My favourite videos of 2015

Excuse the self-promotion as I guide you through my favourite videos of 2015 – my favourite HubNut videos that is. 2015 was a year in which I really stepped up video production, so here are my personal highlights. This is my Top Five.

Number 5 – Nissan e-NV200 Combi

This was the first electric car that I tested long distance, and it has to be said it wasn’t exactly stress-free! Using the Ecotricity Electric Highway, I was able to drive from home in mid-Wales to Bideford in Devon. Choosing to do this in Winter, in a vehicle with a 60-mile range was the problem. This is also a review of the e-NV200 itself. A very useful vehicle but still blighted by good old range anxiety and an inefficient heater.

Number 4 – Perodua Nippa

This one joined the fleet in March, and has proved to be an ideal little runaround. This review was filmed not long after purchase and while it’s certainly a car built cheaply, it continues to run well. Listen to the road noise though!

Number 3 – My first Vlog

Vlogging appears to be a thing – video blogging – so I thought I’d have a go. This is where I began a series of (so far) ten videos. I aired some annoyances with the regime in Saudi Arabia – exacerbated by recent developments as I write – and I also talk about electric cars and the Citroen XM.

Number 2 – Honda Insight first generation

Insight rear

Testing the Honda Insight Mk1

It seems that I love every car that I drive, and I expected the Insight to be no exception. It didn’t quite do it for me, as you can see in this video. Still an appealing car, but not quite what I’d hoped for. It is proving to be a popular video though.

Number 1 – My 2CV and me

Picking one favourite is not easy. My XM V6 video continues to amass a huge number of views, and the Citroen Ami one was an absolute hoot to put together. But, my friend Keith Hicks helped me make a rather special tribute to my 2CV. I still don’t know what the future is for this car, but I’ve had many good adventures in it and I’ve loved every minute behind the wheel.

Thanks for watching. Once the weather improves, I hope to get cracking on some more videos. 2016 promises to be very exciting. Stay tuned!


XM brakes – conclusions

So, I haven’t quite got the XM’s brakes sorted, but I’m getting closer! The offside front caliper has a new slider and boots and new discs and pads have been fitted both sides.

XM fettling frustrated by weather.

XM fettling frustrated by weather.

It was an absolute sod of a job that just ate up hours like you would hardly believe. Especially as rain often interrupted play. Ok, so some (er maybe lots) of time was spent hunting for tools – I’ve come to expect this. But an awful lot of time was lost just faffing about with stuff. Winding the pistons back in to clear the new pads was one such task, though that became a lot easier when I discovered that a 3/4″ socket fits on the piston, so you can wind it back in with a ratchet and apply the necessary pressure for the piston to go back. Certainly a lot easier than trying to wind them back in with a screwdriver.

Fitting the new slider seals was a pain too, and I’m worried that I’ve actually managed to damage both seals as I was fitting them. Frustrating. However, the protection is still better than it was. It’s been an interesting learning experience.

Yet, there is a problem. The offside caliper’s parking brake mechanism is simply not functioning. A fairly simple set-up apparently, so when it stops raining (oh please stop raining!) I’ll have to get the wheel off and have another go.

But it’s all rather frustrating. This job was really a complete faff only because the XM uses single-pot calipers. I’m sure the brakes would be far better AND far more reliable if twin-pot calipers were used. Then there would be no need for sliders and there would simply be less to go wrong.

In a conventional car, twin-pot calipers can still cause issues, as the pistons can seize in the pots. Not so much of an issue on a Citroen. Why is that? Simply because LHM is the best brake fluid in the world.

Seriously, I have no idea why DOT fluids are used. Why could it possibly be better to use a fluid which not only absorbs moisture (which then rots out brake lines and caliper pistons) but which will seriously damage bodywork if spilt? LHM does neither of these things, which is why issues with pistons seizing in the caliper are so rare.

It is kind of indicative for me of the general decline of engineering in the 20th century. We invent something as excellent as the disc brake, then spend the next few decades cheapening the design to make it less efficient. Go humanity!

If all the brake faff wasn’t enough, I then decided to replace the bulb in the clock. This required me to remove half of the dashboard and was also a stupid, annoying, fiddly job. This really does highlight that manufacturers really don’t care if a car becomes difficult to work on. It’s not on the design brief. That for me is another failing. Why would you design something that needs maintenance to be horrible to work on?

XM dash

All this just to change the bulb in the sodding clock!

I suppose I should consider myself lucky. It is at least possible to change a headlamp bulb without having to dismantle the entire front end of the car. Sometimes, old cars really are best.

Anyway, here’s my latest video covering the above!

XM: Sphere changing success!

I’ve got a seriously busy workload at the moment. It’s great! I look forward to telling you more about why that is in the new year. However, it is causing me to struggle for tinkering time. I somehow found enough moments in the previous week to rip the Dyane’s engine apart, but the only reason I was working on the Dyane is that it’s in my garage. It seems to have been raining here for weeks, so working on the ‘big’ cars of the fleet is just a complete no-no. That’s a shame, as there’s plenty I could be getting on with. Like the XM’s sphere change.

As you’ll recall from a previous post, I’d run into issues trying to replace the rear centre spheres (months ago!) but a specialist had managed to crack it free for me. When I woke up this morning, it was actually not raining so after enjoying a few minutes of wondrous surprise, I got up and went straight out to work on the XM.

XM on ramps

Essential early morning workout.

The centre rear sphere lives up above the exhaust, under the rear floor. So, it was out with the ramps, suspension on full and nervously reverse the XM up the ramps (they’re about as wide as the tyres are). Then I could crack the sphere off, which would have been better if I’d cracked it the right way first time around. Hey ho. Once I forced my non-breakfasted, very sleepy brain to work out which direction the sphere should turn, it quite easily turned a few milimetres. Now I had to drop the suspension and release the system pressure by undoing the screw on the pressure regulator. This is buried right down the front of the gearbox and is best accessed from below – not an option when the nose of the car is now millimetres from the ground. I had to go in from the top. Which makes a frustratingly fiddly operation as you can’t actually see it.

Not as frustrating as trying to undo a sphere underneath an XM which is on its bumpstops, even if it is on ramps. You see, the human arm just doesn’t bend in quite enough places for you to get your hands where they need to be. Cue lots of wriggling, a lost hat and a fair amount of swearing. The neighbours probably prefer it when I have a lie in…

Eventually, I got my sphere removal tool in place once more and off it came. Almost straight into my face in fact. Naturally, LHM (liquid mineral oil) began dripping everywhere and I’m pretty sure quite a lot of it was mopped up by my hair. I chose not to shower BEFORE this activity with good reason.

Then it was a simple case of lubing the new seal, then trying to fit it in the dark, then trying to fit the new sphere without dislodging said seal. Still in the dark. While not having my hand in quite the right place. And every time i dropped it, it plunged towards my face (saved by the exhaust!).

However, I was soon able to tighten it up hand-tight (all you need) and then it was another frustrating root around the lower reaches of the engine bay to do the regulator screw back up. Then I was able to start the engine, select high and watch the car lift itself gracefully into the air – something it seems much happier to do after this sort of a job than any BX I’ve ever owned.

dead sphere

Alas poor sphere…

I had a peek under the rear, just to make sure there were no signs of escaping LHM, topped up the reservoir (every time you remove a sphere, you lose a little LHM) and dropped the car to normal height. I then gave the rear corners a good bounce. Wow! Floaty!

Back up on high, off the ramps and I was able to go for a test drive. Now, I’ll concede that it still isn’t brilliant – no strut-equipped Citroen ever is – but the ride certainly seems more refined. Still not great over really rough terrain, but out on the open road, it wafts as it should! Going over crests, you feel the car just float back down to its regular running height in a way no coil-sprung car can match. I’m quite seriously pleased. Now I’m STILL trying to find a caliper slider kit (for less than the £50 Citroen wants for what is a pretty small bit of metal) so I can finally overhaul the brakes. Another frustrating business!

XM: Sphere unchanging

I found myself visiting family in Devon this week – another 400 miles for the XM – and on the way home, decided it was about time I visited Tony Weston’s Citroen garage in Gloucestershire. Perhaps he could free the stuck rear centre sphere. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit anyway – and rightly so! Check out the works van.

Cripes! A Citroen GSA Service van! Exceedingly rare.

Cripes! A Citroen GSA Service van! Exceedingly rare.

The XM was lifted on the ramp and special tools were deployed. This seems to consist of a centre punch to try and break any corrosion on the threads (I presume) and a massive pair of pliers – the sort that look like you’d use them for removing teeth from a T-Rex. And? Success! They got a firm grip and sure enough, with a bit of effort from Andrew Weston, the sphere moved. Then he could depressurise the system to enable full removal. Good job I’d brought the replacement sphere with me. Oh. I hadn’t. I’d actually brought the old outer rear spheres that I’d replaced already! Idiot.

XM gets its spheres fettled. Almost.

XM gets its spheres fettled. Almost.

However, I now know that I’ll be able to remove that iffy sphere – we did confirm it was very dead. I’m just waiting for dry weather before I crawl under the XM again. I’m looking forward to seeing what difference it makes to the ride.

I’m a bit frustrated at my own stupidity, but hey, I should be used to it by now. Here’s a video of my day.

Video: The Eco Car Con

The government is working hard to encourage us to buy brand new, environmentally friendly cars. But is it actually better for the environment than just keeping our existing cars going? Inspired by a question by one of my followers, I decided to investigate.

Could it be that new is not best after all?

Could it be that new is not best after all?

Now, this is not that easy to get to the bottom of, because there are an awful lot of variables. Certainly, my XM doing 10,000 miles a year kicks out about the same amount of pollution as a brand new Land Rover Freelander diesel auto doing the same mileage, or better than an electric car doing 25,000 miles a year. Yes, electric has a dirty footprint too – in the UK at least. Paraguay is actually leading the way with renewables while we still rely on dirty gas and coal. Encouragingly though, this summer apparently renewables were more productive than coal. A step in the right direction?

But it’s manufacturing that still generates most emissions. Now, this will vary dramatically from car to car, but as far as I could find out, building a car the size and specification of my Citroen XM today probably produces about 20 tons of CO2, whereas driving it for a year generates 2.5-3.0 tons. I do more investigation in my latest video.

XM: The car that changed me

Today is a historic occasion. It is 12 months since I drove home in my new Citroen XM. The strange bit is that I still own it! Happy anniversary!

XM and BX

One year ago today – the XM joins my fleet (seen here with my former BX)

I’ve spent a fair chunk of the past 12 months wondering what’s happened to me. A few weeks after getting the XM home, I realised that I wasn’t frantically scouring the classifieds anymore. I’d barely been anywhere near Ebay. I came out of the house to go for a drive, and smiled as I jumped behind the wheel. A few months later, this was still happening! The absolute constant in my life – the search for the Goldilocks car – seemed to have come to an end.

Some cars have got very close to this, and most have been PSA diesels. The first was a Peugeot 306 DTurbo that I owned for more than two years, and in which I clocked up over 40,000 miles. That remains an all-time record – bar my 2CV (15 years and over 110,000 miles). A Daewoo Matiz, the only car I ever bought brand new, managed 18 months and 18,000 miles. A BX non-turbo diesel estate managed two bursts of my ownership and I’ve therefore lost count of how many months and miles I clocked up in it – a significant amount, but it managed 30,000 miles while it was away from me.

Aside from an Acadiane that spend most of its time with me off the road, that’s it. Over 60 vehicles owned, and only three have endured until now. So, have I changed or is the XM actually that remarkable that I don’t want to replace it?

I’m not entirely sure myself. Certainly, I was getting increasingly fed up with the sheer ballache of changing cars. Buying and collecting is huge fun – I love it – but then there’s the increasing despondency that it isn’t quite right, and the utter pain of trying to sell it. Then my insurance company charges me £15.75 every time I change cars. That was a lot in 2014. It cost me a fortune.

Certainly, it’s true that every time I clap eyes on the XM, it fills me with joy. I love the concept-car-style looks, especially the tail end. I love the driving position too. It feels just right. The Citroen BX got very close to being the perfect car for me, but was let down by two surprisingly minor problems. Not enough wipers (I hate single wipers) and no flick-wipe. Doesn’t sound like a big thing, but I live in Wales. I find a flick-wipe very, very useful. And that’s another point. The column stalks in the XM feel much nicer than the horrible Peugeot items in the BX – and the earlier Mk1 dashboard is no better, despite its wackiness. The actual feel of the switches is properly grim. Nothing like a CX.

XM rear lights

Rear styling in particular does impress me. 

The engine is a major plus too. My conclusion with BXs is that the petrol carb engines are a faff, while the non-turbo diesel is too sluggish, and the turbo diesel too peaky. The 12v, 2.1-litre XM turbo diesel, with its Mitsubishi turbocharger, is a delight. It pulls strongly from 1500rpm. In many ways, it behaves like a BX non-turbo diesel, but goes much more quickly! Not all that sprightly by the standards of today, but more than enough for me.

Of course, it’s also hugely practical. The boot is enormous and on our recent trip to France, it swallowed up most (but not quite all) of our belongings, including a bass guitar in a case, an amplifier and two ukuleles. I did have to concede defeat and park our suitcase on the backseat.

XM boot space

This is a very practical machine. Spacious and fully self-levelling.

I love how it corners too. The steering is assisted, but not too assisted. It turns in with relish and then doesn’t wobble around when you crank up the G-force. It still then rides very well, albeit not as well as my Dyane. I reckon it still needs those centre spheres changing. I’ve been saying that for 11,000 miles now.

So, are there any downsides to this £375 wonder car? Well, yes. The clutch is heavy and the gearchange is horrible – sadly all too common on PSA diesels. I had the same issue with my Peugeot 306. There are a few interior rattles that I just can’t banish either. Also, the nose is a bit too long and a bit too low. It’s very hard to place. And rear visibility is appalling. And the tiny door mirrors hardly help. And the foot-operated handbrake is bloody awful to use. But I don’t care. As I well know, no car is perfect. Yet, it seems the XM is closer than most. It seems I really did manage to buy a good car for once. I think it probably deserves a wash.