1200 miles in a £230 car

I’m quite rubbish at buying cars. I was going to buy a Lexus, but somehow ended up with a Mitsubishi Colt 1500 GLX automatic. This was clearly not going to be the ideal vehicle for our upcoming holiday to France, so panic measures were resorted to.

That meant heading to Ebay to see what was actually suitable for such a trip, and what was cheap. The Rover 600 was an obvious contender, the purchase of which I’ve already covered. Now, it was time to find out how it would do on the trip.

Firstly, I decided to investigate the air conditioning. It wasn’t working, and a heatwave was forecast. I decided to ask my local garage to investigate, and they found a failed hose. There was no time to source a new one, but they reckoned a local agricultural firm could make a new hose with the existing connectors. All was going well until, the night before we were due to depart, the new hose blew apart. One of the connectors had not been sufficiently crimped. This was especially annoying as I’d actually dug my bicycle out of the storeroom and ridden it 4.6 miles to collect the car! The hose was swiftly removed and the garage offered to try and get it remade the next morning. I decided to take the gamble, even though that meant collecting the car on the day we were due to leave.

The day of departure arrived and I got to the garage just as the new hose had been fitted. It was time to fire it up! Thankfully, the new hose held, and beautifully chilled air came out of the vents (after I’d previously fixed the blower motor). Fantastic! I said my thanks, drove back home, we loaded the car and headed off to our overnight stop in Sussex.

It was already pretty sweltering, so I was glad of the air con. It truly transforms a motorway journey in the summer, because you can keep the windows up. That makes it much, much more peaceful. We even managed to listen to music at a reasonable volume. Perfect.

However, our joy was not to last. During the latter stages of our trek along the M4, I began to notice that horrible hot-electric smell that suggests all is not well. It reminds me of model railways, when dirt is making it difficult for the voltage to get through to the wheels. Sure enough, when we hit traffic on the M25, it became apparent that the fan was not actually spinning – the cool air had merely been a result of the ram air effect of travelling at speed – or perhaps that ram air had been helping the fan to spin. Either way, it was back to windows down.

I did briefly consider trying to strip the motor out at my sister-in-law’s house, but decided eating dinner was a better idea. I also didn’t fancy having a car in bits hours before our chunnel crossing. Noisy windows it was then – at least it was cool on the eurotunnel train!

We then had several hours of French autoroutes to contend with, and it was noisy going. Until I decided to just run the air con with the ram air effect. At 130kmh, this worked very well and we were kept at a comfortable temperature. It only fell down whenever we stopped.

There followed a few days of family, too much delicious food and much sitting around before I got a chance to get the fan motor out.

Essential holiday antics - fan blower motor removal.

Essential holiday antics – fan blower motor removal.

Removing the fan quickly revealed that all was not well. It was reluctant to turn and indeed, was refusing to do so entirely without a little assistance. I recruited my father-in-law to investigate, as I knew he’d enjoy the project. With the motor apart, we could see the problem pretty clearly.

Trying to revive the motor with a clean-up.

Trying to revive the motor with a clean-up.

That’s some pretty drastic wear on the commutator. That step at the end of the brush should not be there. The brushes too were pretty worn. We were hardly going to find replacements in the middle of rural France on a Sunday afternoon, so a bottle of meths was provided, and we settled for just cleaning things up as much as possible. That included using a cocktail stick to clean out the carbon muck between each of those segments to reduce the possibility of short circuit. The brushes act on each of those segments in turn. I also cleaned out the nose bearing and the guides the brushes sit in, to ensure they could move freely.

With that done, I then reassembled the motor and a bit of machine oil was added to the nose bearing. With some scepticism, I plugged the motor back into the car’s loom and prepared to turn it on. Well, I was glad I’d got a firm grip of the motor housing, as the difference was staggering! It had gone from a lumpy, reluctant rotation to generating so much torque that it threatened to rip itself from my grasp! I looked all dramatic as the huge movement of air blew my hair backwards. This was a proper little wind machine.

Now all I had to do was reassemble everything, which I did with only one screw remaining. I’m clearly getting better at this lark. The next day, we went sight-seeing and enjoyed beautiful air conditioning once again. Lovely!

Of course, it didn’t last. The next day was even hotter, and having left the car parked all day, I moved it to a better position for loading up, prior to our long drive home. I turned on the air con, but the vents resolutely refused to chuck out air that was very cool. Sadly, that continued for our drive home. The pump was kicking in, but the air conditioning unit merely made a wheezing sort of a noise and no cold was forthcoming. Bother!

Things got even worse at the Eurotunnel entrance, where British security checks were causing a major hold up. We queued for ages, at the hottest part of the day, with not a cloud to be seen.

Feeling hot. V8 Mustang sounded nice though!

Feeling hot. V8 Mustang sounded nice though!

It was pretty much unbearable, though things improved when we opened both front doors. There was hardly a breath of wind though. Seriously sticky. At least the train was a little cooler, and it was also a fair chunk less scalding in Dover too. Phew. It got a lot hotter soon enough though, with the M25 being pretty bad. I knew there was a weather front heading along the M4 though. If we kept going, perhaps we could meet it!

Having refuelled 45 minutes from Calais, I certainly didn’t need to stop for fuel, but we eventually reached Cricklade in Gloucestershire, where it was decided that tea was most definitely needed. It had been 400 miles since our last brew! Seconds after we sat down, there was a power cut, but it was ok. We had tea. And possibly scones…

As we headed towards Wales, things became cooler still. We eventually arrived home at just after ten pm, having covered well over 500 miles that day, and some 1200 miles in total.

And here’s the thing. While the air conditioning certainly played up, the rest of the car just did what a car should. I drove it at 70-80mph (80mph=130kmh on the Frenchside) for hour after hour. It had to queue in major jams (Calais and M25). It never overheated, it never needed a drop of fluid. It was all quite boring really. In fact, if it weren’t for the air con related woes, it would have been a thoroughly boring experience that would hardly have been worth writing about. It just proves that £230 really can buy you an entirely capable vehicle. I still reckon it looks superb too. It may not be a Lexus, but it might just be the best value car I’ve ever bought.

Resting in the heat at the French services. What a car!

Resting in the heat at the French services. What a car!

French Holiday Spots – August 2016

I’m having a marvellous time here in France. I’ll do a full report on the Rover’s progress when I get home, but suffice to say that the air conditioning is working beautifully – which is good, as it has got rather warm here! Lovely.

I’ve been out spotting too, with trips to Argentan and Falaise today, where the spotting was on very good form. I’ve pulled out the highlights below. Hope you enjoy them. I certainly did!

Before I depart, I’ll just remind you to have a nose at my YouTube channel. Eventually, there will be a report on the Rover in video form.

Rover: More problems

Yesterday, I took my Rover to the local garage to explore the world of air conditioning and to get the dodgy tyre replaced.

Tyres and air con. Improving my steed.

Tyres and air con. Improving my steed.

The air con pressure tester revealed a leak somewhere, and sure enough, the hose between compressor and condenser had a small tear in it. Well done machine. Living in the sticks has serious downsides at this point. We weren’t going to find a Rover 600 air con pipe just sitting on a shelf somewhere. So, the lads decided to employ the services of a local agricultural merchant. After all, they make hoses for tractors that carry serious amounts of hydraulic pressure. This should have been a doddle.

This afternoon, the pipe was being refitted. With Rachel out picking billberries (she has the blue teeth to suggest not all ended up in her basket…), I was forced to seek other transport solutions.

Er, is this really a good idea?

Er, is this really a good idea?

I was given this bike by an optimistic aunt and her partner back in 2010 or maybe 2011. I’ve ridden it ONCE since then, before deciding such antics are best avoided. I’ve certainly never tried riding it beyond the borders of our village before, and as I made the bold attempt, I remembered why. I couldn’t even make it up the gentle hill that takes you out of the village. FAIL!

I bravely kept going though. I needed to get to the garage before it closed for the day. Sure, I had to walk at times, but I was still moving. Finally, I reached the section which is about a mile downhill. I barely needed to brake, even on the steep bit. If you watch the cycling on the olympics, you’ll see that the men shave their legs. I think that must explain it. I don’t. I was creating massive drag.

I made it halfway up the steep hill the other side of this drop before giving up and walking, but after ‘just’ 30 minutes, I’d manage to cycle 4.6 miles. SUCCESS!

Made it! Too knackered to account for sun position.

Made it! Too knackered to account for sun position.

You’ll note that the bonnet is still up at this point. The news was not good. The bolt holding one end of the pipe in place had brought a chunk of aluminium thread out with it, so the lads were tapping it out and then had to make a replacement bolt. They’re nothing if not ingenious – as you have to be when the nearest town is 12 miles away, and probably won’t have the bit you need anyway.

Finally, they got it all back together again. I fired up the engine, the compressor clattered into life for the first time in a while, and the vents became cold. Oooooh! Lovely! Then things went a bit wrong. I could see nervous faces below the raised bonnet from my position in the driver’s seat. BANG. Suddenly, refrigerant was escaping at high speed, men were running away and I was shutting the engine off. Balls.

One of the fittings on the new pipe had simply blown off under the pressure. This was not part of the plan. So, what to do? We depart on holiday tomorrow. The agricultural place opens again at 8am. I decided to risk it. The lads will attempt to get a new pipe made up, and I’ll have a nervous wait in the morning before driving to our overnight halt in Sussex. I didn’t much like the idea of cycling back home – there are even more hills, some of them very steep – so I was loaned a Clio. I had got as far as trying to get the bike into the Rover – it doesn’t fit. Happily, the Clio had no objections!

So, the car we’re going on holiday in tomorrow is still not ready. This promises to be fun!

Neither of these will be taking us to France.

Neither of these will be taking us to France.

How to sell a car

First off, this isn’t a guide to how to maximise profit when selling a car. If I knew how to do that, I wouldn’t mind sharing the secret, but I don’t, so I won’t. This is just what you need to know when you’re selling a car – what requirements you must take into account, and which things make life easier. A lot has changed recently – you don’t even have to fill out the V5 anymore!

Three of these cars were sold, with no problems! One is still here.

Three of these cars were sold, with no problems! One is still here.

So, I’m going to start by assuming you’ve advertised the car somewhere, and now have someone on your doorstep with cash and a desire to drive away in your vehicle.

Firstly, a receipt is a VERY good idea. It reminds you to actually make sure you receive some money, and it has a couple more benefits. Buying from a private seller means very few come backs, but the receipt allows you to confirm the mileage at the point of sale, confirm any declared issues and state that the car has been sold as seen. Even if they bought the car blind on Ebay, chances are they’re still now on your doorstep to take it away, so they’ve seen it. If they have sent someone else to collect it, then say “sold as described” instead. Assuming you weren’t telling big fat fibs on Ebay. If you were, then that’s your own problem.

Ensure the date is on your receipt, and also the time. That confirms exactly when the transaction took place, which could be useful if either party has an accident or sets off a speed camera. You’ll have a record of who was responsible for the car at the time. Print/write two copies if you don’t have access to a photocopier.

Now we come to the V5. This is what to do if selling privately. If you want to be all traditional, you can get a pen and fill it out like we used to in the good old days. If you do this, MAKE SURE YOU KEEP THE MAIN SECTION! Given the green slip (V5C/2) to the new owner, but do not let the main section out of your ownership. Make sure it has been signed by both parties, ensure it is filled in correctly and send it off yourself. DO NOT allow the buyer to do so, even if they promise they will.

These days, you’re far better off doing the change of ownership online, though for reasons that are a bit hard to explain, the service is only available during office hours. Head here and follow the instructions. There are different options depending on whether you are selling to a trader or a private buyer. If selling to a private buyer, you can destroy the V5 when instructed to do so. If selling to a trader, you only destroy the yellow section – the trader will, in this case, take the V5 with him, whether you’ve used the online system or not.

Use the online system for change of owner. It's great!

Use the online system for change of owner. It’s great!

Why is the online system better? Firstly, it instantly alerts the DVLA to the change of owner, or that the car is now in the Trade. Therefore, if the car does have a mishap afterwards, the DVLA already know you are no longer responsible for the car. Secondly, vehicle tax no longer transfers to the new owner, so it kicks in the process to refund you on any remaining tax – this means that the new owner does have to tax their car immediately. They may need to borrow your computer, though it is possible to set it up via a smartphone – it’s not too fiddly. Note that you will only be refunded for any complete months of tax remaining. Note also that the new owner will have to effectively tax the vehicle from the beginning of whichever month you sell the car in. Yes, that does mean two people paying to tax the same vehicle for a month and yes, that is bloody infuriating.

There we go then. Is that everything? Er, no. It’s also VERY important to cancel your insurance cover for this car as soon as you can once the transaction is complete. There’s one very well publicised reason for doing so. No-one wants that sort of mess hanging over them. If you’re no longer responsible for the car, you want the insurance to reflect that as well.

Note that you do not have to declare the car SORN. Your responsibility for vehicle tax will end once the logbook change is processed – whether online or by filling in the logbook and posting it off.

I would just add a note to be careful on Ebay. I have heard of transactions turning sour, when buyers have claimed a car suddenly has a load of problems and threaten to leave negative feedback. They cajole the seller into a full refund, but when the car comes back, parts are missing. The problem is, Ebay nearly always sides with the buyer. As ever, there are some nasty people about and it pays to be on your guard.

Don’t be put off though. I sell cars all the time, and I’ve rarely had an issue – apart from two occasions where I foolishly let the V5 go with the car. Don’t do it kids! I’ve learnt my lesson. Just make sure you’ve removed all personal belongings for the car, and that everything is with the car that needs to be – spare keys, paperwork, locking wheel nut tool etc.

 

 

New Rover: The issues

It’s been a while since I had a weekend to just spend at home, but thankfully, I had one just when I needed it. The Rover needs some fettling before our foreign holiday, starting with trying to reclaim that sodding indicator bulb!

I decided to attempt this job before breakfast to add a bit of time pressure. How was I going to get it out? I tried a magnet on a stick, as recommended by several people. This rather ignored the almost complete lack of steel in bulb production. I got the hint after a while…

So, I stuck a bit of high-tack aluminium tape to the end of a screwdriver and went fishing. At about the third attempt, success!

Rover 600 indicator bulb

Hoorah! Managed to reclaim the lost indicator bulb.

Now I had to test the bulb to see whether it had failed, and I’d simply dislodged it when trying to remove the bulb holder, or if the bulb had just somehow fallen out of its own accord. Here’s the answer.

Huzzah! The bulb does work.

Huzzah! The bulb does work.

It must have somehow fallen out of the holder then. Very odd. And yes, it is stupid to rest spanners on a battery with exposed terminals. I accept your point.

There was one more job to attend to before I departed on a milk run – refitting the side indicator. I used blutack for this, but I doubt it’s going to last long.

Side indicator bodge. A common fault it seems.

Side indicator bodge. A common fault it seems.

I was now ready to go and fetch some milk. Quite why I ignored the three fully-functioning vehicles I had on my driveway, I’m not really sure. I guess new-car-excitement is alive and well. Encouraging.

Once my fast had been broken, I set about trying to fix the non-working heater fan blower. Now, there are a few common faults here. One is the resistor pack, though failure of this usually means one or more speeds don’t work, but the fastest speed still will. Relays are another potential failure, or it could be a simple fuse. Fuses were ruled out quite swiftly, and I didn’t reckon the resistor pack was likely. So, I decided to remove the fan assembly, having read that it was quite easy to do.

600 fan blower

Easy! Fan motor assembly removed.

Removing the glovebox requires you do undo two screws, a few more remove a reinforcing bar and then a few nuts and bolts hold the assembly in place. You’ll notice the multimeter, though I was testing in the wrong places, so assumed power wasn’t getting to the fan.

I tried spinning the fan by hand, but it felt reluctant. It would turn, but very swiftly stopped. Could this be my problem? I turned on the ignition, switched the fan to the high setting, and used a screwdriver to turn the fan. It kept turning, slowly getting quicker and quicker. By heck can it move some air once it’s up to speed! I wasn’t happy with this ‘fix’ though, so I turned the ignition back off again, disconnected the wiring and pulled the assembly apart. I couldn’t see how to get the motor fully apart, but could remove one end. That revealed a gloopy mess inside, carbon dust from worn brushes being the main problem. I used my high-pressure penetrating oil to blast out the muck, and then applied spray grease to the bearings. The oil may have been a mistake. I’m pretty sure it contains fish oil, and the car now whiffs of it. I plugged the wires in, and the fan speed now seemed much quicker.

Speedy fan! It just needed a clean out and lube.

Speedy fan! It just needed a clean out and lube.

Then it was a ‘simple’ job of refitting everything, while listening to Jonathan Agnew interviewing Ade Edmondson on Test Match Special. Getting the fan assembly to engage with the air con unit was a bit of a struggle, but I got there in the end, with only two screws left over at the end!

Sadly, it seems the air conditioning is not working. It could be that it is simply in need of a regas. I can hear it kicking in, but the vent temperature is not very low. Given that there’s a heatwave coming next week, I think air conditioning might be nice to have!

Mind you, another priority has revealed itself ahead of this trip. I’m very annoyed with myself for not checking the car more thoroughly before I left the seller’s home, because it turns out that one of the tyres is horribly worn and aged.

Sheesh! This is a very dangerous tyre.

Sheesh! This is a very dangerous tyre.

I did check the front tyres, even getting the pressure checked in one of them before I left. The front have decent treat, as does the offside rear. The nearside rear, not so much! Look at the state of that. It’s appalling. It gives me the shivers to think that I was driving at motorway speeds on this. At the very least, I was risking a sizeable fine and points on my driving licence. But, that tyre is clearly beginning to perish. The results of a blow out at motorway speed, or when cornering, do not bear thinking about. I’m very annoyed with myself, as I take tyre safety very seriously. Or I thought I did. Let this be a lesson to all of you! Check your tyres.

So, pre-trip prep is going to include getting some beam benders, a GB sticker, a spare bulb kit and at least one new tyre. Hopefully, I can get the air con looked at too. We’ll see…

New Rover: What’s it like?

Apologies for the radio silence. Things have been rather busy of late. However, the new Rover has been collected. It didn’t make for a particularly exciting collection caper though. I handed over £230, drove it to London, stopped the night, actually had to put some fuel in it, then drove back home to Wales. The only problems were both indicator related – the offside side indicator fell out of the wing (it had obviously been glued in after failing before) in the final few miles, and the nearside front indicator bulb fell out of its housing (and then into the lamp where I couldn’t retrieve it) somewhere around Gloucester.

So, what of the car? First, some boring geekery. The Rover 600 is very much a Honda Accord. No surprise there, as most of Rovers cars at this time had shared development with Honda. Here’s the thing though, of all the Rondas, the 600 was the one that Rover had least say in, under the skin at least. Honda didn’t want to mess with a successful formula, so Rover were pretty much restricted to styling tweaks. What tweaks they were though! Here’s a Honda Accord of this period.

The 1995 Honda Accord yawnfest.

Bland is the key word. The rear end is even worse. A featureless rump that has absolutely no design interest whatsoever. Now, Rover had a challenge. It had to use the same basic structure as this, with the same windscreen, roofline and even the front doors. Yet somehow, designer Richard Woolley came up with this marvellous design.

Rover's design magic.

Rover’s design magic.

Frankly, I consider the 600 one of the best looking Rovers of all time. I rate it ahead of the 75, which always looked a bit bulky to me – and the front indicators were always odd, or even ugly. I may concede that a P4, 5 or 6 win it, but move into the 1980s and 1990s and there’s simply nothing to touch it. In my opinion.

Under the bonnet, there’s a further step away from Honda as Rover’s own L-Series turbo diesel is fitted. This is a rather fine evolution of the old Perkins Prima, as used in the Maestro and Montego, but now with electronic control of the throttle – albeit with a cable still involved. It’s a bloody marvellous engine, with practically no turbo lag at all. It pulls very smoothly indeed from just 1000rpm. Honda actually started to use this engine in its own cars. It is very good – I’d rate it as even better than the 2.1 turbo diesel in my old XM. It isn’t as powerful though, a shade over 100bhp in quite a large car. It never feels slow though, just not neck-snappingly brisk.

The steering is good too, though it was some hours and well over 150 miles into my ownership until I really got to exploit it on entertaining terrain – ie Welsh border country. It turns in very nicely and doesn’t have the worrying nose-heavy feeling of the XM.

Looks nice from behind too.

Looks nice from behind too.

It ambles along beautifully at motorway speeds too, which is good. Frankly, the only reason I have bought this car is because I need something good at motorway speeds. I’ve only used quarter of a tank of fuel so far (65 litres, 15 smaller than the XM), so I’ve no idea what the economy is like. Pretty bloody good is my best guess.

Downsides? Well, naturally, there are some. For a start, the suspension is rather on the firm side. Pity the poor Rover engineers who must have wanted something rather more supple. Instead, they got Honda’s short-travel, double-wishbone suspension. It makes the handling superb, but at the cost of ride comfort. It does crash a bit over broken terrain (ie London streets), and never really feels like it’s settling. It’s always jiggling about. Mind you, I’ve driven many modern cars that behave in exactly the same way, so maybe it was just ahead of its time…

I must concede that I’m not entirely won over by the colour either. These cars actually work well in lighter shades. I would have liked a sunroof too, and that was made even more desirable by the non-working fan blower motor and therefore non-working air conditioning. I’ll include something about that in my next report.

The gearchange isn’t the best either. I know bits on this one have been replaced, so it feels nice and tight, but it is also heavy in operation. It’s not great for quick changes.

But mostly, this story is all about the positives. The Ti-spec seats are a touch firm perhaps, but I got out after six hours at the wheel with no notable backache. There is a flick wipe feature. I can listen to Test Match Special on long wave radio. There is a foot rest (something I always longed for in the XM) for your left foot. I also got a ton of history with the car, including the owner’s handbook.

Frankly, it seems utterly ridiculous that such a good looking, competent car can be bought for so little money. Rover 75s attract plenty of enthusiasts, but the 600 remains overlooked. Having owned both, I know which I prefer already.

The next report will contain fault-finding and even some eradication! After that, I’ll be putting 1200 miles on it in a week. Let’s hope it really is reliable…

Rover 600: New purchase!

I’ve wanted a Rover 600 for a long time. In fact, I test drove one over two years ago. This one in fact.

The perfect car. Almost.

Too crap even for me, though not because it was a 600

Before that, I’d extolled the virtues of them in this post. It’s fair to say, I’ve long been a fan. It shows you how poor an example the above was (or rather, how dodgy the folk were selling it) that I managed to turn it down.

As it happens, I then got horribly sidetracked by the XM, so that put my 600 desires on hold. But, I really need a comfortable cruiser to cover distance at the moment, so the 600 was firmly back on the radar. That was especially urgent because in a few years’ time, I reckon the 600 will be very hard to find. Corrosion is fast claiming them, and values are stupendously low, so it’s not really work getting one welded up.

I found a likely target on Ebay at £199 with no bids. Had an email conversation with the owner, and liked the tone of his advert and the subsequent conversation. There was no use of the word ‘m8’ at any point. I felt confident. With less than an hour to go, there were still no bids. At seven minutes to go, a bid finally came in. Not from me. I pondered what to do next. Did I bid my full amount straight off or drop a cheeky bid in to see if it provoked a response? I went cheeky, offering £224. As I did, another bid came in, but I was still highest bidder. There followed a nervous few minutes, in which I decided to chuck a larger bid in. I’m glad I did, as the price rose to £231.52. My heartbeat rose. Excitement built.

Yes! My second sub-£300 car purchase in a fortnight had occurred. Contact was established, and trains were booked. I now have another car to collect, and it’ll be heading straight into another mega-mile roadtrip as I visit friends in London. Mind you, that’s just the start. On Wednesday, my new steed will be transporting us 600 miles to Normandy. I hope it’s ok…

It should be. At 174,000 miles, it’s hardly fresh from the showroom, but the current owner has been using it heavily. I find that’s a good thing. It seems to have a fair chunk of history, because this owner needed it to get him to where he wanted to go. The rear arches look a little problematic, but they all do these days. It’s a classic Honda rot-spot. And, of course, this is pretty much a Honda under that styling Rover suit. Not the engine though, that’s Rover’s own L-series turbo diesel. It should deliver 45-50mpg. That’ll be nice! Especially on the cheap diesel of France.

Amusingly, the registration number of my new car is part of the same series as the Rover at the start of this feature. So far, that red one is the only 600 I have ever driven, and only then a short distance around Coventry. However, I have high hopes for my £230 motor car.

Seller's pic, stolen from Ebay. Another S...SRD!

Seller’s pic, stolen from Ebay. Another S…SRD!

I’ll be live reporting progress on Twitter tomorrow (@Dollywobbler) and other social media if I have chance. I’d better give my beleaguered insurance company another call…