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Hints & tips
The NEVCC does not warrant the accuracy or source of any information contained on this website, nor does this constitute an endorsement or recommendation of any product or service offered or referred to on this site.

Similar articles from members and non-members alike would be appreciated. See Contact page.

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 
motoring today.
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 
like-minded enthusiasts.
Errors, if any, are regretted and will be correct when noticed and/or 
reported.
.

Ignition.
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.
Condenser
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 
deteriorated.


Distributor wear.
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.


Spark Plugs
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 
alignment.

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, 
3.

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.


Brakes.
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.
Hydraulic brakes.
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 
of these.
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 
soldering it.

Electrical.
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 
the system.
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
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)

Bodywork repairs.
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.

Paintwork.
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.

Upholstery.
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 
tar.



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 
necessary.

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 
later.
Always take note of the order of dismantling the parts. This could prevent 
having to undo some assembled work during the rebuild.

Reassembly
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.

Screwdrivers

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.

 
© NEVCC 2004
 
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