Many of you followed my crazy car collection capers as it happened. Somehow, the previous caper, in which a wheel bearing collapsed, just wasn’t enough. So, I decided to buy a car with no MOT, which had been off the road for 18 months. What could possibly go wrong? The answer is contained in the two videos below! Click the pic to see the first video.
Now I’ve got the car home, I can focus on making it better. Naturally, curing that diesel leak is a major priority. It turns out, diesel leaks from the Bosch fuel pump are hardly rare. Anyone who has a BMW with the tds engine, or that engine installed in an Omega or Range Rover will be well aware of it. In fact, stands a chance that if you own a Volkswagen diesel, it may also suffer in the same way. There are two seals in the pump housing, and it seems they do leak with time.
I don’t have the new seals, but I thought that I might as well make a start on the job. We’re having a few issues with the paperwork, so I can’t actually tax it yet. May as well take it to bits then. To make life a LOT easier, I decided to remove the intake manifold. There are only a few bolts holding it in place, though access to all of them is not easy. I also found I had to clamber on top of the engine to reach those at the back. It’s quite a long motor!
Eventually, success was had.
I plugged the inlets with paper roll to stop any foreign bodies getting where they shouldn’t be. I also removed my tape bodgery, which had stemmed, but not stopped the flow of diesel. I have since ordered up a seal kit, but it’ll likely take quite a few days to arrive. That’s ok. I’ve got work and minibus duty to attend to this week.
Here’s a blurry shot of the pump though, now access has been granted.
While I was here, I thought I’d check whether I could defeat the anti-tamper screw. You really need a special tool to undo it. I smashed a spare 7mm socket over it. Does the same thing.
You can just see diesel pooling in that little recess. There’s one failed seal at that level, and another slightly further up, where you can see the next line. I need to scribe the pump on two sides, so that I can line everything up again. It seems that tiny amounts of movements are absolutely critical here. If I don’t get it back exactly where it should be, I’ll disturb the fuelling settings, which could leave the car not running at all, or producing black clouds of soot. Neither are desirable outcomes.
Incidentally, that black and blue pipe you can just see was not attached to anything. It’s part of the EGR valve set-up, so I think I’d better connect it up when I’m done. EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) shoves some of the exhaust gas back into the engine, to burn some of the impurities. To be honest, they’re a bit of a flaky idea, as you need a valve in the exhaust, and they can get gunked up with time. It seems quite easy to disable the EGR valve, though whether this is desirable is up for debate. It can improve the engine’s performance (especially if you have a faulty EGR valve), but it can also increase harmful nitrous oxides from the exhaust – these are what diesels are currently making the headlines because of. I’ve got time to think that one through.
In other Omega news, I’ve started touching up some of the rust spots with Vactan rust converter, and got the windscreen washers working again. I also found that I’d been sitting on the locking wheel nut tool all the way home. Not sure how I didn’t spot it, or feel it!
You can now also watch the first part of the Collection Caper, right here.
And the second part is now live too!
There’s now a video version of the ZX collection capers. See how it all unfolded. Apart from a bit in the middle that I forgot to film…
I’ve sold several cars via the raffle system on a favoured car forum – members only deals linked to the Lotto bonus ball. A dreadful Volvo 740, the Honda Prelude and a Mitsubishi Colt were sold by this method, with a great deal of success. I’ve also taken part in a few raffles too, as a hopeful buyer. Without luck. Until now! EDIT – Video now available here.
When a Citroen ZX was offered up for just £2 per ticket, I had to have a go. In fact, I had to have two tickets. Value! £4 spent, with two lucky dips. Now, following the Lotto draws is annoyingly difficult, so I wasn’t really paying attention. Then, the forum thread was updated to reveal that I was the winner. Oh dear. I then had to break the news to my wife…
Surprisingly, Rachel was sufficiently interested that she decided to accompany me on the collection caper. Perhaps it was because I said I’d sell the RAV4 to make room for the new arrival, and she wanted to make sure that I really did…
That itself went very smoothly, when a friend agreed to have it as it seemed ideal for his needs. I don’t doubt that. It’s a great little car, albeit one that isn’t very comfortable for long journeys. Which was unfortunate, as I agreed to deliver it most of the way to him, by leaving it with his dad in Sutton Coldfield.
So, that’s what we did yesterday morning, timing our run to perfection to avoid the hideous traffic chaos of both Newtown and the M6/M5 interchange. Remarkably, we got there in 2.5hrs. That’s an impressive average of 48mph!
A lift to the train station, in Citroen number 1 of this adventure, was much appreciated. We got a slightly earlier train into Birmingham, so I foolishly decided we’d have a quick nose about the City Centre. This required us to walk very, very fast, and occasionally run back to the station, where we got to the platform with minutes to spare. We hopped aboard a Cross Country Trains Voyager, where the catering chap was making apologies for the lack of service previously – the exact same thing happened the last time I travelled on Cross Country. Thankfully, we had beef sandwiches and drinks with us. Nae bother.
After some time, we reached Reading, and eventually managed to find our way out of the station and down to a subterranean car park hidden beneath. There, we found Citroen number 2.
The owner promptly delivered us to Citroen number 3, which is the one we were driving home in. That was meant to be all the Citroens on this trip, but it turns out we’d meet one more…
There was a bit of a wait while I sorted out bureaucracy – change of owner, vehicle tax and insurance. I also did a few videos, most of which were rubbish. After a check of the levels, I declared the car probably alright, and we headed straight onto the M4 motorway. I did notice a bit of a droning noise at speed, but thought it was probably due to cheap tyres. In this, I was quite wrong.
Still, we covered over 100 miles without issue, other than slight discomfort due to the seats. I need a bit more lumbar support than these seats provide, though I say that about pretty much every car, so maybe the problem is me. After over three hours of driving with only a brief stop for fuel, I’m probably not being very kind to my back.
Hereford was horrible – traffic everywhere. At least I could be glad that the clutch is fairly light and the gearchange remarkably pleasant. I’m used to PSA diesels being a bit rubbish in this regard. At 112,000 miles, it’s pretty much run in for one of these.
Herefordshire would not get any better. It started raining, and then the car began to feel very wayward. As we drove, pretty briskly, through the enjoyable curves of the A480, I felt the car begin to move in unexpected ways. Its progress began to feel interrupted, and it was feeling as if the rear end was steering. ZXs do indeed have passive rear wheel steering, but this was far stronger than that. As we limped towards Kington, it stepped slightly out of line while I was driving on a straight. Already, my speed had dropped. It now dropped further, especially as the tired wiper blade was making vision rather tricky.
We pulled in to a car park and I quickly assessed the car. Neither front wheel had play detectable in it, and the nearside rear was ok. The offside rear? Bloody hell! No, that was not right at all. Rocking the top of the wheel back and forth, I could feel the hub moving in a way that hubs should not. I could see the hub nut dust cover moving with the wheel, so that ruled out loose wheel bolts (though they were checked anyway). We were tired and hungry, and went in search of food while pondering our next move.
Handily, we had friends a few miles away, and they very quickly offered to put us up for the night. We could limp there, down a largely single-track road, in relative safety. We’d investigate in the morning.
And, this morning, investigate we did.
Well, if you’re going to break down, break down near a friend who owns the same car, has a load of tools for them and knows where to get parts!
It didn’t take long to form a diagnosis. On removing the hub nut dust cover, we could see metal fragments. We dashed off in Citroen number 4 to see if we could purchase a solution. My friend Adrian let me drive his ZX, which is a much later, turbo diesel version of my new car. This was an unexpected pleasure, even if it did remind me of the turbo lag my ZX does not have. Mind you, this ZX also didn’t have a horrible droning noise…
We found a garage that was open, were just about in time to request a ZX wheel bearing be added to their van delivery for that morning and agreed that they would fit it to the drum. Back to the car, off with the drum and sweep up the wheel bearing parts…
We think one or two of those rollers had broken up completely, with the heat generated from the failing bearing them removing any grease as it overheated, leading to it pretty much destroying itself. This causes a droning noise… It also causes the wheel to try locking up, which might explain why it felt like the car was occasionally losing power the night before. It also allowed a huge amount of play at the wheel, hence the curious handling.
With the drum off, we went back to the garage, who had now received the new bearing. It was pushed in, money was handed over (and I bought a new wiper blade) and we returned to the car, refitted the brake drum, put the wheel on and pretty much drove straight to a local gig that we were very keen not to miss. Thankfully, we arrived ten minutes before it was due to start. It was rather enjoyable, and THEN we finally made it home.
I’m very thankful to our friends Adrian and Ellie for helping us out when all seemed rather bleak. That truly is what friends are for. Now the editor has helped me out so selflessly, perhaps I should join the club whose magazine he edits…
A full review on the car itself will be forthcoming. Suffice it to say that I think it’s a good’un. It even managed to liven up an otherwise rather boring collection caper!
Er, I’m not quite sure how it happened, but I seem to have clocked up 2000 miles in the S-MX already. About 2300 in fact. Blimey.
So, how has it gone? Seeing as I’m just back from yet another trip to the South East of England, I’m well placed to give a report.
Not entirely smoothly is how it’s gone. I’ve had to spend a fair bit of time, effort and money on improving this car, though the good news is that it feels like time, effort and money well spent. As already reported, the collection caper included fitting a new timing belt and water pump, as well as giving the poor thing a much-needed service and an optimistic transmission fluid change. That’s because these Honda gearboxes can be a bit weak. I found it was flaring, or revving up on downshifts, and also on upshifts when cold. I can’t say the fluid change has greatly improved matters, but it’s worth bearing in mind that you can only drop about half the fluid in the gearbox. I plan do it again and this time, remove all the solenoids and clean the gauze filters underneath. Hopefully that’ll speed up the changes. When I got the car home, I changed the thermostat, which got the torque converter lock-up working again. That does seem to have improved economy – it varies quite a bit between 32 and 36mpg on the previous two fills – I suspect because different pumps click off at different points. 32-34 is my gut feel. Not bad.
I also had to get both track rod ends replaced, which then allowed me to get the tracking set correctly. It was way off, which destroyed a tyre and left it feeling exceedingly uncomfortable on wet bends. The local garage did this work, and I’m happy to report that it is much improved. That said, the steering is still hideously light – it seems they’re like that. This is not a car for hooning. It handles like a wardrobe on the Cresta Run.
That work included fitting a full set of Nokian Weather Proof all-season tyres. I’ve not tried all-season rubber before, so I look forward to seeing whether they really do work well in all conditions. Typically, it has been pretty much drought conditions since they went on, but they certainly grip well enough in the dry. They’re pretty quiet too.
At the same time, I liberally applied Bilt Hamber’s excellent Dynax UB anti-corrosion wax to the underside, having already treated the rear wheelarches to a dose of Vactan rust converter. None of this stuff was blagged by the way, this is all honest appraisal of stuff I paid for (though if I ever do blag stuff, I’m honest about that too!).
I was sent Autoglym’s Headlamp Restoration kit to try on my hideously ruined headlamps, and I can honestly say I’m very impressed with the results. I’ll do a more detailed report on that at some point, as it definitely deserves it. It’s so nice to have an actual headlamp beam pattern again! Night vision has been improved immensely. It’s quite a scary kit to use, because you make things a lot worse before making things better. Worth persevering with.
One small thing I did was paint the wiper arms using some matt black paint. That’s improved the looks no end, along with using Autoglym’s Bumper and Trim gel on the scuttle trim. Sadly, the paint on the roof remains terrible. I think it’s a combination of sun bleach and salt from surfboards. LIFESTYLE YO!
I also had to replace the rear washer pump, which became a bit of a farce. I discovered that the front washer pump was also leaking – huge globules of sealant hinted that someone had already tried to fix this one. A new pump sorted it out, so I ended up replacing both pumps in the end. Screenwash consumption has dropped dramatically! A drop or two of Captain Tolley’s Creeping Crack Cure seems to have cured a small leak at the rear washer jet itself. Water was dribbling down the inside of the rear window.
There’s still stuff to do though. The rear anti-roll bar drop links are utterly ruined. I’ve no idea how they got through an MOT to be honest. Thankfully, replacement looks easy, and they’re shared with an Accord, but I’m still waiting for another pay day to pass before sorting them out. It’ll be nice to banish the constant rattle from the back end. I wonder about a fresh set of dampers too, as it is really quite bouncy! Being a Lowdown model doesn’t help – it has shorter, stiffer springs from the factory – but firm doesn’t have to mean bouncy. Given the pitiful level of car this poor car has received in the past, it wouldn’t surprise me if the dampers are the originals.
Then, as mentioned earlier, I need to do another transmission fluid change and see if I can get the gearbox to behave. It’s generally fine, for a good 99% of the time. In fact, it’s a rather pleasant car to waft around in. It sailed back from Sussex with no bother at all. It’s like driving a cosy armchair. I’ve even got deep pile carpet mats, so I drove home in my slippers.
I really like this car though, which has surprised me. Hopefully that means an end to the frantic flurry of car changes during the latter part of this year.
The Honda has responded well to a dose of TLC. On Friday, I changed the thermostat, and this has fixed the gearbox. Brilliant! But how?
It turns out that the Honda’s electronic brain will not allow the torque converter to lock-up if the engine is not at full operating temperature. The lock-up feature is a major improvement to the world of automatic transmissions, and effectively bypasses the automatic bit by locking the engine to the road wheels, just like a manual transmission does. Without the lock up, the transmission relies on the torque converter, which in simple terms, is like a fluid turbine. The engine spins the fluid, which acts on the stator of the gearbox to create forward movement. This means you don’t need a clutch, because if you stop, the spinning fluid can’t overpower the brakes.
Anyway, with the torque converter locked up, engine speed is reduced (by around 250rpm) and, because transmission and engine are now physically linked together, it improves efficiency. The torque converter loses efficiency because all that spinning motion generates heat. Heat demonstrates the lack of efficiency, and indicates why automatics usually have a transmission cooler…
Changing the thermostat was pretty easy. There’s a drain tap on the radiator to drain the coolant, and just two 10mm bolts holding the ‘stat in place. Not that accessing them is all that easy – ratchet spanners proved ideal.
This all means that I wafted along the M54 on Saturday in a rather more relaxing manner than my run up the M5 after collection the car. The new thermostat, of course, also means quicker engine warming first thing, and that it maintains that temperature on the move. All this means better efficiency and hopefully, better mpg. Sadly, this hasn’t yet been borne out by the figures – the second tank of fuel seems to have returned 28mpg rather than the 32 of the first. That did include rather a lot of motorway driving at or around the speed limit, whereas the first tank involved some of that, but also rather more 60mph limit single-carriageway.
The trek along the M54 was the start of a 600-mile trip that saw me end up in Kent, then driving all the way back to Wales. The news is generally good. I’ve now covered 1000 miles in the S-MX in total and I still like it a lot. I’ve improved the bed situation with a self-inflating mattress, and while it’s still a bit uneven, I managed two nights of pretty good kip in it.
I do need to improve the headlamps though. They’re a bit dim at night. I’m hoping the newly-arrived Autoglym headlamp restoration kit can help here (see next update, probably). I do also still need to sort the alignment out and fit some new tyres. It makes embarrassing squeals on some surfaces, and just does not feel planted.
It must be said though, I still like it a lot. It may corner with all the grace of Boris Johnson in a thong, but unlike BoJo, I just want to spend time with it. Could this be the start of Good Times?