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The collecting, restoring and driving of old cars or bikes is a fascinating
hobby. Some describe it as a harmless form of madness. Whichever it is,
anyone can get involved. And it wonít cost an arm and a leg, either. You
can start with a moped costing less than 100 euro and end up driving a model
T Ford. (If thatís your fancy). Maybe you have your first project sitting at
the bottom of the garden. It might even be an old pre-war lawn mower.
Why not join an old vehicle club and learn about things like starting
handles, trafficators, autovacs, magnetos, advance and retard levers,
condensers, crash-gearboxes and many more that are no longer part of modern
Our motoring heritage is part of our history and must be kept alive. At the
moment this is being done by the many enthusiasts who collect, restore and
drive old vehicles and memorabilia.
Hints and Tips.
The following hints and tips may be of benefit to club members and others
who may be undertaking repair or restoration work on an old car or
motorbike. It is hoped that more information will be added to this it
becomes available. The author has had the benefit of a timed-served
apprenticeship in 1950ís and has always had a keen interest in things
mechanical. Having Ďmucked aboutí with motorbikes, tractors, stationary
engines and cars over the years, to mention a few, quite a lot of
information has been collected. I am happy to share what I can with
Errors, if any, are regretted and will be correct when noticed and/or
Setting ignition timing.
Using timing marks,
Strobe lamp is the best way. Use chalk or tippex to highlight the marks
Next best is to use a simple 12volt lamp. (static setting only) Be careful
when doing this. It is best to remove all plugs and earth all plug leads to
avoid any injury to you or damage to the coil. If there are no lamps
available then use the old method with the plug sitting against the block
and use the spark at the plug to check timing.
Note, the points must be checked and set before ignition timing is set.
Testing the Rotor, (rotor in situ.)
Hold HT lead from coil about ľ inch (5mm) from rotor electrode and flick the
points. If spark jumps to the rotor then the rotor is faulty.
Note, to ensure the coil is not damaged donít exceed the ľ inch.
Burnt or blue colour on the contact points indicates a faulty condenser. A
weak or red spark also points to faulty condenser. Best to substitute a new
condenser to check
Note, Donít buy new Ďold stockí condensers. The insulation will have
Check spindle and weight pivots for wear. This can affect the timing and
phasing of the distributor A distributor with this wear should have the
points set using a cam dwell meter instead of a feeler gauge. Excessive
spindle wear should be repaired.
Seized or tight plugs in cylinder head. No real problem with cast iron
heads. Aluminium heads can be a problem. Run engine to warm up the head. Use
penetrating oil and leave to soak in. Try to tighten the plug a little
first. Donít force. If all fails and the plug has to be forced out itís very
likely that the cylinder head threads will be damaged. This can be sorted by
helicoil fitting. Special repair kits are available to do this work. A bench
drill is necessary when carrying out this repair to ensure correct
Carbon brush condition.
Visual check and ensure contact with rotor. Wipe off carbon dust. Check
distributor cap for cracks. Donít scrape the electrodes as this can lead to
tracing if scratch marks are put in the cap. Remember the order of firing on
4-cylinder engines. It is 1, 3, 4, 2 for all except Ford which is 1, 2, 4,
Door trim removal.
Donít force, ever. Check how the handle, winder, etc. is secured. Check for
screws hidden behind covers. Check also for circlips and pins. Donít damage
the water barrier film, if fitted. Clean out the drain hole in the bottom of
the door. Use talc to ensure free running glass. Do not use oil.
Rusted or seized screws, bolts etc.
When using penetrating or freeing oils always neutralise afterwards as these
normally contain corrosive additives. This prevents further corrosion. Try
paraffin first, it often works. Take care near rubber items. Sometimes a
little heat can help. Try placing a soldering iron on the screw head for a
few minutes. A heat-gun can also be used where a flame torch could not. Be
careful, as these guns can be very hot.
Screw thread repair/recovery.
Be aware of the many different thread forms. Imperial threads; BSW, BSF,
UNC, UNF, BSCy and BA and Metric threads; Coarse and Fine. Most old British
cars have the Imperial threads. Electrical items usually have BA and
m/cycles have BSCy.
Donít ever force difficult screws or bolts, as itís more difficult to remove
the broken bit when the damage is done. Remember brass is very brittle and
is more brittle when hot. Screws often have the slots undamaged on the
tightening side. So try a little tightening first to break the seizure.
Shock in the form of a hammer blow can help. Be very careful with the impact
driver. (There are many horror stories about the use of impact drivers)
Careful planning can avoid the problem of wrung bolts or screws. To remove a
wrung bolt first accurately mark and dot-punch the centre of the HOLE. Itís
best to start the drilling using a centre drill. (Special type of drill)
Then use a size drill that is smaller than the tapping size. Finally (if
hole is central) use the tapping size drill. Careful use of a tap should
clean out the threads.
Try to pick up old thread taps and dies at Autojumbles. (Sizes from 3/16 to
Ĺ inch). Threads that cannot be recovered can be repaired using helicoiling.
Uneven or grabbing brakes.
Cable, rope and rod brake systems are more difficult to set up. Check that
there is no looseness in back plates or brake shoes. All pivots and linkages
must be ok and free. Lever arm angles must match. Set-up each axle
separately and then balance the axles. Remember that the front axle applies
about 70% braking and the rear axle about 30% braking so check action on
road test. Check that rear wheels are not locking up before the front
wheels. Check condition of spring shackle bushes and kingpins.
Oil on shoes, brake-dust in drum, loose back plates, non-matching linings,
scored drums and seized wheel cylinders can cause uneven brakes. Check all
Worn or loose spring shackles or bushes can also cause brake problems.
Fuel and oil pipelines.
When making up new copper fuel or oil pipelines always coil the copper pipe
to prevent fracturing caused by vibration. It may be necessary to anneal the
copper pipe first. This can be done by heating the copper pipe to dull-red
heat and then cooling in water or allow to cool itself. Make sure that the
parts fit snugly together. When soldering unions to the copper pipe always
heat the components being joined and not the solder. Touch the solder to the
component and capillary attraction will ensues a perfect joint. This ensures
correct temperature and a neat leak-proof joint.
If you have to make up petrol filters (the fine brass gauze type fitted
inside petrol tanks and banjo unions) an excellent source is old hydraulic
oil filters. One of these old filters will supply all you will ever need.
Use any suitable round wooden former to shape the new filter before
Poor earth connections and faulty connections in the wiring circuit can
cause poor lights or lazy starter motors. Use a voltmeter to check voltage
drop in circuit. This is a very quick way of circuit checking. Sometimes it
is best to fit an earth wire to components on cars with bolted on parts.
(Paint and corrosion can cause earthing problems) Indeed this can be a very
quick method of testing for the cause of a fault. If the component works
properly when this earth wire is used then the fault was the circuit and not
the component. Always make sure that you use the correct cable size when
rewiring any circuit as this can also cause voltage drop in the circuit and
overheating of the cable. Only use stranded cable when replacing cables. Try
to match colours on cable when rewiring.
Always disconnect the battery when working on the electrical system. When
searching for the cause of a short-circuit or carrying out repairs that
require the battery to be connected you can protect the system against
serious damage of burning out the wiring loom by making up and connecting a
simple fused link from the battery to the live battery cable. Should a
short-circuit occur that could damage the loom then the fuse will protect
Be careful that Ďextrasí such as spot lamps, reversing lamps etc. donít
overload the charging system. Always connect any additional electrical items
through the correct fuse circuit.
>From time to time Auto jumbles can provide good sources of information on
things electrical. There are many sets of books on practical repairs,
maintenance and repairs of all systems on old cars. These books are a great
source of valuable details for the repairer. If youíre lucky enough to find
a complete set, usually four or five volumes, buy them. They make excellent
reading material and all are easy to understand. Motor apprentices used
these books during their training.
Soldering nipples on Bowden cables for choke, throttle etc. is a simple
task. Donít use heating torch directly on cable as this destroys the temper
in the cable strands and leads to early failure. Instead use the solder bath
method. Heat the solder in a small container (old brass thimble) and dip the
cable with nipple in position into the molten solder. Allow time for the
cable strands and the nipple to reach correct temp. Donít dip below the
nipple to avoid solder from stiffening the cable that could lead to
breakages or stiffness of the cable. This gives a very neat joint. Donít
over-heat the solder as this boils the tin out of the solder leaving only
the lead and lead joints are too weak. Use soldering flux to ensure that the
joint is chemically clean and that the solder Ďwetsí the joint. To solder
properly the joint must be clean enough and hot enough.
There are two types of soldering flux, passive and active. The passive,
usually resin based, will not corrode afterwards but the active, usually
acid based, will corrode afterwards. So, active fluxes must be
removed/neutralised after soldering. Always use the passive flux on
electrical soldered joints. (Cored solder contains passive flux)
This is an area of restoration where care and caution are called for.
Remember panel beating is a skill that takes time to acquire. Donít make
things worse if you donít have the expertise to tackle this type of work.
Damaged panels most likely have been stretched and will not return to
original shape without shrinking. Special equipment is also required to do
this work. Filling the dent may solve the problem. The purist may say that
body solder should be used for filling. That may be so but the modern filler
available today is easy to use and had it been available long ago it would
have been used. Anyway, the type of high lead content body solder with the
required long pasty range and the special solder impregnated flux is like
henís teeth today. (Hard to source).
There are many ways to replace corroded areas in panels using available
equipment today. The joddling tool comes to mind. It needs care and neatness
to do this type of repair.
This is another area where care is needed. It is a bit like herself going
out wearing the wrong hat. Paint is expensive and the same amount of paint
is needed to spoil the bodywork as would have crowned a fine restoration.
Not everyone has the equipment or more importantly, the skill and patience
to paint the car. Like the hat wearer get it right or stay at home.
This is another part of the car restoration work that can spoil the
finished work if not properly done. This is similar to the paintwork. It may
require an expert to do this properly. While there are many spray-painters
available the number of car upholsterers here now probably can be counted on
one finger. The old vehicle movement will have serious problems in this area
when all the trade upholsterers have shuffled off upstairs to work for Him.
Having seen one gifted tradesman at work I can see that there are two
distinct areas here. One has to do with the skills of measuring, marking
out, cutting, stitching and fitting of the pieces. Perhaps that area can be
addressed. But the material choice, style, shapes and designs of hoods, etc
and all that is required to fashion a roll of double-duck or leather into a
correct hood, seat or door panel to fit on a vintage car is something else.
To return to the upholstery, just like the paint it has to be done right.
Leather should replace leather. Donít spoil the boat for a hapí worth oí
Assembling screws and bolts in bodywork.
Always oil the threads (wax oil is best). This prevents rusting for long
time. It might be a good idea to make some flat washers from zinc sheet
(used by the building trade as roof flashing) and fit these to prevent
corrosion. (Sacrificial anodic protection) Use hollow punches to make the
washers. Be aware that coarse threaded screws and bolts are more prone to
loosening from vibration than fine threaded ones. Fit washers where
Dismantling for ĎNut and Boltí restoration.
Donít rely on memory. (Old-timers Disease) It could be weeks, months or
maybe years before reassembling takes place. Use labels of some sort to mark
the bits, putting any relevant details on the label. Masking tape can be
used. Use plenty of containers with lids and plastic bags too. Clearly mark
everything. Donít hang anything up on the floor. They have a habit of
falling off and running away. Take plenty of photos. Another good idea is to
refit screws and bolts into the holes as this can avoid the problem of
ending up with a screw thatís too short and you donít know where you put the
long one. If possible, reassemble bits together to ensure fitted parts are
kept together. (When old cars were hand assembled a little bit of tweeking
and bending was a necessary part of the assembly work) Take notes as you
dismantle and note any missing bits or bits requiring repair or replacement.
Bring this list to all Auto jumbles as you search for bits. (Hopefully this
will prevent you ending up with a number of the same parts when one is all
you need). Put these details in a notebook and not on the back of a Woodbine
cig. packet. It might be useful to make a note in the notebook of where you
store the containers. This should avoid having to spend time searching
Always take note of the order of dismantling the parts. This could prevent
having to undo some assembled work during the rebuild.
Donít rush the reassembly of the car. Be methodical and thorough as you
progress. It is a good idea to Ďdry assembleí first to ensure that all bits
fit and function as they should. This is particularly important with painted
parts to avoid damage to the finish. Avoid Ďstressingí parts to get them to
fit. Stressed components will corrode much quicker than unstressed ones.
Test the operation of each item as you rebuild. Remember Ďgood enoughí
isnít. If the job is worth doing, then itís worth doing well. Protect
vulnerable areas like paintwork and bright work and leatherwork
Donít forget to take plenty of photoís as the work progresses in order to
record the work done.
Many moons ago when a boy started to serve his
time he bought a turn screw,
probably on HP, but not nowadays.
This was expected to last his
entire working life and they often did.
But nowadays its called a
screwdriver and they are so cheap they can
be modified for many jobs such as
scraper, chisel, paint stirrer, etc,
But this months tip is always buy a
Philips screwdriver as when it wears
out you can grind the top and make
it into a flat screwdriver ÖÖÖÖ
To be continuedÖÖÖ.