Janet (j4) wrote,

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This wheel's on fire

Actually, the wheels bursting into flames is about the only thing that hasn't gone wrong so far with pto452. (Touch wood, in spite of the fire hazard.)

On Wednesday as I was about to drive home from work I found that the car wouldn't start. Pulling the starter resulted in merely an ominously non-engine-starting buzzing noise, and a quick go with the starter-handle produced nothing but a kickback fierce enough to wrench my shoulder half out of joint. With only three cars left in the car-park I estimated that my chances of scrounging a jump-start from somebody were small, especially given that without a smart-key I couldn't get back in to the office; so in the end I phoned the RAC, and they sent a niceman out to jump-start me. His verdict was that the battery was buggered, and the journey home failed to charge it. "Ah well," I thought, "Time for a new battery."

Attempt to buy a new battery the next day fell flat (pun intended) when Discount Autoparts failed to have (what they believed to be, & what I now suspect was not) the right type of battery in stock; however, attempt to borrow a battery-charger was extremely successful, thanks to saraphale. Actually charging the battery was less successful, as the battery charger blew a fuse at some point overnight (this was the new fuse that we'd put in, on finding before we started that the existing fuse was dead -- saraphale, I think your battery-charger is a little unhappy!); however, it managed to inject enough juice to let me start the car this morning, in order to take it to Ian Allen (local moggy-mechanic) to get it fixed.

I had a bit of a worrying moment when I realised I wasn't going to make it as far as Ely on the amount of petrol that was in the tank, and I was a bit wary of stopping for petrol when I wasn't sure I'd be able to start the car again. In the end, though, I decided that the middle of a petrol station (with lots of cars around to jump-start me) was probably the best place to have a flat battery, and somewhere in the suburbs of Ely was a reasonably bad place to run out of petrol; so I eventually found a petrol station (the one I usually stop at on the way to/from Ely was all boarded up!), and topped up with some unleaded (not ideal, but they didn't do LRP).

The plan for today's service was to get my old (reconditioned) speedo re-fitted, get a new battery, and get the windscreen trim glued back in place (it's a big piece of chrome held in place by nothing except rubber and hope). However, you know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men^H^H^Hmoggies...

The battery, when tested, was fine. It appeared that brrm and I hadn't done any damage with our unintentional electrical tinkering at the weekend, and in fact had done the right thing by fully disconnecting the little panel lights once the connections had more or less fallen apart in our hands. (Unfortunately, fixing those is likely to be somewhere between "difficult" and "impossible", as the parts are nearly mythical and fixing the existing parts would require some implausibly fine soldering.)

The dynamo, when tested, was not fine. The dynamo brushes were the most obvious suspect, but when we came to take them out they didn't look dreadfully worn -- far from new, worth replacing, but not so bad that they should have caused the dynamo to fail; and the ominous-looking ring of splattered lead solder around the inside of the dynamo cylinder suggested something more serious in the way of overheating and generally Not Working.

One of the springs that pushes the brushes had been replaced by a previous "mechanic" with a bespoke spring, fashioned from something looking suspiciously like a paperclip. It seemed to do the job, though, so it was left in place; however, when the new brushes had been fitted and we came to close the dynamo up, there was a loud *pink* from within the cylinder, and a small piece of spring fell out of the end. It seemed likely that this was the other spring finally giving up the ghost, but on further inspection, that was still intact -- clearly what had fallen out was the broken spring which had been replaced at some point in the past. Which meant that this little bit of rather sharp metal had been rattling around inside the dynamo for god-only-knows-how-long, probably cutting it to bits and/or shorting something out.

The dynamo was duly pronounced dodo-like, doornailish, demised. I decided I'd get it reconditioned rather than just getting a new one, since they didn't have the right type of dynamo for my car in stock and I'd rather keep it as authentic as is practical. Fitting the later model of dynamo (as a temporary measure to keep the car running while I get my dynamo fixed) was a little problematic since they changed the fittings somewhere after my make of car from nuts and bolts to bayonet fittings, but it was nothing that a couple of scotch-locks and a bit of duct-tape couldn't fix.

However... (picture, dear reader, a can of worms spilling all over the floor) ... while taking the dynamo off, it became apparent that all was not well with the water-pump and the fan, these being a lot more wobbly than seemed healthy. My friendly mechanic confessed that he didn't know much about the internal workings of the water-pump for the 803cc engine, but valiantly took it to bits anyway (having had to first remove the radiator), to find that the problem was a just a very worn keyway. There being not much to be done about this without actually replacing parts (and the parts in question being, apparently, very hard to come by) we had to resort to a quick hack, namely, tightening the whole nut-and-bolt arrangement holding the boss on with the aid of a washer.

The speedo, in the end, was fitted with a minimum of fuss. There were a few moments of loud cursing when it transpired that the people who'd reconditioned it had screwed the case back on the wrong way round (so that the holes for the screws wouldn't line up with the holes in the dashboard) -- and put tamper-proof paint over the screws on the back of the case -- but a quick phone-call gained an apology from them and authorisation to open the case without voiding their warranty. The speedo now works, and its needle doesn't even flap around any more -- so I can say with reasonable confidence that I was doing about 50mph down the A10 on the way back to Cambridge.

Total cost for this lot (including two and a half hours of labour) was just over £125, which is not bad. However, I think I may have made a net gain, since I not only got lunch and a couple of cups of coffee free while I was there, but also appear to have blagged my first web-design job. I'd realised that "Minor Services" had no discernable web-presence, so I only semi-seriously made a vague offer of "knocking up some sort of web-page"; and whereas this sort of offer is usually brushed off gently but slightly mockingly, this time it was welcomed with open arms. (Ian Allen describes himself as a "professional Luddite", but acknowledges that an information page (giving phone number and address but no email address!) might have some benefit.) The advantage of his atechnical condition is that he didn't realise I have about as much web-design skill as a Morris Minor; hopefully I'll be able to bluff something, and he's offered to either pay me or do some work on the car for free in return. Result!

Despite the faff involved in getting the car fixed, I think the day was productive, all told. Now trying to decide whether to go to the Post Office depot to pick up the Special Delivery thing they tried to deliver earlier, or to leave it till tomorrow; and whether or not to go to a pub gig tonight. (I quite fancy some live jazz/blues, but my wallet is telling me that pub food again is not the best idea I've had this week.)

Roll on the weekend.

Update: Sorry, the middle few paragraphs got fouled up because of bad HTML. All fixed now.

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