Change is coming…

It will be of no surprise to anyone to learn that fleet changes are afoot. I have a reputation to maintain!

The obvious candidate for the chop is the Omega I’m afraid. I can’t explain why I find the Honda a much better car – it’s dynamically inferior in at least seven ways – but I do. This is the thing. Attraction doesn’t always make sense. I married a woman who loves vegetables and eating leaves.

The simple truth is that the Omega has failed to grab me. It’s ok. It does a job. Really quite well. But that isn’t enough. The Honda is a muse. I can write about it in one of my magazines. I can’t write about the Omega. It’s still a bit new, a bit bland for classic car titles (though it has appeared in Classic Car Buyer), and it certainly doesn’t fit the bill at sister title Performance Vauxhall either! I got out accelerated by a startled rabbit the other day.

Omegawd Force Ale

So, it’s up for sale, with that sale hopefully raising another £100 for the charity linked to the original owner.

In the meantime, I’m utterly failing to service the Nippa, utterly failing to prepare the 2CV for its upcoming trip to France and not doing a very good job of getting the Honda ready for Japfest – or even just sorting out the leaky tailgate. I think the bonding on the glass has broken down. Really, against this, the Omega stands no chance. It is some way down the pecking order.

Tiny car needs big love. Or at least some new oil and filters.

So, I guess the last thing I should do is go out and buy a ropey old car that needs work. Er, well. I haven’t actually bought anything yet, but let’s just say I have my eye on a few options…

Project OMG: Cosmetics and rot control

It’s a Saturday, and it’s not actually raining, so I finally had a chance to do some rust-proofing and cosmetic improvements on the Omega. First job was to reverse it up my ramps and get underneath with a wire brush and some rust converter. Vactan is my converter of choice. It’s bloomin’ good stuff, and dries to a nice, black finish that can be overpainted or waxed. There was a soft spot midway along the offside sill, which thankfully was still solid. I rubbed it back and dabbed on the Vactan. I also rubbed at surface rust in various locations around the rear axle. Reassuringly solid back here. With that done, I could apply wax – Bilt Hamber’s Dynax UB (Under Body) in this case. It’s very easy to apply, coming nicely out of the can even on a cool day.

Bilt Hamber’s excellent underbody wax.

The rear brake pipes and tow bar were also treated to a dose as surface rust was present on both. I think I may have found where the diesel smell is coming from too – there’s a small pipe that I suspect is the return, though it could be the main feed pipe for all I know. It’s just slightly damp. I will investigate that one further.

With waxing done, I set about applying Autoglym’s Bumper and Trim gel to the rear bumper. It had faded pretty badly, as you can see in this shot.

Yup, you can spot the difference.

I’ll admit that I’m lazy. I could have revived the plastics with boiled linseed oil (I don’t have any) or an airgun (don’t have one), but this stuff works well. These potions never seem to last that long, but the Autoglym stuff seems better than some Meguiar’s stuff I have, which fades again within a couple of weeks. The Autoglym stuff is also much easier to spell. I also applied it to the rear lights, though I haven’t yet done the trims on the tailgate itself. They don’t seem to have faded much at all, perhaps because they’re vertical rather than horizontal?

Looking good!

The end result is a car which certainly looks better, and which hopefully won’t rot away too readily. I’m now seeking some rear seals for the diff, to cure a minor leak (£21 each from Vauxhall, eep!), and I really need to get my hands on new brake discs and pads and probably flush the brake lines. It really doesn’t stop as well as it should. It does stop, and is MOT legal, but it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, especially given how little engine braking you get (ie none, because the gearbox has a built-in freewheel function).

It’s coming along though. The main issue is that other cars on the fleet also need some TLC.

Project OMG: Put to work

I guess most normal people wouldn’t recommission a car that has been off the road for 18 months, then immediately put it into use for a critical series of business meetings. That’s what I did though, and thankfully, I have not lived to regret it!

Sight-seeing in Bucks.

Sight-seeing in Bucks.

The above photo was taken in Buckinghamshire. By this stage, I’d spent two days at Race Retro. The Sunday was spent driving down to see my mate Chris so I could play with some of his old clunkers. Hopefully there will be videos forthcoming on that. Just don’t ask me when!

Monday saw me up at Silverstone Circuit ahead of a Retro Japanese photoshoot. I can now say that the Omega has done a lap of Silverstone! Well, the perimeter road anyway…

Estates, and coupes, compared.

Estates, and coupes, compared.

It was amusing to get a pair of BMW-powered estates together. Both R-reg, both with that distinctive BMW six-pot sound. The Omega wins for load space, but the BMW’s interior is far nicer. I prefer the Omega’s wipers. I can’t wait to see BMW-owner Chris Frosin‘s photos from this shoot. They’ll be in the issue of Retro Japanese on sale 24th March.

Then, for a spot of something different, the Omega took me to Didcot and the Figaro Shop for more piccies. A greater contrast of Nissans would be harder to find. Hours earlier, I’d been struggling for traction in a fearsome 300ZX Z32 twin turbo. The Figaro is also a Nissan, and also has a turbocharger. It’s tiny though! There will be a Figaro Buying Guide in the next issue of Retro Japanese though, because I believe in variety. I’ve actually blogged about my dislike of the Nissan Figaro before. Here’s the thing though. They are still one of the most fantastic looking little cars every produced. I really did enjoy soaking up the details of the rather special interior. As a piece of design, they’re fabulous, even if the driving dynamics aren’t exactly thrilling. That’s ok. My Honda S-MX deals with bends in much the same way as I deal with my tax returns. It isn’t pretty, but the job gets done. I still like it. Much more than tax returns.

From Oxon, I hurtled along the A361 to Byfield, and more kindly friends who put me up for the night. Rachel and I lived in Byfield for several years. It was very pleasant to return. Then, this morning, the Omega took me to a Bentley specialist (as in pre-Rolls-Royce era – fabulous), then a Rolls/Bentley breakers – sadly pouring rain meant I didn’t get any photos of the Omega during these visits. It is a working car after all. This is what it’s meant to do.

Then, I could finally point the Omega back towards Wales. It munched the miles up merrily, hitting 42mpg on the computer at one point. I suspect I’m some way from that, as I can still smell diesel. There may be another leak. I really am starting to like it though. Sure, backache set in at one point, but I then realised that I’d been at the wheel for over three hours straight – not sensible really! Sure, the column stalks feel horrible (they do in the Honda too) and the seats are rather too firm, but the Omega is joyous simplicity to drive. Just want you want in a mile-muncher.

There are things to sort out, as you’d expect. I think new discs and pads (at least at the front) will be necessary. The lack of use has not been kind to the old ones, and there’s a definite judder – not to mention that braking performance is not the sharpest. I also need to address the rear diff leak, which may also give an opportunity to investigate the diesel leak. Then there’s the rust-proofing I promised to do, and I need to give the poor thing a wash. It’s absolutely filthy! Oh, and that bloody alarm…

On the whole though, I think I’m becoming fond of my new steed.

The hard-working Omega at Silverstone.

The hard-working Omega at Silverstone. Deserves a wash.

 

Project OMG: More like Project Ugh

Shopping needed to be acquired, so I jumped into the Omega this morning, and discovered that the battery had not yet recovered from its previous death. This time, I decided to jump it with the Nippa. It did quite well given that the engine almost stalled when I connected the jump leads…

I wisely put the jump leads into the Omega and headed to the shops. While there, I paid the Sunday tax by grabbing a pair of wiper blades from Halfords, discovering that their easy flip-chart to find the correct blades had been replaced by computer touch screens. That don’t work…

Once a man finally managed to coax his own computer into giving up the useful info (I was by this stage wishing I’d just brought the old blades in with me, or looked up the info on my phone), I found that a pair of Bosch blades cost the same as Halfords own. Job done. £19.99 not too bad. Also grabbed some glass wipes, because I was seriously struggling with vision on the way in.

On returning to the car, I found this happy scene.

Kia Pride, H-reg Land Rover and my mighty Omega.

Kia Pride, H-reg Land Rover and my mighty Omega.

I went to do a bit more shopping, came back and discovered that the Omega still didn’t have enough juice to get it going again. Huge, heavy automatics do have their disadvantages.

Oh gawd. Dead again! Panda proved helpful.

Oh gawd. Dead again! Panda proved helpful.

Thankfully, the owner of that Panda was kind enough to give me a jump – I was glad I’d packed those leads. I decided to head off for an extended drive home, to hopefully get some charge into that poor battery. Not easy with headlamps, wipers and blowers all working hard, but it seemed to do the trick. It was as I was many miles from civilisation that I remembered I’d forgotten to buy lunch. Bother. That Kia Pride had obviously distracted me more than I’d thought.

About two minutes after I had that thought, the Omega started making an alarming noise under throttle. I was starting to wish I’d stayed in bed. I turned around, and decided the best idea was to drive home as quickly as possible before it broke down. It was pouring with rain, and I had no appetite to investigate.

It was quite an enjoyable hoon, and when I got home, the rain had eased enough for me to investigate. Forgetting about the tired bonnet struts of course. Ouch! It didn’t take long to spot the issue. The EGR valve clamp had come adrift. I clearly hadn’t tightened the 13mm-headed bolts sufficiently. Idiot.

I abandoned the Omega and jumped into the Honda to get lunch. I’m hoping this afternoon will be less problematic.

 

Project OMG: Stopping the leak

Now with video! See lower down.

There was a bonus this morning, when the seal kit for the Omega arrived earlier than expected. To recap, the Omega had a declared fuel leak when I got it, which I just about managed to stem for an MOT, but which very much still needed doing. Leaks from these Bosch diesel injector pumps seem very common – to the point that you can’t help thinking there must have been a better way…

Having already removed the inlet manifold, it didn’t take long to pull the pump to bits. I first marked the sides, as positioning is very important (as I’d soon find out!). I’d already smashed a 7mm socket onto the anti-tamper screw, and cracked that off, so it really was just a simple case of undoing four bolts, removing the lid, then undoing three more to get the next level off. I used plenty of blue rags to catch the diesel that spills during this operation, and I’d thoroughly degreased the pump and surrounding area. Cleanliness is good!

The new seals were fitted – one of the old ones just fell out, and the other didn’t need much coaxing. The new ones simply push in. I put the pump back together, but didn’t fully tighten the base screws. These need to be left for fine-tuning. In short, if this part of the pump is not exactly where it needs to be, the fuelling will be out. At best, the car will run poorly. At worst, the car won’t run at all.

It was at this stage that I discovered that the battery was flat. It just about had enough juice to illuminate the dash lights, but not enough to turn the engine. Unfortunately for me, the car was parked in a manner that left it impossible to get a car in front of it. The 2CV (just because it was there) was just able to pull the Omega backwards, so I could then squeeze the Honda S-MX in to provide some much-needed charge.

My black, Japanese jump pack.

My black, Japanese jump pack.

Incidentally, the tiny li-ion jump pack I have was not even remotely interested in starting a high-compression, 2.5-litre turbo diesel engine. Nor was my ancient Halfords lead acid jump pack, though that hasn’t been that keen on starting a 2CV engine lately…

The Honda hurled volts at the Omega, and it then burst very noisily into life – on account of having no inlet manifold fitted, and also the EGR pipe venting to atmosphere in the engine bay. It sounded awful, not settling to an even idle. As the pump filled up with fuel again (replacing what was lost), the revs suddenly rose alarmingly. I quickly turned off. This is a real danger, so never walk away from the car if starting it in these conditions. Keep your hand on the key!

I then slackened off the lower pump bolts, and gave it a few taps forward using a wooden hammer handle. Don’t hit the pump with the metal part of the hammer, or you’ll damage it. I tried starting it again. Uneven and awful. Off again and a further tweak. Now it seemed to run nicely. Brilliant! I then set about tightening the bolts and refitting the inlet manifold. I missed a key stage here, which we’ll get to in a minute!

Refitting the manifold was a right faff, as it’s very easy to lose the nuts that hold it in place. Six are easily accessible above the manifold. The other six require you to get them in place where your hands can’t reach. I lost two and had to remove the manifold again. Stuffing a bit of rag in the socket helped keep the nuts in place until they were seated. I wish I’d thought of that earlier…

I also wish I’d taken more photos, but time was very much being munched away. I needed to crack on.

With the engine back together again, I fired it up. Oh dear. It was lumpy, prone to surging and chucked out loads of soot. This didn’t look right at all. The problem is, you need to keep the engine running while you tighten down those pump bolts, as even that slight movement can disrupt the fuelling. I was going to have to pull that sodding manifold off again.

With the pump now accessible once more, I loosened the bolts and started the engine. Still lumpy, so at least I knew the problem wasn’t manifold related. I tapped the pump forward, it was still bad. I kept going (we’re talking very small movements here) and bingo! Suddenly it began running sweetly again. I left the engine running this time, and tightened the bolts. That upset it again, so I backed them off once more and nudged the upper pump section forward a little more. Tightening it this time made no difference to the running. Success!

Back on with the manifold and, despite my best efforts, I still managed to lose a manifold nut. Like my old XM, this is one of those annoying bloody cars where if you drop something, the chances of it reaching the ground are pretty much nil. I couldn’t find it but thankfully, a 13mm-headed nut with washer was a fine replacement. Reaching the rear-most nuts is a particular challenge, that left me ‘planking’ atop the engine. I’m glad no-one saw me.

With it all back together once more, I could hook up the jump leads AGAIN and bask in the cheering warble of six happy cylinders. A test drive revealed that all was well, and no longer was there a hideous stench of diesel every time I stopped. The test drive was about four miles, and I left the car running to hopefully recharge the battery. That’s two batteries out of four on the fleet that are far from happy, and both are on cars that were off the road for over 18 months…

Fixed! No leak, smooth running. Phew!

Fixed! No leak, smooth running. Phew!

It’s all very pleasing, and leaves me looking forward to cracking on with other jobs. This poor car really is overdue a service, and I’d still like to sort out the unchanged rear spring. It is rather overdue a wash too. I’m sure that’ll remind me of how big it is!

A video of today’s adventure will be forthcoming. EDIT – and is now here!

Project OMG: Work begins

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.

The inlet manifold is successfully removed.

The inlet manifold is successfully removed.

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.

The pump. Note the anti-tamper screw. Defeated!

The pump. Note the anti-tamper screw. Defeated!

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!