Buying a car back

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A superb bodge, I’m sure you’ll agree

I didn’t really think whether buying the BX Mk2 back was a wise idea. I’ve never bought a car back before – plenty have gone over the years, and one have returned. In theory, it was a bloody stupid idea – and it still might be in practice…

But if you strip all of the emotion out of car ownership, it would be a very sad, boring and unfulfilling experience. For me at least. Yes, it’s stupid to feel a bond with a lump of metal and plastic but I’m incredibly attached to my 2CV – just as I have a favourite T-Shirt. And my current toothbrush is nowhere near as satisfying as the previous one, which sadly wore out. Perhaps I gave it too much love.

Anyway, the point is, buying the BX back made no sense at all but was driven by my memory of what a satisfying car it is to own. Supreme comfort, 50mph, a massive boot, self-levelling suspension and an entertaining driving experience. You might well ask why I sold it in the first place. A valid question.

Naturally, I overlooked such things as the crap single-wiper design with its equally crap washer spray bar. One wiper is half the number I normally like. The more the merrier when you live in Wales. The washer packed up so I was forced to fit a scuttle-mounted (with cable ties) washer to get an MOT. There is also no flick-wipe. This irritates me.

I also forgot that when it’s really cold, the doors freeze shut. I neglected to remember that the heater is stuck in the Hot position. I overlooked the fact that 187,000 miles is really quite a lot, especially when the car has been utterly neglected for the past 30,000 miles without any servicing at all really. Impressive that it stood up to that.

I also used my rose-tinted spectacles to ignore the fact that it’s really quite rusty in places. The rear crossmember is sufficiently soft for my MOT tester to give me an official advisory, the left hand rear wing has a great ruddy hole in it and the sills are not going to get through another test.

The first few weeks have been tough as well. The brakes have been playing up, I replaced the wrong wheel bearing (and then had to replace the correct one), the clutch feels like failure is imminent and the height controller linkage is very stiff. That means that getting the car to raise or lower is not very easy at all.

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Back, but was it a good idea?

Yet this is still a special car to me and after many hours of fettling, she’s starting to come good. I can sit behind the wheel and remember driving across the south of France in the most torrential rain I’ve ever seen, or slogging up a 2000m tall mountain in horizontal snow with a coolant leak. Or helping to move our belongings from our old house to this one. Or towing my Bond Equipe (I’ll tell you about that long-departed beast one day) to a garage after it started spewing petrol everywhere. It’s a car with many memories and a car that does many things very well.

In fact, the main reason that I sold it is because I didn’t want to be the one who scrapped it. Perhaps the hardest part of having it back is that once the rust gets too much, it could be me reading the BX its rites.

Mini caliper rebuild – Part 2

Having received the new wheel stud, I could complete the left-hand side. It all went back together beautifully and with an attractive assistant (the wife) on pedal duty, it was soon bled and functioning correctly. Lovely.

New brake caliper and disc fitted to proper Mini

Hmmm. Sooo shiny. seems a shame to cover it up with a wheel. New disc and pads plus refurbished caliper

Now attention could turn to the opposite side. I lowered the car back to the ground as I needed to reposition it – space is tight in the garage. This time,  I remembered to undo the main driveshaft nut BEFORE jacking the car up. Having read the Haynes manual, I decided to remove the caliper complete with pads this time. That was stupid – I then couldn’t get the pistons out. So, I connected the caliper back up and with the handy assistant again, could use hydraulic pressure to force the pistons most of the way out – using a spanner to stop the first one from popping all the way out until the second one was also easing outwards. It was then an easy job to use pliers to pull the pistons out – you wouldn’t want to do this if you were planning to re-use the pistons, but I wasn’t. They were in a dreadful state.

The only seized bolt on the entire job caused some issues – I couldn’t get the caliper into its two main parts. Eventually, I managed to smash a slightly-too-small socket onto the corroded head, and out it came. There may have been some colourful language before this! I then had to locate another bolt, which involved a trip to see a Mini enthusiast in Aberystwyth. Thanks Dave!

This was the side that had seized the most ferociously, and getting the old seals out proved a real ‘bind.’ See what I did there? The new seal holder things are incredibly soft and easy to damage but on this caliper, I actually managed to get one of the new ones to fit – though had to resort to an old one for the second piston. Then it was a simple case of swapping the disc and then re-fitting the caliper. New pads completed the job and with another bleeding session, she was ready to go!

The difference on the road was marked. When you’ve only got 45bhp to play with, binding brakes can be a very noticeable drag. I’m still to bed the brakes in – only 8 miles covered so far – but look forward to seeing how they go.

Very rusty brake disc

Yup, that'll be scrap then. No point putting this back on.

Betsy the 'proper' Mini

With fixed brakes, Betsy the Mini is ready to go!

Mini caliper rebuild – Part 1

Austin-Rover Mini City E

Mini gets a brake overhaul. Citroen BX rear seat should be back in the car, rather than being a Mini hat...

It was going so well. Despite a hectic week with much writing work, I actually managed to find some time to work on the Mini’s brakes. They’d started binding really badly and before Christmas, I had the pads out and discovered seriously manky pistons (see below). Rebuild time.

Rimmer Brothers were able to supply the bits I needed and after finally getting my hands on the necessary tools (Ebay saved me a fortune) I could begin work. Being a bloke, I decided to find my own way, rather than lower myself to reading instructions. This was how I ended up removing the caliper BEFORE undoing the main driveshaft nut. That made removing the brake disc (I decided to replace everything) impossible. Fortunately, I managed to put the wheel back on, jam a ramp underneath and then undo the driveshaft nut without having to go through the rigmarole of lowering the car of its axle stands.

When putting the wheel on, I noticed that I’d managed to damage one of the wheel stud threads, so work has come to a stop while I await a new one. I did get as far as fitting new pistons and seals to the caliper on that side though, so progress has been made! Once I get the new stud, I can put it all back together again and do the other side…

Corroded Mini brake piston

No wonder the brakes were binding - and this is the better side!