Tuesday, 2 December 2008

MOT time and other stories

Two weeks off work and a chance to get some work done on the van.

The van was due an MOT a couple of weeks ago and I knew the parking brake was not working very well so with some help (thanks Barry) I took it apart, lubricated it and put it back together again. The parking brake on the van has never been particularly good and I'm led to believe that's just how Dodge made them. Being an automatic the van usually just gets left with the transmission in "Park" anyway so the parking brake sees more use during the MOT test than any other time.

Dropped the van off at the local garage for the test and waited to see what would happen. It failed due to having a rubbish parking brake! The garage also took it all apart and rebuilt it and got it working sufficiently to pass however so that's another hurdle out of the way (albeit with an accompanying bill for their time of course).

The following day I decided to have a go at upgrading the headlights to modern halogen fittings which was another of those jobs I'd been planning for ages but never got around to. I managed to free off the rusted adjusting screws but whilst trying to remove the screws that hold the light units together one of the plastic mounting blocks broke. When I removed the headlight unit I discovered that the other plastic mounting on that side was also damaged. I've ordered a replacement set but they are only available from the USA so I'm now waiting for them to be imported. In the meantime I've taken the opportunity to dismantle the light units and de-rust and paint the bowls so hopefully they'll last a bit longer once they are re-fitted.

I also tried to fit my new extra-bright bulbs but discovered that there are two different types of H4 halogen headlight bulbs and my bulbs didn't fit the lights! The difference is the base of the bulb. I has thought that the base was what was described by the "H4" name but it appears that refers to the actual glass bulb and filament design. The base can be either "P43t" or "P45t". All modern vehicles with H4 bulbs use the P43t base but some older (mostly British) ones use the P45t fitting (The replacement headlights I'm fitting are from a Triumph Acclaim). You can still buy P45t bulbs but not in the uprated extra-bright types. I have found a trader selling adapters to allow the fitting of P43t bulbs in P45t light units but they are currently out of stock. Whilst I wait for them to be available again I've fitted a pair of standard halogen H4 P45t bulbs from Halfords.

Since the headlight mounting blocks still haven't arrived the van is off the road again despite having the new MOT and tax. That meant I couldn't go collect my new race trailer when I got the call to say it was ready last week however the manufacturer agreed to deliver it so I finally have a brand new trailer ready for next season's racing. I'm very pleased that it is finally here but I think I'm going to need some practice at parking it in my driveway. It is a very tight fit with only a few inches to spare either side! The new trailer is no wider than the old one though and its slightly shorter so I should be able to work something out.

The next job will be to remove the fuel tank from the van and replace the perished and corroded fuel and brake lines. I've already had one attempt at loosening the tank fittings and it looks like being a pain of a job. Some more thought will be needed if I'm to extract the tank without damaging anything. I've also enquired about the cost of getting some airbag spring assisters for the rear suspension of the van as it sinks far too low with the weight of a trailer attached to the tow hitch.

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