Project BX: The joy of simplicity

There’s a huge myth that hydro-pneumatic Citroens are horribly complex. This is because an engine driven pump powers a hydraulic system that powers the steering, suspension and brakes. It runs at up to 2500psi, which is admittedly a bit scary, and it gives the BX the most powerful brakes of any family car of the 1980s. When you enter the world of the BX, you do need to learn all about height correctors, accumulators and suspension spheres but it’s all quite simple really.

Ignore the suspension and you’ve got an incredibly simple machine. This has massive advantages, as I discovered yesterday after a weekend in Derbyshire. By the time I got to the East Midlands, there was a grumble coming from the engine bay. My bet was on alternator bearings and on the drive home, this was confirmed. By the time I got to Shrewsbury, it was really quite bad. I limped to some services – it’s nice to be able to choose where you’ll break down – and pondered what to do.

My options were limited, due to a rather ridiculous lack of tools. I decided that the best course of action was to remove the alternator belt altogether, but how to remove it? Fortunately, I had a multi-tool with me and while it lacked a spanner of the correct size to adjust the alternator, it did have a small saw. So I cut the belt off. Easy!

I still had over an hour of driving ahead of me, but a Citroen BX diesel uses very little in the way of electrickery as it drives along, so I reckoned I’d be alright. The fuel pump is mechanical and there are no computers controlling various aspects of the thing. In fact, the only reason voltage was needed was to keep the stop solenoid open (switching off the ignition shuts this, and therefore stops the engine) and to operate the lights and wiper. I was hoping to avoid rain entirely, but being Wales, didn’t entirely manage this. However, I did safely manage to get home. Phew!

An option now is to rebuild the alternator, but I’ve managed to score a reconditioned replacement for £44 delivered on Ebay. I had to order a new belt as well of course, but the old one looked pretty ropey anyway. It was also clear to see that it had been slipping for some time. The pulleys had a very polished look!

The BX coped very nicely otherwise, with another 300 mile trip. With new window seals fitted, it’s utterly transformed and barreling along at 60mph is very pleasant indeed. I’ve been struggling slightly with project motivation of late, but am now feeling more positive and ready to tackle the reducing To Do list.

What do you reckon?

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