One of those days. Again

Read through my Blogs and you’ll see that there are days that really test those who like older cars. For some reason, my cars do often seem to conspire to play up all at the same time. Today was one of those days.

Before I start, I shall exonerate the BX. It coped with a 320 mile day recently, despite still being far from entirely healthy. Perhaps I used up all of my car luck on that journey…

Anyway, I got up this morning and headed in to town for some totally unexciting shopping. Things didn’t start well – or at all – when the 2CV’s ignition barrel resolutely refused to take the key. I do have a spare barrel kicking about because the one fitted has played up before, but I was in a hurry to get to Morrisons before the Aberystwyth masses arrived. So, into the Maverick I hopped and off I went.

It was a horrible morning, with mist and rain conspiring to make me very glad of the variable intermittent wipers. Well, until they just suddenly started going continuously all of their own accord. I tried turning them off. They just kept on going. Ok. One of those delightful electrical quirks eh? Switching to fast and then off did make them behave, but then I needed the intermittent setting again – which lasted for precisely two wipes. Gah!

I bought an oil filter for the Mini and  then went supermarket shopping, ensuring that I also filled my trolley with some cheap 15w40 oil for the 2CV and BX. They never get fancy stuff, especially as the BX soon leaks most of it back out. I tried not to get too upset with the wipers on the drive back and thankfully, for the most part, they did behave themselves. It’s either a relay or an earthing issue – probably not a duff wiper stalk as I first suspected.

After lunch, and far too much time spent reading the third instalment of the superb Stieg Larsson Millennium Trilogy, I eventually got myself outside to tackle an oil change on the Mini. The usual cursing and scraped knuckles ensued, and I had to park the car on pieces of wood to enable me to get my oil catch can beneath the sump. The oil filter is also horrible to get at unless you remove the grille, which involves removing and subsequently losing far too many screws. Ugh.

My mood was not enhanced when after refilling the engine with lovely, fresh 20w50 oil, a distinct dripping sound could be heard. I gawped underneath and watched lots of lovely new oil pour from somewhere at the rear of the engine. What?! It wasn’t from the sump plug or the filter. I was entirely baffled. Also, very, very anxious as the Mini is meant to be tackling a 300 mile drive to Cornwall in the morning – probably the furthest it’s ever travelled in a day in our ownership. I was starting to wonder if I should have just left it, but Minis rely on good engine oil, as it’s also the gearbox oil. And it’s well over a year since it was last changed… (to be fair, only about 2000 miles ago).

I decided to bravely attempt a test drive, as no matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to repeat the random oil dumping. It seemed to be behaving.

My conclusion is that the rocker cover gasket is shot. I think I poured so much oil in via the filler that the rocker cover actually filled up with fresh oil. I suspect (by the stains out the back of the rocker cover) that a fair dollop of the fresh oil bypassed the engine and flooded straight down the back of the engine. I hope it’ll be ok…

I try not to get too disheartened as mechanical issues are never far away when you’re dealing with older cars that have plenty of miles on them. Yet weeks can go by with no problems at all! Well, they  did until I bought the BX…

At least none of these issues required a laptop to sort them out, or special tools. And as bad as a Mini is to work on, it’s a lot better than some moderns. Plus, I’d feel really, REALLY annoyed if I experienced mechanical trauma with a car that cost tens of thousands to buy. Ignoring restoration and running costs (of probably £10,000 across the entire fleet) the purchase costs of the fleet are £450 (2cv, 12 years ago), £741 (Mini, 6 years ago), £250 (BX, six months ago) and £500 (Maverick, last month). They may cause me woes at times, but financially, they still make a lot of sense!

 

Project BX: Good and then bad

As you may recall from an earlier post, the BX had gamely struggled to Derbyshire and back to collect some seats and doors – none of which have got even close to being actually fitted to the car yet. That’s ok. I”ve been enjoying the fact that the BX works and have actually been using it for driving about. Well, I was…

BX in the sun

Sitting pretty, but not actually working!

The first problem is water ingress. It’s absolutely pouring in somewhere in the back (well, the front too to a lesser extent) and is pooling in the rear footwell. Sadly I discovered this after the rear seat had been folded for several weeks – the rear seat base then acted like a sponge and soaked up the icky water. Mould is everywhere and I’m feeling a bit disheartened. I shall have to go leak checking and I urgently desire the return of my garage! (still full of building materials although much less so than it was).

I’m sort of used  to leaky vehicles though. The Mini and 2CV are both as water-tight as a tea bag. Thing is, it’s easy to remove the carpet/mat in that pair so the water isn’t held against the floor. Not so the BX, though the carpet is so full of holes that it ideally needs replacing anyway.

The second and rather more serious issue is that the BX isn’t currently working at all. For some time I’ve felt that there’s probably an air leak in the fuel system as it feels down on power. Now though, it’s so bad that there’s no chance of starting it unless you do a LOT of priming beforehand. After a struggle lasting the best part of an hour, I eventually got it to run the other day. Most people would consider this less than ideal.

I need to rig up some fuel pipe to allow me to gradually bypass different bits of the fuel system. I’ve been meaning to do it for ages, but I guess my hand has been forced now. Thankfully my back injury is easing after wrenching it while fixing the Maverick’s brakes. It’s a good job that my flexible working hours allow plenty of tinkering time and hopefully I’ll get the garage back soon, so I can tinker whatever the weather.

Project BX: Roadtrip 2

Enough with all this 4×4 talk. It has distracted me from the shed of dread. The BX hasn’t had an awful lot of use over the winter. It started running really badly, and the power steering became all intermittent with its assisting. Believe me, this makes cornering far more interesting than it should be!

The running issues seem to have resolved themselves, though she’s still down on power. The power steering seems to have been remedied by changing the LHM and cleaning the filters. This is the lifeblood of the BX, so this is rather like refreshing the blood and clearing out the arteries. Seems to have done the trick, though some minor hydraulic issues remain.

Citroen BX mk1 estate 19RD

The shambolic BX visits the car that donated its doors

I needed to get to Derbyshire to collect some replacement doors and seats for the BX. I was worried about how I’d get there, but a long run the weekend before departure renewed my faith in the BX. Yes, it has its issues, but surely it wouldn’t let me down?

Come the morning of departure and she let me down. The driver’s door latch froze open, so I couldn’t close the door. I didn’t really fancy trying to strip the mechanism down if it was cold enough to do that, so I decided to take my Ford Maverick. Mistake. While this at least got me off the driveway, after a few miles, it began misfiring and the brakes started making horrible noises. Back home I went.

By now, the BX lock had unfrozen, so I decided to go in this after all, albeit now 2hrs later than planned. That was largely due to the need to de-ice the inside. Once free of ice, I was away. The power thing isn’t too much of a problem. Sure, acceleration is laughably slow, but then even a healthy 1.9 diesel BX can be embarrassed by modern turbo diesels. It didn’t want to pull beyond 3000rpm really, but that’s ok, as there’s a good spread of torque beneath this. Progress was still swift (or as swift as it can be on truck and tractor-heavy trunk roads in Wales) and when we eventually reached Shrewsbury and the novelty of dual carriageway, the BX just about managed to clock 70mph.

I was bloody freezing though and a quick under-bonnet inspection revealed a top hose that was very much not warm. Looks like a new thermostat is needed then. At least the big climb out of Shrewsbury on the A5 got some heat into the engine – and the interior! My chilly state was not aided by door and window seals which are absolutely knackered. Ventilation was not an issue.

Yet despite being far from healthy, the BX plodded on. The ride was still comfortable, the handling still excellent and the brakes absolutely superb. Few things stop like a hydraulic Citroen. Sadly, the impressive brakes were also creating a rather irritating chirrup at speed. I suspect one of the front calipers is binding, just enough to cause a squeak, but happily not enough to cause massive heat build up. Seized calipers can be dangerous.

I arrived in Derbyshire at 2pm, five hours after I first attempted to leave the house. The capacious rear of the BX easily swallowed up a rear seat, two front seats and three doors gifted by a kindly fellow BX Club member. He’ll be putting better doors on his own Mk1 project. After (non)quality nosh from a greasy spoon (which was perfect to be honest!) I set off homeward at about half-past four. The next three hours were pretty tedious, and dark. The only dashboard illumination that actually works on the BX is, usefully, the speedometer – a rotating drum that makes me smile every time I look at it. How Citroen to have the numbers move! The main beam is operated by clicking the left-hand ‘pod’ at the side of the steering wheel. Seems odd, but works very well.

So, the shambolic BX managed another 260 miles and now has more parts to help further its own revival. There’s talk of a trip to Cornwall at some point in the next few months. Wonder if the BX will be the tool for the job…

Cold comfort

If you’d spent all day leading a 2CV convoy around some of the nicer parts of Wales, you’d probably like nothing more than to curl up on the sofa with a cup of tea, enjoying the heat from a roaring fire. Bliss.

Into the night

Brrr! Sub zero and dark, but work continues into the night

Instead, last night I found myself standing around outside acting as assistant to my mate Mat while he made a brave attempt to cure some of the BX’s many problems. First was an attempt to reseat the hydraulic pressure regulator’s ball bearing, which was possibly to blame for a low tick time – the amount of time between pump runs. A healthy hydraulic Citroen can maintain pressure for at least 30 seconds before the pump needs to cut in and re-pressurise the system. Mine has been cutting in every second or so, despite a new accumulator sphere. This may all sound like gobbledegook, but it’s simpler than it sounds!

As it happens, while we thought there had been some success, it doesn’t seem to have made any difference at all. The power steering is also still intermittent, so suspicion is that it is either a weak pump, or blocked filters in the LHM reservoir. If I’m feeling brave, I may yet nip out and have a go at sorting that out! It’s still very cold outside, if less dark.

Next task was to replace two more glow plugs. I hurriedly changed a pair before it went in for welding work, but ran out of time to change the two trickiest ones. It’s an annoying job as lots of things get in the way. Some plugs can be removed with a socket, but one needs a spanner. Quickly sorted though, and starting is improved.

Then the wiper motor assembly was replaced due to horrific wear in the one fitted. The replacement isn’t perfect, but it is far better. You need good wipers in Wales.

Finally, we tackled the tailgate wiring, as it had not been reconnected following the welding work due to lack of time. The number plates and central locking now work, but eventually we had to concede that warmth and food were a good idea, so the heated rear window and rear wiper will have to wait for another (hopefully warmer!) time.

Today, I’ve been tackling various issues that the 2CV and Peugeot 309 have developed. The latter now has an improved exhaust system while the 2CV has a temporary replacement ignition barrel – courtesy of a Dyane – and a cleaner roof. I’m hoping for another dry day tomorrow so I can water-proof it… You have to get your tinkering in while the weather is dry, by day or night!

Maintaining momentum

The trickiest thing with any project is maintaining momentum. How often do you see the immortal words “unfinished restoration” accompanying a classified advert? Keeping a positive frame of mind can be very difficult, especially when tackling bodywork. What seemed achievable when the car was complete may seem horrifically daunting once you start digging into the structure and discovering just how rampant the rot is.

Citroen BX estate rear

BX is coming along, but a long way from finished

Mechanical overhauls can be a challenge too. You fix one thing and immediately, something else goes wrong.

I thought that tackling my Citroen BX Mk1 project as a rolling restoration was the way to go. I therefore focussed on getting it back on the road as a first step. It didn’t have significant corrosion in key areas and seemed mechanically able. It was still pleasing that it did get an MOT pass. Hoorah! However, I now wonder whether I’ve shot the gun so to speak. Yes, it may be on the road but it has so many minor issues that perhaps it shouldn’t be. Would it not have been better to work through some more of these problems first?

That’s how it feels at the moment as while I can drive the car, I get little pleasure from doing so. The engine is down on power, the hydraulics are not working entirely as they should, the windscreen wiper mechanism is so worn that the bodywork gets wiped/thumped, the front passenger door doesn’t really want to open, the heater doesn’t work apart from on its fastest setting, the indicator relay is a bit slow and ideally needs replacing, the rear wiper/HRW are not connected up and three of the tyres have slow punctures. I could go on but I won’t for fear of putting myself into a depression.

The problem is, I love driving and a properly sorted BX – even a 1.9 non-turbo diesel – is a joy to drive. Mine just isn’t and getting the problems sorted seems at this stage both difficult and expensive.

This is when project motivation can begin to stall. The end cannot be seen and it all starts to feel rather futile. With this one, there’s the added element of rarity. Sometimes that’s a pressure I don’t enjoy at all.

Oddly, I always seem to feel low just after a major milestone has been achieved. Perhaps that’s because while there’s celebration for one small task completed, there are so many more that need sorting!

BX project – fuel filter

I’ve put off changing the fuel filter on the BX for a few reasons, such as not really enjoying getting diesel all over my hands and the fact that I accidentally ordered the wrong fuel filters to start with…

It needed doing. The engine has felt a little underwhelming, a touch flat. I know 65bhp from a thumping, normally aspirated diesel is never going to exactly push the tyres to their limits, but it felt like it was suffering from fuel starvation. I could tell it wanted to give just a bit more…

Gunky mess

Slimey mess in the BX's fuel filter housing. Yuck!

So, it’s a simple case of disconnecting the hoses to the fuel filter housing (19mm headed bolts), removing the housing itself (two 13mm headed bolts and nuts) and then taking it apart in a suitable container (releasing the 11mm bolt on the bottom of the housing). This last bolt was VERY tight, but I finally defeated it and could pull the housing apart. The filter plopped out, showing obvious signs of gunky debris, with a good layer of slime at the bottom of the housing too. No doubt this built up during the 3 years of inactivity while this car sat in a garage.

With the housing cleared out and a new filter fitted, it was then a case of bleeding the system and taking it for a test drive. There’s a 12mm bleed bolt on the housing so I released this and pumped the prime button until fuel came out. It took a few spluttering attempts before the engine ran, but it did seem a bit more eager.

However, that might have all been in my mind as out on the road, it still felt flat. I decided at this point to give it a slosh of unleaded fuel. These engines have been known to respond well to a touch of petrol mixing with the diesel, so I slopped in 5 litres with a fresh dose of diesel. On the return journey, it did feel a little less hesitant, so hopefully this combination of factors will lead to improved performance. So far, I reckon it’s not even doing 40mpg as I’m having to drive absolutely everywhere with my foot right to the floor! I know I’m a quick driver, but I expect even a normally aspirated BX diesel to feel a little more perky.

I shall see how it performs over the coming weeks, before it goes in for some drastic metalwork surgery later in the month. Hopefully this’ll lead to me being able to use the tailgate again…

The first long journey

Well, after just under two months of ownership, a lot of hard graft had the BX prepared for its first long journey. It now had MOT, replacement second-hand tyres, a new battery, radiator, water pump, cambelt, oil and filter. Test drives and local journeys had allowed me to clock up about 80 miles since returning it to the road. I was now going to undertake a 250 mile road-trip to Anglesey and back in a bid to locate some much-needed parts.

A drive the day before revealed a sudden drop in coolant level, but this seems largely to have been down to trapped air in the system. I carefully bled the system again, raising the front of the car by driving it onto ramps. Time was running out though, so I could do little else than keep my fingers crossed!

BXs

Ian's BX meets a few friends on its first long drive in years

After about 30 miles, I was really settling into the groove. I had some concerns about a slight looseness in the steering. I suspect a tired strut top and wishbone bushes. There was an occasional scraping from the rear too, which I suspect is flakes of rust resting on the brake disc. I’ll get that checked out. Being a normally aspirated diesel, and the earlier 65bhp incarnation of this engine (later BXs had 71bhp), she was struggling on the hills a bit, and perhaps more than I remember from my last BX. There was no doubt that she was barreling along quite merrily though, especially on the flatter sections. The engine settles down to a gentle hum on the move.

A quick stop at my mate’s house to fit a new accumulator sphere didn’t hold us up for long before we headed out onto the road once more, discovering just how bad the wind noise is. There are many broken window seals, and a massive hole in the boot floor! The tailgate still doesn’t fit very well either.

With parts collected – including a new tailgate – we could return home, with only the rhythmic THUMP of the windscreen wiper detracting from an otherwise easy first trip. I guess that needs some work as well as it’s going off the bottom of the windscreen…

So, still lots to do, but at least the BX seems happy to be used while the work continues. Now it’s just a case of finding the time…