Sunday, March 29, 2009

tick tick tick....

Time is ticking away and there is lots to be done... What am I banging on about? Well easter weekend is the Commer Van Fan meet in the midlands and Jessica is not ready yet.

There are a few things outstanding which - today - would mean that we can't go. These are,
the exhaust down pipe, the clutch slave cylinder and the starting problem.

Now all these things are under control (if not addressed). A new exhaust downpipe and clutch slave cylinder are on order from Martin. These should be arriving at the beginning of next week.

Then there is the starting problem. This has been niggling for a while now, but its now really bad. With the battery fully charged, and the engine cold, she won't start. She'll crank and crank all day and eventually - if you're lucky - kicks to life. Martin already sorted me out with a new starter motor which is really good, but the problem was still there. So today I decided to get the battery checked out. It turned out that it was fine (a shame as that would have been a relativley easy fix). So this afternoon I took the opertunity to remove clean and replace the starter solenoid - the only part left in the system. I took it slowly and methodically and filed all the contacts to make sure they were ok. And hey presto she burst into life at the first turn of the key - I'll try again tomorrow to be sure.

Then there is the rest of the stuff to be getting on with -and of course we'll need a good shakedown run, or two. Will there be time?...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thanks Dad!

Today my Dad played a blinder. You see my brother is taking on a lot of the running of the family bussiness these days, giving Dad the freedom to take time off when he likes. And today was one of those days. On a whim (and because my eBay junk was cluttering up his storage area) he drove up to Scotland and delivered our new/old trailer. The wiring even works (now I have finally finished the socket on the van)
Its a lovely old trailer with wooden construction (kinda heavy!) and natty little retro features like the leaf springs (hence the positive camber on the wheels) and a very (and robust) hitch.

It needs a couple of new tyres and a rear lens changing. A new numberplate would be good and then she's good to roll. Then there is the decision whether to tidy it up and prevent the inevitable water damage, or leave it as it is and keep that lovely patina. What do you think?

In other news... I managed to have a crack at sorting the hole left by the oven. It was a case of sticking the bits I had back together, but I was left with a bit of a gap and no faux-veneer to fix it with. So out came the fablon (wood pattened sticky backed plastic) and danah! Can you see the join?

Oh and Dad managed to find a set of 3/8" UNC brass manifold nuts from stock how good is that? (thats Pugh and Sanders for you). It means I should be able to have a crack at fixing the exhaust later in the week. Thanks Dad!

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Well after a few false starts, it looks as though spring is here - seems a bit early, but I ain't complain'. I can tell its spring, ok there's sunshine, and animals and plants, but on big give away is the public displays of alcohol consumption across the Lothains. The beer gardens are full, the off licences are doing a roaring trade and there is at least one sunburnt gentleman with a can of Strongbow on the train.

The there are some telltale signs in our house too. All the windows get flung open and the Mrs gets some spring cleaning done, the kids go a little bonkers and want to run around all over the place, and I can even be found pottering around the garden too, having a crack at growing some veggies.

The real sign that spring is here (sorry Bill) is my neeeed to drive around in old cars. I don't know what it is. It could be the improved weather making it a much more pratical proposition, but I like to think it has something to do with the smell of the old upholstry in the spring warmth. It could be the way rattly old engines' performance improves in the cool spring evenings. But I think its really down to the way that old cars (those designed before pedestrian safety and aerodynamics made all cars look the same) look so lovely in the setting springtime sun.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Falling in love again

After a rather hectic week last week, things are calming down a little. I have managed to get a few things under control in the dayjob - now I can get on with the stuff I was supposed to be doing. I managed to fail my motorbike theory test - 100% in the questions, but I messed up the hazard perception. I appear to spot non-existent hazards, thereby rendering the answers to some of my questions invalid - boo. Nevermind I'll have another crack in a few weeks.

So last week's Commering resulted in a fitted gearbox, a checked over fuel pump and a general tidy (its amazing how quickly a little van can get filled with rubbish). So all that remained was a test drive. And of course I wasn't looking forward to that.

So what I needed was the cheery disposition of little Megan to spur me on to have a go and see whats what. The only thing to be done then was a trip to Tesco for a bag of sweets and a fuel fill up. And the prognosis was....

Good! Jessica performed wonderfullly in and out of overdrive smoothly and gears staying where they are supposed to! There's a misfire at high revs though which needs to be sorted out, but at least now I can have a little more confidence and some other get things sorted before the big meet in the midlands!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The big todo list

I'm a little stressed at the moment. Lots of things on you see. First there is work, jolly busy as usual (thats fine, I like it busy), then there's the motorbike test, scary - theory test tomorrow! and finally (but not finally if you know what I mean) I need (want) to get the van back on the road and properly shaken down so we can take her to the Commer Van Fan spring meet. Its all the way down south (well in the midlands - the village I grew up in to be precise - how did that happen I wonder?!)
So of course, there's a todo list to get on with and here it is:
  • finish the gearbox (kinda important)
  • make sure the alternator is on properly (that one snuck up on me)
  • check that that fuel pump is ok (might be the starting problem?)
  • tidy up the interior
  • fit a leisure battery and 12v system
  • tidy up the back cupboard
  • fix the rear indicator / towbar wiring
  • make and fit the new curtains

I think its all do-able I do have a month (exactly) to get it all sorted, saying that though I'm sure there will be more.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Leap of faith

Now we've been here before. Put the gearbox together a while ago now and I thought I had done a decent job. So much so that I stuck the thing in the van. A test drive last week showed that wasn't the case. So now, its a debugging process. Trying to work out what is wrong without re-installing the gearbox. This is very much in line with my dayjob - fixing and updating software.

Anyway here are the symptoms:
  • hard to engage gear
  • doesn't stay in 3rd
  • doesn't stay in 4th
  • overdrive is ace!

ok the last one isn't really a symptom.

So the first one was addressed by bleeding the clutch. And it looks like that worked. The other issues were only going to be gearbox out jobs. Which is fine, were it not for the fact that winter is back...

So what could the other problems be? Well the gears are held in by ball bearings on little detent springs. So I got myself a set of new ones and ....

Lo and behold, the new ones (left) are significantly longer than the old ones (middle - 1st/2nd, right - 3rd/4th) but there didn't seem to be that much difference.

So what else could it be ....

Take a look at this ...

It's the 3rd/4th gear selector rod, and the cutouts are what hold the gears in. Now those cutouts are kinda in the middle. But they're not, so it only goes in one way. What if... what if it was the wrong way round? One switcharoo later (and a few ball bearings fired round the garage) and its in the right way, and 3rd/4th has some proper resistance.

Superb, now its just the leap of faith of fitting it back in the van to see if it really works. Watch this space...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Like a flippin yo yo

... the story so far...

I have this tatty old van.
its quite good
I bust the gearbox
I built a new gearbox - with an overdrive on the end
I fitted it
I tested it
and it won't stay in 3rd or 4th gear.
but the overdrive works

got it?

So (like a yo yo) its back up in the air again... in the snow...