Goodbye XM. I’ll miss you.

The big news today is that the XM has left the fleet. It’ll be strange not having the huge barge around the place. It has been a superb buy and has served me very well indeed.

When I bought the XM in October 2014, I had no idea that it would remain a part of my fleet for quite so long. I liked it on the test drive, but I’ve liked lots of cars on test drives! In regular use though, I grew to adore its strong torque delivery, floaty ride (especially when I finally sorted the suspension out) and peaceful nature. I took it all over the country, and even to France last summer, where we visited Le Mans and had a gentle hoon around the road section of the fabled track.

Citroen XM in France.

Taking the XM to France was a real boon.

For eating up the miles, it really was pretty exemplary. But practical too. The boot is enormous, and folding the rear seats makes it even more so. Then there’s the towing ability. I didn’t really test it that much, but it certainly came in useful when asked.

I can’t deny that I’m a huge fan of the looks too. I’d often have the XM parked up outside my office window and could happy gaze at it when words were eluding me.

XM rear

Fantastic Bertone styling

Sure, it wasn’t perfect. I never did like the clutch, nor the gearchange. The ride around town is pretty poor given how good it is everywhere else too. It is also a sod to park, being enormous and having corners that are almost entirely invisible from the driver’s seat. Reversing it is like reversing a Lamborghini (probably).

But, this one will definitely be going down as an enormous success. The likes generally outweighed the dislikes and it’s taken an awfully long time for me to feel like seeking a replacement! Not an easy task, as I’ve discussed. In fact, I’ve deliberately gone for something entirely different. I’ll have a break from magnificent barges so I can savour the memories of this fantastic hatchback. Thanks XM. May you enjoy many more miles.

Video: XM steering woes

A general state of Very Busy has prevented me churning out as many videos as I would have liked this year, but I’m starting to get back on top of things! In this video, I explore my Citroen XM’s hydraulic system, to cure notchy steering, felt as intermittent power assistance and something that can affect any hydraulic Citroen – especially BX, XM and Xantia.

Here’s how I fixed it.

I still absolutely love this car by the way. On the right roads, it’s just an absolute joy. Around town, a bit less so, but I’ll be booking it in soon for clutch replacement. That should improve things!

XM: 900-mile week

I really have been dashing around a bit over the past seven days, and that has seen the XM clock up 900 miles – including towing a caravan to Llangollen and back.

It’s a car that infuriates me at slow speeds (horrible clutch, tired engine mountings, stupid, stupid foot-operated parking brake, poor ride around town) but still amazes me above 40mph (tons of torque, floaty ride, not what you’d call noisy). On the way to Kent last Monday, I discovered that it was delivering a mightily impressive 49.5mpg too. That’s not bad for a huge, executive barge with an old-school, mechanical-pump diesel engine. It’s about the same as a Rover 75 diesel I owned a few years back, which had similar power, not as much comfort and about six times the complexity. It had several ECUs for instance. While the XM has a few, none are related to the running of the engine. It’s actually a very simple machine.

But, even simple machines need maintenance, and after it developed notchy steering, I was forced to remove the LHM tank, clean the filters out with petrol and pour in some flushing fluid. You’re meant to leave that in for 500-1000 miles, which can sometimes take me a month or more. Not this week!

Filters

Nice, clean filters after a smelly petrol bath.

In fact, coming back from Llangollen, the XM’s steering went all notchy again. I guess this means the flushing fluid has done its job and the filters are once more all clogged up. That’s why today, I was planning to drain the fluid and replace the LHM.

I started by replacing the rear brake pads, because they’ve been low ever since I bought the car. I have a set of pads – I have no idea where they came from – so thought I might as well take the opportunity to replace them. It’s also a chance to check the wheel bearings (nearside rear isn’t great) and the operation of the calipers themselves. The rear brakes see very little use as most of the vehicle weight is up front, and brake pressure supply is carefully regulated by the rear suspension units. The more weight in the back, the more the rear brakes operate. That’s why the pads that had a few mm of pad depth in November 2014 still have a few mm of pad depth so much further down the road. However, new ones mean less piston is exposed to the elements, and it just makes me happier – especially given that towing really does get the rear brakes working.

Sadly, with that job done, I managed to seriously twinge my back as I moved the trolley jack to the front. I’m an idiot really, as I’ve done exactly the same thing before. My jack is very heavy! So, I’m sitting in the house, trying not to move very much and had to abandon the job halfway through.

XM after the first filter change. All was well. For a while...

XM after the first filter change. All was well. For a while…

But, all this does make me realise one thing. I still really, really like the XM. Yes, the low speed ride is annoyingly poor (a Jaguar trumps it easily) and the steering is a bit dead, and the sunroof is a bit noisy and still leaks a bit on occasion, and the dashboard plastics are horrible, but somehow this car keeps making me smile.

Which means I’m going to have to scrape together the money to get the clutch replaced. It could be the original, but the operation is needlessly heavy. I think it could transform how the car drives. Anyone fancy the job?

XM: Yet more miles

I keep having to put fuel in the XM, which is a bit disconcerting, as it’ll do over 800 miles on a tank of fuel. In recent weeks, it has dragged the 2CV’s bodyshell up to Bradford, hauled a caravan from North Wales to home and transported me to events and meetings all over the place.

Electric Tesla Model S

Library photo from 2014, though I did overtake a red Tesla Model S today.

This weekend, it was family and friends at the heart of things, which saw us dash over to Sussex for a start off. This was to allow us to catch up with Rachel’s sister and family, which is always a pleasure. The motorways were generally kind to us, and the XM ate up the miles with only a slightly iffy indicator stalk giving any concern – the indicator relay was occasionally clicking very quickly. Apparently, that’s down to dirty connections. I’ll have to pull the switch apart and see if I can improve things.

Not that indicator switch wear is likely to be a problem for most Audi drivers. We encountered some right royal twonks on our travels, and they really have replaced BMW drivers as the problem motorists. I did take real exception to one Audi-driving idiot, who just gently drifted into my lane with no signal, forcing me to take action to avoid him. What is actually wrong with these people? I mean, for the most part, the motorway was flowing in a marvellous display of synchronised common-sense. Entirely random people coming together, and making something work. Pretty much every BMW driver I saw displayed excellent indicator and lane manners. Not the Audis though.

The next stage of the journey saw us travel from Sussex to Sidmouth, in Devon. It was an utterly horrible journey – the sort I’ve had rather too many of in the south of England over the years. Traffic was heavy throughout, with some sections of the A31 down to an absolute crawl. Google maps reckoned 3.5 hours for the trip. It took over 5 hours. Rubbish! Not helped by Devon council closing the road between Honiton and Sidmouth, but only mentioning this fact at the start of the road in Honiton. We could easily have diverted around it if we had known. The diversion signs were hopeless too. Fortunately, Rachel has map skills.

On arrival in Sidmouth, where we caught up with an old friend and drank tea, the XM started running its cooling fans, even though it wasn’t hot and the key had been removed. I had to open the bonnet and start wiggling relays until it stopped. It does this from time to time, because Citroen decided putting the relays in an exposed position behind the headlamps was a good idea. It isn’t.

From Sidmouth, it was a quick hop up to Tiverton for a gathering of my family. By now, the XM was annoying me. The clunky gearchange and horrible clutch are the main complaints, but the exceedingly random central locking is also a pain, and the driver’s seat lacks lumbar support, so it hurts after several hours at the wheel.

After a few days in Devon, we headed back home today and were treated to the sight of a Skoda Octavia dangling in the air on the M5, because its caravan had got blown over. It had obviously wagged the dog in a big way, leaving impressive skid marks and the whole rig pointing the wrong way. It has been pretty windy, but it’s a reminder of why some call them wobble boxes…

As we left the motorway behind and got onto the twisty roads of Wales, the XM’s steering started to play up. It’s done this a few times recently, where the steering assistance seems to suddenly and randomly diminish at times. It makes it very hard to drive smoothly, as you’ve no idea how much assistance you’ll have when you turn in. I’ve had it on BXs before, and I’m hoping a hydraulic service will sort it out. At the very least, I’ll pull the filters out of the LHM tank and give them a good clean. I may not have time for a full hydraulic flush, though it probably should have one after 133,000 miles.

So, not a problem-free trip, but we did cover over 600 miles without actually breaking down. I must take some comfort in that. I didn’t really manage to get any photos of the car either. I usually take loads of photos of my cars. Is that a bad sign?

 

XM: I hate servicing

I really dislike servicing cars, mostly because I seem to be completely unable to do it without spilling horrible liquids all over the place. Thankfully for my driveway, I learnt long ago that putting cardboard down beneath the car is a useful way of capturing most of the spillage.

The XM has covered 10,500 miles since its previous service last summer, so it really was time to do it again. The oil was dropped, most of it going into the catch tanks (two because the capacity is over 5 litres) and quite a bit over the sump as I removed the oil filter. Situation normal, but at least I managed to avoid getting oil drippled down my arm. It must be said, there are worse places to carry out a service too. Look at that view!

Not a bad spot eh?

Not a bad spot eh?

With the oil dropped and a new filter in place, I could fill the engine with lovely, fresh oil. Comma Oil‘s website recommended its 5w40 Syner-G oil. I wasn’t going to argue and while 5w feels like water at cold temperatures, it should firm up nicely with engine heat. The lower cold rating should allow for happier starting during the winter. I look forward to testing this.

Syner-G oil from Comma, as recommended.

Syner-G oil from Comma, as recommended.

I then replaced the air filter, which is simplicity itself. The fuel filter turned into an utter debacle though. The box size worried me for a start, as the new filter looked shorter than I remembered. I foolishly went ahead and pulled the filter housing apart, spilling fuel all over the sodding place as I did. There may have been cursing, especially as I’d arranged a catch can specially – then missed it. I wiped up the mess as best I could, cursed again when I realised just how spectacularly wrong the new filter was, and then had to just refit the old filter – which fortunately seemed in good order. That’s reassuring, as I have experimented with vegetable oil on this engine – which it didn’t seem to like. Certainly, there were no bits of gunk in the canister this time. I recall there were last time I did a filter change (I somehow avoided too much spillage that time).

All this faffing about lost me time, so I haven’t been able to check the rear brakes as yet. I know the pads are a bit low, because they have been for about 13,000 miles so far. Not desperately low, but I do keep a set of pads in the boot just in case! I’ll try to find time to do that next week. I know the front brakes are ok, as I’ve just overhauled them. Similarly, I’ve kept an eye on other areas of the car. I do need to do an LHM change and filter clean, but lack the necessary tool for the pipe connectors. I’ll leave that for another time rather than destroy the clips.

But, I really did need to give the poor girl a wash. It’s only a few weeks since it was last done, but she was quite grim! Not now.

Sparkly clean!

Sparkly clean!

I’m annoyed to have added another scrape to the many the previous owner had already put on this car. While in Yorkshire, I failed to spot a stone jutting out of a bank as I squeezed past a car that looked like it was going to stop for me, but didn’t. There’s now a scrape just above the bumper on the nearside front wing. Oh well. At least there are plenty of other scars already!

I don’t like to leave a car sitting after a wash, as the brakes benefit from a good dry out. Also, after a service, it’s a foolish man/woman who doesn’t go for a test drive. I’m glad I did, because it revealed that diesel had made its way onto the clutch plate. BOTHER. Or similar, possibly stronger words applied, as the revs shot up as the boost kicked in.

I dashed back home, splashed Jizer degreaser all over the engine, and hosed it off. I did this twice and went for another drive. Still slipping, but less so. By feathering the throttle, I could avoid slippage. Those ‘manual traction control’ off-road skills were coming in useful!

Steam! Trying to wash away the diesel.

Steam! Trying to wash away the diesel.

I’m now very glad that I did this job after hauling the 2CV’s body to Bradford and not before. Getting up the M62 with a slipping clutch would have been a most frustrating business! I now hope I haven’t finished this clutch off completely. I suspect it could be the original, and no, I really don’t fancy having to change it.

On the plus side, the engine bay looks a lot cleaner after the degreasing session! Still, it has been a very frustrating afternoon as once again, a simple service proves anything but.

Project 2CV: Body delivered

Today was another big day  – transporting the bodyshell to Citwins for its major makeover. The day began with a rather bleary feel, due to the earliness of the hour. And possibly a dirty camera lens.

A bleary start to the day.

A bleary start to the day.

Now all I had to do was get to Bradford, 160 miles away. I hoped the motorway gods would be kind to me. Things didn’t start too well when one of my straps came loose before I’d even left the village. Thankfully, employing a little bit more physics soon had things safe once more.

As I eased towards Llangurig, I was astonished to see that they’ve FINALLY started work on a damaged section of the A44. It has been reduced to temporary traffic lights at this spot for several years now. I was amused to see a Renault Twizy in use as a convoy vehicle. Nice.

But, the XM was playing up a bit. Every now and then, the power assistance disappeared from the steering. I’ve had this on BXs before, and the heavy steering suggests a possible issue with the pump or flow diverter valve (FDV). Or, it could just be that it really needs a good flush of the hydraulic system – something I’ve been meaning to do for ooh, about 16 months now…

It wasn’t too bad, so I carried on. The route took me up towards Oswestry, then Chester and the start of the motorway madness – M53, M56, M6 and M62. To be honest, things were flowing beautifully, and the XM is even more relaxing at 60mph than it is at 70. Sure, it was frustrating to not be able to use the third lane when the trucks started getting in the way, but my speed was not very far from theirs, so it didn’t feel like much of a hold-up. Soon enough, it was 50mph for everyone due to carriageway widening.

The XM did feel the strain going up Windy Hill on the M62. This rises to a summit of 1221ft (372m) and is the highest section of motorway in the UK. My foot was right down to keep up 60mph, though the bountiful torque of the engine at this speed – just over 2000rpm – meant speed did not drop. Nor did the temperature gauge, which crept up towards the middle – very unusual in normal driving. Not that this climb was that normal!

Soon enough, we arrived in Bradford. Getting the body off the trailer was made much easier by a block and tackle!

Up she goes! Ready for some sorting out.

Up she goes! Ready for some sorting out.

I was quite anxious, but Alan Rogers (the man who is Citwins) reckoned it wasn’t that bad. Well, obviously, it is quite bad, but by the time he’s cut the rotten bits out, he reckons there’s plenty of good metal left to weld to. As it happens, he had a very similar ‘shell that he’d just finished for me to examine. Pretty much the entire bottom six inches had been replaced. Encouraging and nice to see what mine will hopefully look like before too long!

Then all I had to do was drive the 160 miles back home. Thankfully, the XM behaved perfectly this time.

A last pause in Yorkshire before heading back.

A last pause in Yorkshire before heading back.

This is going to be a rather long pause in proceedings I think, as there’s other work Alan needs to do, and panels need to be gathered. Don’t be alarmed if nowt happens for a while on the 2CV front. There’ll be lots of other action of course – the XM now needs a thorough service, the Dyane still needs a spot of engine fettling, and the Prelude may well be disappearing to a new home. Stay tuned!

Project 2CV: Non-2CV stuff!

Today, the 2CV project took a big leap forward, which was nothing to do with the 2CV.

Yes, I’ve finally got the trailer sorted! What follows is a lengthy form of therapy.

Huzzah! 2CV can now be transported.

Huzzah! 2CV body can now be transported.

The trailer has been out of action since before Christmas, as one of the wheels had rotted so badly that air was leaking from it. Not much of an issue really. I mean, it’s not hard to find another pair of wheels is it?

Turns out, it’s really bloody hard! The trailer’s origins lie in some long defunct company called Cardesk Ltd, which seems a bit improbable, but there you go. Wherever it was conceived, it was built in China. For some reason, it was built with the American market in mind. So, the tow hitch is the wrong size (it used to rattle around a fair bit) and the wheels are IMPOSSIBLE to find in the UK. They just do not exist.

I know, because I spent bloody hours searching for the sodding things. Confirming the size took long enough, thanks to the fact that 4×4″ PCD is very similar to 4x100mm PCD. The design of the trailer meant the wheels had to be 4J width, with zero offset. That’s very annoying, as skinny 12″ wheels are not in short supply. They’re fitted to Minis, and Peroduas. Oh, and the centre hole required is a funny size too. FFS.

Eventually, I gave in to the fact that Ebay was trying to steer me to America to buy American sized wheels. I ordered a pair. The order entered some sort of “Really? You want us to ship to the UK? Er, we’d better try and work out how to do it then” state, which mainly seemed to result in no action at all. Other people warned me that customs would chuck a load of duty on the top of the already-quite-scary postage. Sod it. Order cancelled, back to square one.

XM makes a great tow vehicle.

XM makes a great tow vehicle.

Then, after yet more searching, I found a company in Cornwall that claimed to have wheels that would fit! I carefully double-checked the width, the offset, the centre hole, the PCD. Yes, this looked good. They were ordered, and they arrived the next day with no custom charges. Ace!

Until I trial-fitted one on the trailer. Well, I didn’t really. The one measurement I’d overlooked was the stud hole size. It was too small by about 2mm. AAAAAAARGH!

At this point, I took my lovely, shiny new wheels to a garage and asked them to drill the stud holes out. This doesn’t go down as ideal, but I was fast running out of options. They then fitted the old tyres. This was a stupid thing to do, as one of them is quite perished – probably because it kept going flat. Do I have a spare? No, I do not. Guess I’ll have to find some new tyres – at least they’re a sensible size!

Anyway, I feel better for a good rant. The next plan is to get the 2CV’s body off the chassis (it’s ready to lift off), strap it onto the trailer, and then head off for The North, hopefully on Monday. It won’t be the first time that the 2CV has been spread over different counties! Stay tuned for more as it happens. Or not very long after. Probably. Twitter is probably the best way to follow what I’m up to in something approaching realtime – hunt for @dollywobbler and #Project2CV.

By the way, after a major invoice got paid, I’ve been able to shove a chunk of cash into the project kitty, while donations have still been coming in too! We’re now over the £1700 mark, though I suspect this project will be munching more than that yet. An expensive business! Thanks for your help.