Monday, 31 March 2008

Fed up

I changed the oil in the van again and put some good quality Millers Running-in Oil in and when I started it up, the tapping noise gradually faded away. Hurray!

I also finished wiring the rear fog and reversing lights and tested all the towbar wiring I fitted last week. There's still the heater control cable to fix (it broke last week whilst I was out driving) but I'm ignoring that for now.

So this weekend I spent an hour in the sunshine fitting the new front fog lights and driving lights that have been in a box here for over three years. I still have to wire them in but I need to work out a location for a fuse box and some relays first.

That left me half a day to go put some miles on the engine and get some serious running-in done. At least that was the plan. In fact I drove about 40 feet (the distance from where the van was parked onto the road) before it was obvious that something was wrong with the transmission. The (auto) gearbox wasn't engaging properly. It seemed to get a bit better as the engine warmed up whilst I was investigating but I ended up parking the van again as the fluid level was obviously low and that's a bad thing for an auto. box.

I'm sure the fluid level was fine when I checked it last week and there's no evidence of a leak so I don't know where it's gone. It's had a whole (US) gallon since I drained it and changed the filter. I'm hoping it's just that the level is a little low and it didn't like starting from cold. Unfortunately the ATF for this gearbox is not available from the average car parts shop in this country so I'll have to buy some from a specialist.

Whilst I was underneath looking for leaks I noticed that the exhaust silencer has rusted through and now has a hole in it so I may have to replace the exhaust sooner than I was intending too. I knew it needed doing but I was hoping it would last until I'd got the engine run in and the van fully back on the road. Yet another thing for the growing list of "things that need fixing on the van".

On the matter of the spare wheel, I've decided there's no option but to fit the correct size tyre and sort out the cover later. That'll be more expense then!

Oh, and the left exhaust manifold is leaking coolant again. I'm really fed up with things going wrong now, it's about time the list of things to do started getting shorter, not longer.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Good for a while...

Easter long weekend. A chance to get some things done without inconveniences like work interrupting...

On Friday I spent the day putting the van engine back together. Having started to refit the first exhaust manifold, the bonnet release broke so that had to be fixed before I could continue. Fortunately I discovered that it is possible to release the bonnet from inside the van with the aid of a long length of 20mm square timber! The manifolds went back on more easily than I was expecting although it still took the whole day and the left manifold still contacted on the heatshield which then had to be adjusted as well. I also noticed that the retaining spring for the spare wheel cover had rusted through so I've had to remove the cover for now. I really must look into getting a new spare tyre too as the current one is over three inches smaller in diameter than the road wheels. I need to work out what size is best since a 235/75 like the road wheels won't fit into the spare wheel cover but the 205/65 that's currently the spare is tiny by comparison.

Anyway, by the end of the day the van was finally running again and didn't appear to be leaking any vital fluids. I re-torqued the cylinder heads whilst the manifolds were off and I guess the coolant leak must have been coming from the head gasket joint. On Saturday I tidied up some bits and pieces and started to put some running-in miles on the engine. Apart from a dislike for going up particularly steep hills, the van ran pretty well and I gradually got braver and went further from home! A run down a dual carriageway to see what happened at more than 50mph and all seemed great. Later in the day I went to visit a friend and whilst waiting at the last junction a few yards from their driveway, the oil pressure dropped to zero! This actually happened just as the lights changed and I was about to set off and the increased revs as I pulled away seemed to provide oil pressure again.

After some head scratching, we came to the conclusion that the oil dipstick is too long and is giving an incorrect reading which meant I didn't have enough oil in the sump. This was backed up by draining the oil which gave rather less than 4 litres in the drain can. We refilled with 5 litres of oil and everything was fine afterwards so it seemed that no harm was done. I drove home without further incident and in fact the van seemed to be running better than ever, presumably the new engine is starting to bed in already.

Then on Sunday I started the van in order to move it to do some work on the towbar electrics and there was a distinct tapping sound from the engine. I've not been able to localise this sound but I'm guessing that one of the hydraulic lifters is sticking. I'm hoping it's nothing more serious and I'm also hoping it can be cured without having to dismantle anything as getting to the lifters means stripping down all the top of the engine and I have neither the time nor the enthusiasm to start that job again. I'll try changing the oil again and swap the cheap supermarket stuff we put in at the weekend for some decent branded oil. It had good stuff in to start with but we only had the cheap stuff to hand to get me home the other day.

I really hope nothing is damaged as I'm very fed up with one thing after another going wrong with this project.

On a slightly more positive note, I did finish wiring the towbar and also fitted (but haven't yet wired) the new rear fog lights and reversing lights which is a small step forward. Not much use if the engine isn't working properly though :-(

Monday, 10 March 2008

One step forward and two back

Fired up the van again at the weekend. I thought I'd have a look at a small water leak from the back of the left hand exhaust manifold. The mounting studs for the manifold go right through the water jacket on this engine so if they don't seal correctly, it's easy to have leaks.

After messing around with the stud for a while it was obviously damaged beyond use so I stuck an appropriately sized bolt in for now just to see if it cured the leak. When I had a look underneath, it wasn't dripping from where it had been before but there was rather a lot of water running down the side of the block. It seems I have more than just a little problem. I'm sure it wasn't that bad before so I don't know where it's all escaping from.

Also I thought I could see a few tiny bubbles in the water where it was flowing over the head gasket joint. Since I'm going to have to remove the exhaust manifold to try and track down this coolant leak I can look at re-torquing the head as well. The head bolts are helpfully located right behind the exhaust manifold and directly under the rocker shaft so it all has to come apart to get at them. Time to order some new exhaust manifold gaskets as well whilst I'm at it I suppose.

Beginning to wonder what I have to do to get this van back on the road!

Some good news however in that the much-delayed work to get the engine out of the race car finally took place at the weekend too so I've delivered the engine to my local engine builder to have its bearings replaced and a general check over before refitting it.

I've also just ordered the new eight gallon fuel tank I'm going to need for the longer races this season. Eight gallons is probably somewhat more than I'll actually need for a 40 minute race but I don't have to fill it to the top and it should mean I never have to upgrade again.

Plans to fit an electric water pump to the car are currently on hold since I need to get the engine back in first in order to work out how to mount the pump and how to get the plumbing to work. I already bought the pump so I'll probably look into getting that fitted later in the season.

Monday, 3 March 2008

A sound I've not heard for a long time...

...the rumble of the V8 in my van. I eventually got it started at the weekend. After much head scratching and going through the entire ignition system testing for faults, in the end a good dose of "easystart" was what it really needed!

It remains to be seen of course whether it will start again from cold next time or whether there's still something wrong with it but I did a few laps of the housing estate to test it out. I think the linkage between the throttle pedal and the automatic gearbox needs a bit of adjustment but it seems to drive fairly well at least for the very short distance and low speeds I've done so far.

Next thing will be to take it a little further afield and see whether it can cope with hills and speeds above 30mph, which were a problem for it back in October when it had it's MOT test.