it up but to no avail.

The four way junction nor the line had no catastrophic issues, but John’s keen eye had spotted a little gunk in the fitting and on the threads. So we conducted a clean with some WD40 and a rag, blowing it out with an aerosol air canister. After some careful reassembly and re-tightening of the four lines to the junction, we recommenced filling operations. No leaks this time. For each brake in turn, we connected a length of plastic tubing to the bleed nipple and opened it up. I watched the flow and when the bubbles had cleared, I nipped up the bleed nipple. So far so good.

Moving to the front of the car, we again jacked it up and removed the wheels. The n/s side went smoothly enough, all new components, so it was a dream really. On the o/s, a little fluid was weeping from the connector between flexible and hard pipes but this was nipped up promptly enough. A prod of the brakes confirmed we did indeed have a brake pedal. As it was now getting on in the day, we decided to call a halt there. Further testing has identified that it is soft on the first push, then firm, which I think means there is still some air in the system. A quick browse around the internet suggests that the pipes into and out of the servo need to be bled and possibly also the junction connection at the rear which splits the fluid to left and right. This will be sorted out soon. However, all in all, excellent progress and a milestone reached. The car now starts and stops!

So to today, Sunday, and I was on my own, so a little pottering was in order. First job was to investigate the misfire which has been plaguing the MG lately when running it up. The carbs are not in tune, I have a plan in mind for the that, but it has definitely been running worse and worse. Taking a look around the engine bay, I discovered that the vacuum advance pipe was looking very sad. Being rather on the long side, it had drooped onto the exhaust manifold and basically melted. So I snipped off the mangled bit and fortunately there was plenty of length to make a nice route to the inlet manifold. Next I investigated the distributer, and as a non-expert, the one job I could do myself was to swap the distributer cap which on inspection was a bit rough looking with the contacts worn. So I popped in the new one which came with the electronic distributer and this saw an immediate improvement. I was tempted to just pop the new distributer in but as this is quite is quite fiddly, I put it off for when I have a longer go and have taken some advice. Instead, I did a couple more jobs on the dash. First, I fitted the rev counter properly. I had lost one of the knurled wheels that fit to the studs and hold the two brackets. Miraculously, I found it on the driveway yesterday! That saved a £5 order to a specialist (apologies to the parts market, I need plenty more bits honest!). Then I moved to the n/s to fix the dash properly. Having done the o/s earlier in the week, I knew how this went and it was straightforward to fit this. With the centre nut also fastened up tight, the dash is now looking right, albeit I still have a few switches and the vents to install. As I had to lie on my back in the footwell to do this, and with a mind to future required jobs, I got out the new carpet set and lobbed the footwell carpets in and the boot carpet while I was at it. I am not quite ready to commit to carpeting the MG, but it was good to see the set and acquaint myself with the different parts.

20 Feb 21 N/S brake progress

More positive progress to report today. Following the breakthrough yesterday of removing the caliper bolts, today I was unable to remove the old caliper, and install the new disk, caliper and pads. The most challenging aspect of todays job was actually getting the split pin out on the nut which secures the wheel bearing assembly mounted on the stub. This turned out to be very awkwark, but was really just a matter of patiently working the little fella out with persuasion from the pliers and a hammer. There wasn’t much of the head of the pin to grip on and course its all covered in slippery grease. Anyway with a bit of tapping from below and a bit of tugging at the top I managed to wriggle it out. Removing the wheel bearing, parting the disk from the hub and all that went fairly smoothly, albeit a messy job due to the grease. I have admiration for the speed at which the boys at Kwik Fit do this sort of work, although I guess they have air guns, ramps, loads of space and a supervisor on their back to speed them along. I was taking ages, but I was listening to an F1 Podcast at the same time and just taking my time. Fitting the new disk, caliper was easy enough. I re-used the old bolts, but have ordered new from Moss as they were a bit mangled on removal yesterday. So when they arrive, I’ll swop them out and that will be a job well done. I decided to also replace the split pins but not having any in the Parts Department, I had to walk into town to Halfords. Helen joined me and we had a pleasant walk incuding a takeaway Cafe Nero Cappuccino on the home straight. Back home, I fitted the split pins and the grease cover and that was that. Before packing away, I quickly gave the wheel a coat of Hammerite Satin Black. I had previously rubbed this wheel down so it just needed brushing on. As per the o/s I decided after much nagging from Dad to do a quick tidy up of the wheel as it was off anyway, as a temporary measure pending a decision on wheel choice for the final build. I might have to save up for the Minilite wheels I really want, but for the moment, these old Rostyles will do to move the car around. So I am now clear through to filling up the new brakes pipes with brake fluid, bleeding the system and having working brakes!

19 Feb 21 A tale of two bolts

It’s a story with a happy ending today as I have just witnessed big Mark releasing the two calliper bolts which were preventing me from replacing the front n/s brakes. A few weeks ago I had done the o/s front brakes and it had all gone alright. However, when I came to do the n/s the brake caliper bolts (there are two) I could not remove them. The n/s calliper looks original, so what we have here is something that has been in place for over forty years and did not want to budge. My attempts to undo the bolt had involved using some freeze spray and a socket and bar. The problem I was having was that the bar was just springy and I only have a light domestic hammer so all I was doing was bouncing the steel around. So I called Mark…

To be clear, Mark entered our garage via the front, while I stood well away, so we were Covid secure throughout. On his first visit (yes there were two visits) he tried a spanner and lump hammer to try to get the bolt to budge. All that happened was the spanner (one of mine, and not of best quality), just turned around the bolt. Next he used a chisel to try to rotate the bolt with a couple of thwacks on the edge of one of the flats. Sadly this did not work, so he agreed to come back with some more serious kit.

Visit two, a couple of days later, and Mark arrived with a professional socket set and a G-clamp. He found a good fit with a 15mm socket and fitted the bar. Then he used the G-clamp to hold the socket onto the bolt end as additional security. He gave it a couple of exploratory thwacks, but wasn’t happy with the bar still flexing excessively. So he used a large ring spanner fitted over the end of the bar and put it under tension to reduce the bounce. A couple of more meaningful blows from the hammer and we started to see actual movement and the first indication of progress. And that as they say, was that. The second, lower bolt came off in much the same manner and I am now clear to complete the replacement of the front n/s brakes over the weekend. Thanks to Mark, a local friend who didn’t mind squeezing down the side of our garage to undo the bolts on a rainy February 2021 while I looked on in awe. We all need a friend like Mark.

15 Nov 20 Replacing the alternator

A surprisingly sunny November morning appeared from what I had thought was a write-off rainy weekend, so it was out with the MG to swop out the old alternator with a new one from MGB Hive. When I first got the MG, the alternator was covered in white aluminium corrosion crystals. I scraped off the worst and when I fired the car up (this was 3 years ago) for the first time, there was a flurry of white as the loose crud spun out. Suffice to say I thought the alternator had seen better days and so having recently restarted the engine I decided to replace it. Also prompting me to this job was that whenever I have run the car recently, it has flattened the battery. This was either because the old alternator was not working properly, or because something wasn’t wired properly. As I was going to replace the alternator anyway, I tried this first.

The alternator is held in place with two bolts at the top, which mount onto lugs on the engine block and with a single bolt at the bottom which secures a curved slotted plate. The slotted plate allows the alternator to pivot so that the fan belt can be fitted over the pulleys and then tensioned correctly. The slotted plate then fixes to a lower lug fixed to the engine block. The lower lug is fixed with a specifically shaped bolt which I had replaced much earlier in the rebuilt when it had sheared off spitefully on removal. Before I took the old alternator off, I started the engine and measured the voltage at the battery – 12.3v.

Fitting the new alternator was pretty simple although it’s a heavy old bit of kit. I did a visual comparison before I removed the old one just in case it was to join my list of wrongly ordered parts, but it measured up alright so I committed to the job. I laid a decent blanket over the wing for protection and knelt on a tool box with a blanket on it for comfort. I used a combination of tools to remove the bolts which were 0/5″ and 9/16. This included my trusty Halfords Professional mini socket set, the Elora large socket set gifted to me by my friend John, the socket spanner set gifted to me by my brother Tris and a plain open jawed spanner. Each tool works well in its own way and I was grateful for the choice.

With the new alternator fitted and the fan belt at roughly the right tension, I fired up the car again. It fired second time and settled into a lumpy idle (carbs still not set up right – where are you Dad? ha ha). I tested the voltage at the battery and got…the same 12.3v. I was hoping for between 13-14v but I could be wrong. So maybe the issue is not solved. I should have had someone hold the revs higher and measured it again, but Helen was working in her study, so I didn’t disturb her. So we will see if the battery is flat when I try again. Hopefully next weekend we will get another weather window for further investigation. Before sitting down to do this update, I sent a web enquiry to a mobile auto electrician just to gauge their interest in giving the electrics a once over and validating what I’ve done. I think it might be worth getting a professional involved in this one…

22 Feb 20 Re-fuse-ing to give up

Spent a couple of hours on the MG this afternoon. It was cold and windy so I confined myself to the garage. First job was to finish off fitting the new rubber oil cooler pipes. I am replacing the nasty braided ones which are very stiff with OE spec rubber which is a bit more pliant. This is an awkward fit and it requires a bit of coordination because the oil gauge pipe has to be fitted AFTER the pipe cooler pipe because otherwise the spanner crushes the oil gauge pipe. Have a guess how I know this? After fitting the pipes I had to fit the hateful grommets to the radiator shroud which is another awkward job. Anyway it’s done now.

It’s all a bit congested here

Next I decided to progress the wiring loom connections. Last week I had to unpick the loom due to poor routing so this week I put some of that back. I connected the alternator which is easy then had to take the coil off to get that connected properly. So far so good. I then checked the fuse box which I wasn’t convinced had been connected properly. Rather than rely on pictures on the internet I actually used the wiring diagram and managed to use up all the available wires so it must be right! (It is right really).

So onto the next thing and I identified a problem. The distributor, which is a new unit from Accuspark needs power which it gets from the coil. Unfortunately one of the cables is not long enough. It mentions this in the instructions which cheerfully say ‘you may have to lengthen the wire’. I might write back to them to say ‘you could just supply the right length wire.’ So I need to grab a pal who can joins a bit of wire for me

This is the probably definitely correctly connected fuse box

Final task today was to fit an earth wire to the inner wing. The original bolt had been painted over and the head rounded off when I tried to release it. Even my freeze spray couldn’t rescue the situation so I did the brutal thing and drilled it out. I managed to then get another bolt to fit and job done. Not a bad afternoon’s work.

8 Sep 19 Busy day

Cup of coffee and 1/2″ spanner, what else do you need?

Haven’t slept well for a couple of nights. My eldest is job-hunting in London after graduating this summer, and my youngest is off to University next week. At work, I’ve got some challenges and alongside that, we’ve been thinking about whether to move house. Meanwhile, I wasn’t progressing the MG. Hence, busy mind, and disturbed sleep. A day in the garage / on the drive was what I needed and that’s what I did. Awake early, I had the MG pushed out onto the driveway by 7:30am. A busy day followed in which I did the following:-

  1. Painted the gearbox cross-member – this is an overdue job needed before I put the engine and gearbox back in. I sprayed it with crackle finish because I thought it would be durable and because the can was within reach! Hung to dry on the washing line with the other washing.
  2. Fitted the fuel tank incuding the sender unit. This was a bit awkward, doing it on my own, so I used a box and the jack to help me hold it up to the bolts. I cleaned the filler neck and it looked quite presentable afterwards
  3. Fitted the gearbox to the engine. Again, a bit awkward on your own, but I propped the engine on some magazines and used the jack and a bit of man-handling to mate the gearbox. It was a bit fiddly, but overall not too difficult. Bolts need checking and torquing up before installing back in the car
  4. Installed the rear hatch gas struts – this involved me drilling into my freshly painted car for the first time. Helen helped me to measure where to drill the holes. The drilling and fit went okay, although I did have the hatch ball joints on the wrong way around first time and we nearly had a disaster, but I managed to recover it without any damage. The hatch doesn’t sit right when closed now, but I am not going to make any changes until the glass is installed. At the moment it doesn’t have the correct load on it, so worth waiting and then doing it once properly.
  5. Fitted the bonnet pull – not working yet as it needs some adjustment, but its in – needs tightening I think
  6. Replaced the accelerator cable – Can only fit one end as I am missing the engine at present. One less thing to do and all part of having a smart engine bay
  7. Took the rear lights off and installed the foam seal which I had forgotten about, but found in a box this morning. Helen helped with this as she was bringing me out a cup of coffee, so got roped into the job.
  8. Began fitting the rear wiring loom – first electricals on the rebuild. Thought I would start with something simple and so it was – relatively. I have the old loom, which is labelled, so used that to guide me. I actually connected up the new loom to the rear lights – we are making progress!
  9. Fitted the near side indicator unit. Just wanted to see how it will fit – the answer is, not bad, not great. There is a hole just visible unfortunately from when someone cobbledit to fit prior to my ownership. A detail to sort one day. In the meantime, one less thing to do.

This was a sociable day on the MG. People love to stop and see how it’s all progressing and they nearly always have an encouraging word. There was the usual ‘Hello’s’ from dog walkers who stream past our house on the way to the local fields. Helen and I chatted for a while to a couple who are near neighbours and the husband was admiring the MG and interested to hear about what I was doing. Nearly everyone mentions the TV show Car SOS or Mike Brewers’ Wheeler Dealers. I dont have the heart to tell them I find those shows difficult to watch because its all editted down into 30 minutes, they have a huge fully equipped workshop and the talented mechanics make it look so easy. Had a useful chat to Russell (another dog walker), who has stopped to speak before. He has restored many cars, including MGBs so is always a useful person with whom to discuss things. Today he gave me the number of a person who may be able to transport the MG for a reasonable price when I come to get the windscreen and rear screen fittted.

I’ve occasionally worried about whether when I get to finally restart the MG, I somehow forget to say, fill the gearbox with oil or some such idiosy. I spoke to my mate Rob, who races classic cars and is always taking gearboxes and so on out of his cars. He said that when he removes fluids, he puts a big sign in masking tape over the steering wheel to this effect. Hence…

What a day it will be when I remove this bit of tape…

As I worked on the car, I listened to Louis Theroux on Desert Island Disks, a bit of radio 4 and then to the Monza Grand Prix which was won by Charles LeClerc in his Ferrari. What a day for the young man and for Italy.

24 Aug 19 Sunny Saturday

It’s a sunny Saturday! After a morning stroll with Helen, I spent a useful hour on the MG fitting the copper pipe from the Clutch master cylinder. The pipe runs down from the master cylinder to a bracket on the fletch plate where it becomes braided stainless steel. All went in okay with a bit of creative beding here and there. The pipe routing needs a bit of finessing, but they are broadly in the right place. Straighforward installation, although I needed Helen to hold the pipe in place while I tightened it from the interior.

Couple of things from last week which I didn’t record. I fitted the final brake pipe to the four-way union on the inner wing. This is the pipe that comes up from under the car to the rear. It fitted alright although as mentioned earlier the routing needs a tweak and they all need fixing in place.

The four way brake junction – hopefully it wont leak brake fluid everywhere!

I also puzzled over the fuel pump – I have a new fuel piping kit and have fitted the main front to rear pipe. However, the pipe routing around the pump and the tank isn’t that clear and I haven’t got a good understanding of how it works. I am going to have to bite the bullet, fit the tank and then work it out from there.

The fuel pump which to me is baffling

I have been putting off fitting the tank as its a two-person job, but when done, this will have completed much of the mechanics at the rear, and is critical to the ‘engine in and started’ milestone. Something to prioritise.

Last week, Austin (the welder who kindly lent me the engine crane) was in touch to say that a friend of his, Adam, wanted to borrow the engine crane. No problem I thought and he duly came around and we got it out from the corner of the garage and loaded it into his car. We got talking about the MG and he admitted that he had fitted an engine and gearbox into an MGC a while ago, so I seized the opportunity and asked if he would be prepared to help me with the reinstall when he returns the crane. He was willing, although as he is getting married soon, he was being careful not to over-commit. I commented that once he wanted to pay for his wedding and honeymoon, I would happily pay him to re-fit the engine. Not convinced he is up for this, but he has to bring the crane back, so I will take my chance then to firm up arrangements.

Finally, just for fun, my neighbour, who is a bit of a joker, was clearing out his garage. ‘Here Ad’, he said, ‘I’ve got something for you’ and hands me an oversize spanner.

‘King-Dick’ is the legend on the spanner. Thanks Graham!