Tuesday, November 21, 2017

MGB - Ug-lectrical

One of my least favorite things when it comes to working on cars is electrical issues. Unfortunately, most people feel that way so when an older car starts having electrical problems, that's when they start appearing on craigslist. Today, I will cover my efforts on the "green" circuit in the little British car as I try to figure out why the turn signals don't work. First, for my US friends, happy Thanks Giving.

But I Thought...
Just about every electrical realization starts the same way. You're cruising along, doing your thing when some system just stops working. That sinking feeling is universal. As much as you want to direct your mind to a simple and easy explanation, it's not that easy. 'it could just be a really old fuse went bad". Yeah, sure. That's happened. I'm sure we've all read of an account on the internet when it was just a single fuse that went bad for no reason. I've never had that kind of luck. When a fuse pops, it pops for a reason. Regardless, that is the first place to go: check to see if any fuses are bad. Today could be your lucky day.

Wiring Diagramming
Once you've ruled out the fuse just popping for no reason, you need to start thinking about a viable reason for it popping. If it isn't a fuse, your problem is the same: rooting out what stopped working and why. This starts with a wiring diagram. With the advent of the interweb, lots of full color diagrams are available for free (or a small fee). Older cars have much less complicated diagrams, yet they have more problems because of age. I was able to find a nice electronic version of the MGB diagram at advance auto wire.

Diagram Analysis
This could be kind of fun, at least for a simple diagram like this one. When I look at the pages and pages of diagrams for my 2000 Jetta, its really not nearly as much fun. BUT, the modern diagrams are sub-divided well once you get the hang of it. Either way, find the sub-system that isn't working. On the single diagram, it might seem easier, but the many pages style have a table of contents. You just need to know the name of the system you're looking for. "Electrical thingy" won't be specific enough. Anyway, once you find the sub-system on the diagram, study the colored lines, and figure out where they connect with other things. In my case, I can see many components riding on the green wires. Some of them work and some of them don't. Since the turn signals leverage lots of the hazard wiring, I checked the hazards and they didn't work. So, I was able to isolate the areas of the green circuit which are the most likely sources of my troubles: the ignition relay, the wire from the ignition relay to the hazard relay, the hazard switch, the wire from the hazard relay to the hazard switch, the wires from the switch to the lights and the turn signal stalk/switch.

On-car Analysis
Equipped with this, I started looking at the most likely issue: the hazard switch. These are old and crusty, and they fail. The hazard switch pushes out from behind and a multi-wire plug can be removed to enable testing and replacing the switch. With my multi-meter, I checked continuity on the various posts (continuity test position is the icon with an arrow pointing right into a vertical line down near the bottom). I found that the switch would not send a signal to the right-turn post, so the switch was bad, but it should be sending signal to the left side. The switch is part of the problem, but not all of it. I moved on to the relay. I know the car can run, so the relay should be fine. To rule it out, though, I put the negative battery cable onto the negative post and verified that there was 12V at the relay post which powered the hazard circuit. There was, so this leaves the wire from the relay to the flasher, the flasher or the wire from the flasher to the hazard switch. I disconnected the battery again, ran a long tester-wire from the relay to the flasher, reconnected the battery and tried the hazard switch. The left side blinkers started flashing. Cool... except that meant that the issue was the wire from the relay in the engine compartment to the flasher behind the glove box.

Tearing into It
the 3-pin relay. 31 goes to ground
I figured the wire had a kink or was broken. To remedy, a new wire would need to be put in. Rather than have a lone wire routing back, I chose instead to open up the harness and identify the wire failure first. I couldn't find it. I did discover, however, that the previous owner had put an in-line fuse between the ignition relay and the flasher. I verified that there was continuity from the relay to the far side of the fuse, and again confirmed that the wire was not conducting. So, I removed the wire harness wrap. Inexplicably, the wire started working and the blinkers on the left side would flash when I flipped the hazard switch. Relieved that I wasn't going to have to route new wire, I decided to show Boo.

Unfortunately, the hazard switch chose that time to completely fail, so we could hear the blink-blink-blink from the flasher, but no lights. GAHH!! I love electrical issues. I swapped out the hazard switch, but the new switch had no effect. I checked the voltage on either side of the relay, and it shows 12V all the time now. So, maybe its a bad harness plug that the hazard switch goes into. More multi-meter time needed. Times like these, I ask myself how much work would it be to install an entirely new harness? The answer according to the interweb is 40 hours and $550 for the harness (See AdvanceAutoWire). Eek. Maybe I'll just keep playing whack-a-gremlin.

Relay and Pins
In case you discover your issue is the hazard relay, here's some useful discovery I had while investigating possible causes with the relay: The original 2-pin relays are still available, but 3-pin versions are more so. The 3rd pin (31) goes to ground, which, with old cars where the grounds can get dicey, that's a really good thing. Also, the 3-pin variety are very widespread and used as relays for all kinds of cars, bringing their cost down below $5 each. The original 2-pin relays are around $15. For some, that originality is worth the difference. I just want my flashers to work. Having a relay that is available everywhere is a bonus.

Unfortunately, this is as far as I've gotten on these electrical issues. Lots of cross-wind with the 280ZX, a daily-driver suddenly out of operation, and then there's the usual holiday crazy. Last, work is increasing in intensity as we approach "year end" and managers everywhere are realizing that bonuses are tied to delivered work that hasn't materialized yet. That usually means more pressure from above to get more done which leads to working more hours in the evening or on weekends. Looking forward to January and the return to a measured pace.

As always, thanks for following along...

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

MGB - Test Start, Test Drive

Today's post covers the initial tests of all the changes that I did this past year on the little MGB. It's been quite a year. In August of 2016, I picked up a little British car to bust my knuckles on over the winter. I needed a break from the bus, and it looked like it was going to be a cosmetic fixer. As you've read along this past year, you learned as I did that there was much more to it than that. The brakes were squishy on the drive home, so I went to redo them only to lose the master cylinder in the process. I went to replace the brake master cylinder and had that scope explode into redoing the clutch master cylinder as well. We found rust-through in the floor under the nasty carpet. We found the front suspension bushings has been replaced with window insulation... or at least it looked like it. The coolant pump was failing. The fuel tank was leaking. So much to do and fix. Before I turned the key, though, I changed the oil and oil filter.

We replaced both front disks, pads and hoses. In the rear, we replaced all of the brake parts: shoes, hardware, drums, wheel cylinders and the one hose. We replaced the brake master cylinder and polished the vacuum assist. Last, we replaced the fluid from end-to-end (kinda obvious with everything else getting redone). On the clutch, we replaced the master cylinder. Between the two master cylinders, we tore down, cleaned and painted the pedal box and pedals. The pedals got new rubber pads as well. Detailed postings 1, 2 and 3.

We ripped out the passenger and driver floors. The rails were repaired, flattened and ground to bare metal. We measured, drilled and ground-to-metal for plug and seam welding the new floors and then had a party to weld them in. The seams were sealed with black seam-sealer and then we experimented with flex-seal to 100% fill the little gaps. Undercoating was applied. I didn't post on it, but in the rear of the little cabin, a prior owner (PO) had cut a big section out of the wall between the cabin and trunk. I repaired that big hole while leveraging the opening to install 2 6x9" Polk Audio speakers. The trunk lid was removed, cleaned, splits were welded and the underside painted. The trunk floor was cleaned, painted and sound deadener was added. The lid had new hinges installed, and the gap on the driver-side accounted for with washers so the trunk now seals all the way around. Detailed postings 12 and 3.

The tank was removed and sent to a radiator shop for cleaning and lining. All new fasteners were used during install, and we replaced the hoses, hose clamps, and float / level-sender. Up front, new hoses were installed and a discovered-to-be-faulty upside-down safety switch was replaced with another filter. I will be restoring a safety switch later. We discovered this system leak during final system testing. Detailed posting here.

One of the first things we learned about from British Auto Works was the failing coolant pump. This system was the last to get our attention, though. We pulled the pump and the radiator. The radiator was treated with a vinegar and distilled water solution to de-rust / de-scale as was the heater (though it was done in-place). The coolant overflow bottle was paint-stripped and polished and a new pump installed. All new hoses and mostly-new hose clamps were installed as was the thermostat and thermostat housing. Detailed postings 1 and 2.

Front Beam
Second in scope only to the floor replacement, I spent last winter rebuilding the front suspension and steering. The steering mechanism got a clean-up, new gaiters, oil and new tie-rod ends. The suspension was completely refreshed, including new poly-impregnated rubber bushings all around, lots of paint prep and painting, new lower control arms, new front shocks, new front wheel bearings and upgraded sway-bar bushings. It's practically an entirely new front end. Detailed postings about the steering here and here, the front beam 1, 2, 3 and 4. Let's not forget replacing the engine mounts. That was fun.

Along the way, everything was tested to some degree. The cooling system doesn't leak at rest. The suspension doesn't make noise no matter who is jumping up and down on the bumpers. We stomped on the floors from above and beneath. The clutch engages when the pedal is depressed... and the engine isn't running. The brakes stop the car from rolling when nudged in the garage. These little tests gave us confidence to keep going, and believe that the system was ready. Eventually, you have to put gas in the tank and turn the key.

The last thing you do before you test is hookup the battery. I verified that the battery still had 12V (I was shocked it didn't need a charge), and then connected the leads. The key had been turned to RUN to unlock the steering, so the fuel pump started up. Fuel fountained under the hood, so we tightened a few things, and ultimately removed a broken flip-over safety switch. Once solved, I hopped into the driver seat, put the car in neutral, pulled the hand brake and turned the key again. Fuel pump started up, so I waited a second. After confirming that the gas-fountain wasn't happening I turned the key to start. The engine fired up almost instantly. I revved the engine a few times, and looked for exhaust color. There really wasn't any exhaust, so early concerns about running rich may not have merit. No black smoke to indicate oil nor sweet white smoke to indicate coolant either.
Test Successful.

A Drive
Running the engine in my garage felt awesome, but to really test many of the systems, we need some straight road, and more gas.. and a seat for a passenger and some seat belts. With the new floor came new embedded nuts for the bolts for the seat. this made the seat install a 10 minute effort even as I helped C on his new ride. Add in the retractable seat belts I bought last fall and I'm ready for a street test. Once the rain stops. Oddly enough, during the overnight after the test start, the battery ran down to nearly 0. I must have left the key in the ACC or RUN position, causing systems to stay active all night. Jeez. Road test has to wait while I charge the battery. While waiting, I noticed the front driver running light wasn't working and fixed it with some DeOxit and some patience. I rooted around and found a couple of bolts which could hold the steering column plastic covers on and put that together. I found myself wiping down seats and fiddling with things waiting for the nice weather to arrive.

Finally, I had an opportunity. We had an unseasonably nice stretch during the week and the weekend following was absolutely stunning: upper 60's and clear skies. So, I moved the herd of cars around the driveway, and pushed the MG out of the garage. With a clear rear-view to match the clear sky, I jumped in, fired it up and backed down the driveway. It's loud, and after a little it's-cold sputtering, it settled down. I was able to move through the gears easily; the clutch responded very well. The brakes still had some spongy in them, but I sped off down the street anyway. I drove maybe a mile around the neighborhood, and then started noticing all of the systems that were not working: everything on the green circuit. I chose not to drive to the gas station and instead drove home.

Upon arrival, I discovered that the thermostat housing was leaking. I torqued it down with a plan to look for a leak there on my next test flight. No gas leaked from any fuel line, the brakes remained consistently spongy so I'll need to do another round of bleeding there. The exhaust is loud everywhere with pop-pop-pop noises on deceleration, telling me there's an exhaust leak. Maybe multiple. Let's not forget the green circuit isn't working. Ultimately, though I declare Test Successful.

It was awesome to get that little car going. The throttle response is great, the steering is tight, the suspension over bumps is mellow. I have a few things still to do before it's really road-ready, but none of it is scary. Except maybe getting a top. That may have to wait until I can pay someone else to do it.

Thanks, as always, for following along.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Oh Gee, How bout a Z?

Today's brief post is about finding and acquiring a project car for my 16 year old son. To our former service men and women, happy Veteran's Day and thank you for your service.

Not our Z: rust in usual spots
Long before my divorce, and re-marriage, I had made a commitment to my sons. I promised that when they were ready to commit to a car, the project that it represented, the time it would require, etc, that I would invest $1000US on something. When T was 17, we drove up near Seattle and got him a late 90's A4 (See Gotta Keep Moving). Well, his brother C has just turned 16, and while he doesn't yet have a license, he is now ready to commit. To be fair, $1000US bought more car 10 years ago when I made the commitment, but we've had pretty good luck, and good finds are out there. You just need to work that much harder.

C has been keenly aware of this money-for-car arrangement. Last Summer, I drove to Vancouver WA to look at a project 280Z, but the rust had affected too much of it. The body had large nasty rust holes in the rear quarters, rust pinholes in the rear lid and a couple of flat tires. The interior was kind of sad too, but it was complete. After a few minutes of looking, I knew it wasn't passing muster, so I walked on it. C was disappointed, but that didn't dissuade him from looking harder. He likes sports cars. So, he was looking at BMW's, Camaro/Firebirds and, always, Datsun 240/260/280's. We talked to lots of people, emailed more and drove by a few, and after a year we thought we may have finally found one worth looking at.
not our Z: more rust

C found a 1979 280ZX project that had hit a hard patch. He had rebuilt the engine, fixed up the transmission and replaced the clutch. He had stripped the interior of everything but the seats and door-cards and slapped on fancy rims and tires with a plan to turn the car into a drifter. Unfortunately, while driving to the brake shop to get the brakes done, he was hit, damaging the driver door and front driver fender. The owner was working multiple projects and needed cash for the Mustang he was almost done with. Meanwhile, the 280ZX wasn't getting much focus and the accident had pushed away some of the love for the project. Listed at $1200, we figured the engine / transmission was probably worth the money. Add in the rims and tires and we could probably get our money back and more just by parting it out. BUT, if the frame wasn't bent or damaged in the accident, we could pop new body panels on there and make a car out of it. So, C made an appointment to go look at it on one of the final nice days of the fall.

That'll Work
C's Z
Since C didn't have a license yet, we brought his brother T with us. I decided to make this a learning opportunity for both of them by having them lead the conversation, inspection and test driving. We walked the car, searching for rust and weird frame issues first. The rust we found was surface stuff. The floors were perfect: no rust, and well protected. I thought they might have been replaced, perhaps by the person this owner bought the car from. We did our other look-sees as well, using all of our senses as best we could and then T took it out for a test drive with the owner while C and I stayed with the owner's friend and asked a ton of questions. T came back grinning from ear to ear. Clearly, he enjoyed driving it. Rather than get too deep into that, though, he jumped into giving us feedback: the brakes were good, same with the steering. Neither one impacted the other. Hard stops were good. Held firm over bumps. All the switches and dials work, lights, turn & brake signals too. I made the decision to let them make the decision. They had asked all the right questions, and got good answers. They wanted to do the build, so I shelled out $1100US cash, C signed the title, and the deal was struck.

not our Z: interior trashed, but complete
The appointment was in Newburg, which is around 30 minutes from my place. Since the boys made the decisions, they got to drive the new project home, while I followed in the chase car. That little car has some get-up-and-go. They turned the corner from the side-street onto the 99W and simply took off. They didn't speed; they just arrived at the speed limit much faster than I did. We stayed together, though, and they pulled all the way into the driveway and under the awaiting canopy. The smiles on their faces remained for quite some time after the engine was turned off. I think this is going to be a fun build.

Since we got it home, C has been over a few times and has made some headway. I'll post on that soon. Thanks, as always, for following along-

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

MGB - coolant pump replacement (Part 2)

Today's post continues the efforts around replacing all of the smaller pieces of the cooling system. It started with just swapping out the coolant pump, but the hoses were old, the hose clamps rusted on, some parts desperately needing paint, etc. So, today's post covers the second phase. In the last post, we identified parts and tore everything down. Today we clean it up and start putting it back together. But first: Hapy Halloween.

Clean Up
There were a few original pieces that needed to be cleaned up and painted before they were re-installed. I reused the pulley cap, the accessory pulley, the pipe that connects the heater to the system and the overflow bottle mounting strap. Using 80-grit sandpaper, I took down the rust and then followed with steel wool to prep for paint. I then shot them with high-gloss black Rustoleum. When I sanded on the overflow bottle, I discovered it was brass, so I spent a bunch of extra time cleaning and polishing it instead. It will probably be the shiniest thing under the hood.

bottle while cleaning
bottle as removed
While the parts dried and cured, I decided I would de-scale / de-rust the inside of the radiator. I knew this was my opportunity to get after it, especially if I didn't want to open the cooling system again. The radiator is held on with 4 bolts, accepting a 1/2" socket. Once removed, the radiator lifts straight up. If you don't lift straight up, some otherwise not drained coolant will come out. I drained the rest into a disposal bottle and then ran water through it using a garden hose. I kept sending water through until the water coming out was clear. the discharge went mostly into a disposal bottle with some spilling on my driveway. Between the rain and a post-cleaning hose-off, I think the local animals are safe. I then poured 2 quarts of vinegar into the radiator and topped it off with distilled water.

harness pull-back
Something very similar to the radiator treatment I did to the heater unit. I attached old hoses to either end and flushed with tap water until it ran clear. Then, I added vinegar to the heater by filling from the lower bib until it started to bubble out the top. Through raising and lowering the hoses, I was able to get the heater core completely filled with vinegar.

I left the radiator and the heater with their de-rusting solutions in place for a week. Then, I drained them into a disposal bottle. Vinegar is an acid that will leave the remaining metal prone to rusting if left alone. To neutralize, mix one cup of baking soda with a gallon of water. I poured this mixture into the radiator and heater units and left them alone overnight. The internet says it only needs 10 minutes, but I was out of time that day anyway. Once the neutralizer is drained, flush again with water. Once they were both running clear, scent-free water, I taped off the radiator fins and shot the rest with very high temperature (VHT) flat-black paint. The same paint I used on the brake calipers. While the radiator shouldn't get anywhere near the heat that brakes or exhaust get, I figured better use that than Rustoleum which may not be able to handle 200*.
heater flush

While everything was broken down, I had an unexpected garage visit from my now-19 year old son T. He wanted to jump in and help. So, we pulled the main harness off the passenger inner wheel arch and taped it off for paint. After he left, I pulled back the engine seal, and masked off the outer wheel arch (fender / wing). I tossed a moving blanket over the engine, cleaned the inner wheel arch and shot it with the same orange I used on the driver inner wheel arch. Similar to that paint job, orange paint dust settled on lots of parts, but I'll hit that with the shop vac after the rest of the bits are assembled.

I started with setting the gasket on the coolant pump and threading the bolts through. The bolts will help hold the gasket still. The internet doesn't agree on whether a layer of goop on the gasket is necessary or not. I did not put any on, believing that if it leaks, I can always tear things apart and add it. It leaked after all, so I tore it down and re-did this part using Permatex blue gasket maker. This stuff is designed for something like this. Simply peanut-butter both sides of the gasket with a thin (about as thick as a sheet of notebook paper) layer of the Permatex. Carefully set the gasket onto the pump and then the pump onto the head taking care not to get goop into the head. I did this by pushing the bolts through and using them to line things up. The 4 bolts which hold the coolant pump to the engine are different lengths. Since they are threading into the engine, make sure you use the right bolts in the right spots. Too long, and too much torque could create a crack.
rad flush

Once in place, the manufacturer and the interweb says that the coolant pump gasket needs to be heat-set. One way is to assemble everything and then run the engine (without coolant!) for 30 seconds or so to generate the heat necessary to make the seal happen. I found that alarming, and chose to go with option 2: using a drill. This was really kinda weird. Either way you need to put the pulley on the pump. With option 2, you put the accessory belt around the underside of the pulley, and the other end around the chuck on my drill which I held near the thermostat housing. I created tension by pulling upwards on my drill and then fired the trigger. Once I got it running consistently, without running off either end of the chuck, I let it spin for 2-3 minutes... or the length of one old Black Sabbath song on the radio. War Pigs, I think. When I did all that, it leaked. So, I re-did it with the Permatex like I described above, and didn't heat-set the gasket, and it's holding fine. Use the goop.

With the pump ready, I re-installed the radiator. 4 1/2" bolt/nut combinations later, the radiator was in. This was super-easy and with the new paint it looks much better too. Then, I put in the thermostat housing.. without the thermostat. There's a reason for this: the thermostat sits closed so coolant can't pass, but the coolant filler is above the thermostat, so you need to wait while coolant trickles in. Who has that kind of time? Instead, once the hoses are on, you fill without the thermostat in until you're full just below the lip of the head. Then, drop the thermostat in.

Next, hook-up the hoses, starting with the lowest radiator hose to the coolant pump followed by the upper radiator hose to the thermostat housing. In each case, I considered where the screwdriver would need to be in order to loosen/tighten the hose clamp before putting on the hose. Taking a few seconds to consider that, and even popping the clamp on there loosely, but in the right position, saved me a headache later.

Connect the lower radiator hose to the narrow pipe that leads back to the heater, and then the heater hoses. If you have or used to have a coolant-based choke, you have the small hoses that lead from the rear of the head to the narrow pipe, though the carb. My carb had been swapped out, so there was a hose connecting these two. I will form a more formal blank for both ends, but knitted things together for now. And then there's the hose from the radiator to the overflow bottle. And installing that overflow bottle. That's easy. The bottle is held by a steel strap which is held in place with 2 1/2" nuts addressed through the passenger front wheel well.

Fill as much as you can with the thermostat out, and then remove the thermostat housing, and install the thermostat. The new cork gasket held very well, not requiring any Permatex. Add more coolant, burping the system by squeezing the lower radiator hose until you can't reasonably get coolant into the filler hole. But then what do you do? The MGB cooling system is simple, but the routing of the hoses and location of various components creates many opportunities for air bubbles. For example, the heater core is at the system high-point, but there is no facility to bleed air. I used the little hose bib sticking out of the back of the head to fill once the coolant filler at the front of the engine was full. I continued to burp the system until I heard coolant start to appear in the overflow bottle. The interweb advice is to have the bottle at 1/2 full, so I continued filling from the back of the head, holding the hose above the heater until the overflow bottle was 1/2 full.

That's it for today. All that remains is a test start and then a test drive. At some point, the seemingly endless rain will pause long enough for me to take this roadster out to verify the clutch hydraulics...  brake hydraulics... coolant re-do... steering... front suspension.... fuel system revitalization and, of course, the floors. It has been a year since the little British car drove around, so I'll be dedicating a post to that... once it happens.

Thanks, as always, for following along.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

MGB - coolant pump replacement (Part 1)

Last Fall, before I got too deep into fixing things on the MG, I took it to the specialists at British Auto NorthWest in North Plains. After addressing just about everything else, I am finally getting to the most important thing they called out: the coolant pump. Today's post covers that effort. This got really long, so I've split it into pieces. So, today we'll cover parts and the tear down.

Like any project, replacement parts are needed. At the very least, we need a new pump. These pumps aren't nearly as expensive as you may fear: $40US. These usually deliver with a replacement gasket. Verify before you commit.
Hoses. How old are your hoses? You don't know? Well, they're probably really old then. Best to assume that anyway. The hoses to/from the heater and the larger ones to/from the radiator are car-specific. Again, they are not terribly expensive unless you choose to go with silicone. Even then, the set is around $60US. The other hoses (from rear of head to pipe, and the smaller ones connected to the overflow bottle) are standard 5/16" hoses and can be purchased by the foot for next to nothing.

Hose Clamps. Look at the hose clamps. Rusty like mine? Get a slew of new ones. You'll need 4 larger ones for the hoses which route to the radiator. There are 4 smaller ones for the hoses leading to/from the heater plus 2 more smaller ones for the hose leading from the rear of the head, 2 more for the smaller hose from the radiator to the overflow bottle and one extra for the overflow bottle overflow hose. The other end of that hose on my MGB routed through the radiator mount, which seemed kinda weird. I'm not sure where it's supposed to go, but it probably doesn't need a clamp on that end. I found all clamps at Ace Hardware and they cost around $1US a-piece, so around $15US all-in.

Thermostat. If you haven't had any temperature issues, you probably don't need to change it. They are very inexpensive though, and getting the system apart for a thermostat afterwards just seems needless. So, I encourage spending the extra $8. I also replaced the thermostat housing ($6US), because mine was rusty and I replaced the housing gasket ($1US). The gasket does not ship with the housing, so buy them both. You may find it necessary to change the gasket even if you aren't swapping out the housing. My original gasket was smashed up against the housing and didn't look reusable. Often things like this are one-use-only. Also note that the housing does not deliver with the filler plug in the top. For a small brass cap, this is actually kind of expensive relative to everything else at $4.50US.

Temperature Sender. If your engine temp gauge isn't working, now would be the time to replace it. My gauge worked fine, so I didn't do this. They are around $7US, so in retrospect, I probably should have.

Fan Relay Switch. If your radiator fans are still triggered by the sensor in the radiator, you may want to replace this while you're in there. These range from $15US to $40US, representing the most expensive part so far. My fans are activated by a switch on the dash so I didn't need this. I highly recommend the dash switch. From talking to the British Auto Works guys, it sounds like those thermostatic fan switches are the system weak spot.

Fasteners. Of course I'm going to advocate replacing all fasteners. The thermostat housing is held on with 3 studs. These are 5/16-18 on the head-side and 5/16-24 pointing up. All of the bolts I replaced are 5/16-24 as well, just different lengths. I did not replace the tensioner bolt for the alternator, but did replace the 2 mounting bolts, the studs and nuts for the thermostat housing and the bolts for the coolant pump. Get stainless, if you can, so they don't rust-up on you again. And, they look pretty.

Tear Down
I was fortunate to have my step-son K2 available to help out again. So, while I finished routing and re-routing the fuel lines, fuel filter, flip-over shut-off valve, etc, he started the cooling system tear down. We had pushed the MG back into the garage for the Fall, with fears of the rainy season starting before we had a top. Our fears were met with sheeting rain on the other side of the garage door transom. Since we're dealing with old-skool coolant that animals like to drink (and then die from), it was all the more important to keep the cat out of the garage and the liquids well contained. Since I was working on the fuel system at the other end, we decided not to lift the front end, and used a dishpan to catch coolant.

K2 attacked the lower radiator hose from above, loosening the rusty clamp and then pulling off the hose from the lower radiator bib. Once the gush slowed to a trickle, he removed the cap from the overflow bottle. This allowed air into the system and more coolant came out. The coolant up to this point was really nice and green. I'd expected much worse. We poured the coolant into an empty coolant bottle for re-use and then returned to the job of removing hoses. Some of the hose clamps were very rusty. We used a WD-40 product for rust penetration to loosen them up. It worked for all but one which needed to get cut off.

old rusty pump on its way out
With the hoses off, and the coolant stowed away, we moved on to removing the coolant pump. After doing the work, I found a step-by-step on the MG experience forum, but I'll detail what we did... which, of course, wasn't what they had written down. First, we loosened the mounting and tensioner bolts for the alternator. These are 1/2" bolts. We released the tension on the belt and pulled the belt. We noted that the coolant pump shares one of the bolts with the alternator so we pulled both mounting bolts completely and moved the alternator out of the way. Now, we could get after the coolant pump. The pulley is reusable and the four bolts holding it to the pulley loosened by hand. I held the pulley with one hand and a small socket ratchet in the other. I still had the smog pump pulley, so in order of removal they go: bolts, pulley cap, smog pulley, accessory pulley. I set the cap and accessory pulley aside for clean-up. Once the pulleys were off, I could get after the coolant pump, using our 1/2" socket again. We were reminded of gravity as we loosened the last bolt and coolant started to flow from behind the pump. Considering how far we'd gone, this was our first spill.

We set the pump aside and shifted to the thermostat housing. The rust on the studs and the nuts on top was so bad that all three studs spooled out of the head rather than the nut threading off. The gasket was a mess and the thermostat was stuck to the head. Some quick work with a putty knife removed both. Last, I removed the overflow bottle by removing the 2 nuts from inside the passenger-side fender/wing and we were ready to clean some stuff up.

That's it for today's portion of this work. Next time, I'll cover cleaning up various parts, including the inside of the radiator, and re-assembly. Thanks, as always, for following along.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

MGB - fuel tank R, R & R

Today's post covers the Removal, Refresh and Re-install of the fuel tank. The tank was removed for safety concerns while welding in new floor pans. I discovered, though, that there was a tiny leak at the rear and I had concerns about the viability of the fuel level float/sensor.

Standard Safety Precautions
Like any job, block your wheels, put it up on jack stands if you can't work on it while it's on it's wheels. Since you're working with fuel, at the very least make sure your garage doors are open with a fan blowing on your work area or better yet do this job outside. Obviously, don't smoke or have your friends/kids/wife playing with a welder or blow torch while you're doing this. I'm not your mom, so if you choose to slide under your car without eye or face protection, that's entirely up to you. Personally, I like being able to see things like sunsets and my wife's face, so I wear at least safety glasses, if not a full face shield anytime I'm working on a car. Honestly, the number of times I brain myself on my car has me thinking about wearing a hardhat too.

Free Your Lines
Fuel tanks are all very similar: there's a big hose to get fuel in from the pump, a small hose to supply the engine with fuel and there are vents (at least one) on the top that have lines that lead up to the engine (after routing through charcoal or something) for inclusion into the air that the engine uses at combustion time. On fuel-injected vehicles, there is an additional line for a return from the engine. When the engine doesn't require all of the fuel that the system has pressurized, like when you're decelerating, the excess flows down that fuel line back into the tank. So, once you know what you're looking for, you need to remove them from your tank before you remove the tank itself. First, remove the vent lines. these may not be the easiest to get to, but they will definitely NOT have fuel in them, so you shouldn't need a pan. Make note of where the rubber hose came from when you set it aside. You'll want to cut a replacement that's the right diameter and length at install-time.

Now, grab a pan. This is gonna get messy. Hopefully, you knew this day was coming and you already ran the tank to as close to empty as you could before you got to this point. If you have a full tank, this will take a while. Lying under your fuel tank, consider the rubber hose leading out of it. The VW bus was "gravity fed", meaning that the outlet is at the lowest point of the tank. Gravity sent the fuel to the outlet. This is one of the biggest fire hazards in the bus. If the fuel line ruptures, the tank will empty through that outlet right on top of the passenger-side heater box and axle. In the MG, like most cars, the fuel is not gravity fed, rather the fuel is pulled from the tank by a pump. This means that in order to drain the tank you'll need to create suction. I guess you could wire the pump to run the fuel into a pan... Regardless, there is fuel in that supply line, so slide the pan under the connection where the rubber meets the metal line that runs to the front of the car. Remove the rubber line at that connection and allow the fuel to drain out of both the metal line and the rubber line into your pan. There shouldn't be much fuel in either.

trunk underside - before
Now the fun part. We are going to siphon out the fuel with a MityVac. Set your MityVac up so that there is the liquid catch-bottle between the hand-pump (vacuum creator) and the rubber line. Create vacuum until fuel is dripping into the catch bottle and then pinch the rubber line with a pair of pliers. Remove the rubber line from the MityVac catch-bottle, and point it at your catch pan. Hold the end of the rubber line below the lowest point of the tank (and into the pan) and remove the pliers. Fuel should pour from the line into your pan until either your pan overflows or the fuel level in your tank meets the top edge of the outlet inside the tank. Wrap the end of the hose with plastic wrap so it doesn't drip all over you during the drop step. If you have a drain for your tank, slide your pan under the drain and remove the drain plug. These tend to send fuel all over the place when the tank has a lot of fuel in it, so it's best to siphon as much as you can before you open the drain. Ask me how I know :)

Last, remove the filler hose. In the MGB, this was the easiest part. The filler hose runs from the rear next to the passenger tail light through the trunk and into the top of the fuel tank. It is secured with a simple, albeit big, hose clamp.

Before you can drop the tank, disconnect the wires from the fuel level sender. Depending on the car, the fuel level could have both a signal wire and a ground -OR- it may only have a signal wire. This means that the sender gets it's voltage difference basis from a ground through the tank itself. If this is you, consider a means of improving that ground, especially if your fuel level gauge is a little flighty, like mine.

Tank Out
This is the fun, satisfying part. I put my ATV jack under my tank to support it while I removed the nuts and bolts. Since there will inevitably be some fuel left in the tank after siphoning, you don't want that weight bearing on the fasteners, and then have the tank suddenly drop when the last one comes free. Some tanks are held on with a pair of straps. My old Camaro was like that, and many older American cars are too. These come off with a couple of bolts. The MGB tank is held on with nuts/bolts around the outside lip where the top and bottom sections of the tank come together. In total, there were 9 fasteners: four along the one side, 3 along the other, 2 across the rear. I guess the engineers couldn't make up their minds and be consistent. The ones in the rear can be a little tricky to get to. Once out, the rear edge of the tank can get hung up above the bumper so tilt the front down first and slide forward.

Drain, Clean and Dry
Once on the ground, remove the fuel level sensor. On the MG, it is held on with a spin-on ring that lets go after a couple of taps with a hammer. Set the sensor aside for testing, and then drain the remainder of the fuel through either the fill hole or the fuel level sensor hole. Depending on how old the gas was, you may need to recycle what is now in your catch-pan. Mine was relatively fresh so I used it in my lawnmower.

At this point, I refer to my friends at Mac's Radiator. They cleaned, lined and painted the tank for the bus a few years ago, and I want the same treatment for the MGB. For about $300, your original tank is better than new, you don't have to pay oversized shipping, you know it will fit and best of all... its a genuine shipped-with-the-car original part. In the MGB case, you can no longer buy a true original. The aftermarket tanks generally don't have splash baffles (prevents the fuel from sloshing around when you corner), and some don't have vents. They aren't lined (so they may start rusting from the inside) and they are of inferior, thinner steel. Still, I did find one for $170 plus shipping that "are made with corrosion resistant Ni Terne steel to fight of rust and ethanol fuel". This is from a less-than-best distributor here in Oregon (poor return policy), British Parts Northwest, and again, it isn't lined. Part link here. Of course, good work isn't fast, so it will be a couple of weeks of waiting before I have it back, ready to install.

While your tank is at the radiator shop, test the fuel level sender. Rather than re-hash, here is a fantastic article for testing and calibrating the fuel sender and gauge. My float would not give a consistent reading below about 100ohm (or from a half tank to full tank), so it will be replaced.

The parts list is actually longer than I had anticipated. Looking at the picture above, the newer shaped tank is on the right. It bolts up directly under the trunk, so rather than having steel on steel, there are foam "straps" that fit between. There should also be a seal around the edge of the filler neck. Add the fuel-level sender. I also added in a new sender seal and locking ring. Of course, I'll be using all new 5/16" fasteners and rubber lines from the tank to vent and engine fuel-supply. Once assembled, everything related to the fuel tank and supply to the engine will be refreshed.

Placement Prep
trunk underside - after
So, the tank is out and off to the radiator shop. We're waiting for parts. Ugh. I hate the waiting part. To make the most of the delay, I grabbed my face shield, my angle grinder and a wire-wheel attachment and set to clean up the underside of the trunk. Before I got down to it, I shot the surface with Simple Green and a scrub brush. That's all it took. I hosed it off, and it didn't need any additional prep. I could have ground off the undercoating, but there was no need. So, I just shot it with some paint to help it last longer. Even though no one will ever see it, it sure looked pretty when it was done. I did a bunch of clean-up on the trunk floor and the rear bulkhead at this point as well. I'll post on that later, if I remember to.

Tank Prep
When the tank is returned from the radiator shop, it should have a protective coat of paint, but if your shop is anything like Mac's, they highly recommend a thicker, more protective coating. So, sand an edge into their paint, then prime, sand, wipe and paint with a suitable topcoat. Since this is not going to be seen, this doesn't need to be the expensive body paint, but something chip-resistant makes sense, since it will be exposed to the road. Once cured, install the level sender with the new seal, making sure the fuel pick-up tube is pointing toward to bottom of the tank.

If you got the new fastener pack, it includes little clip-on bits that act as an a-fixed nut on the tank for the loose bolts that are placed from the trunk. Be mindful to put the new ones where the old ones were removed. Not all of the mounting holes should have these clips. Some of the connections are with welded-in studs hanging down from the underside of the trunk so if you don't get the clips in the right holes, you won't be able to install. This is one of those "a picture is worth a thousand words" moments. See the blue tape in the picture for reference.

Since the steel tank sits up against a steel trunk floor, the MGB was originally outfitted with foam strips to set between. As you can see by the parts picture above, these foam strips run front to back. They are purchased as a roll and need to be cut-to-fit., It is very possible that you could save a few bucks and get basic home insulation strips at a big box store. The parts vendors assure me that the real deal are gasoline resistant, so the extra few dollars are worth it. Your choice. I bought the real parts since I was getting a bunch of other stuff anyway.

Last, set the foam collar around the fuel filler inlet. This needs to be in-place before the tank is installed.

Tank In
With new fasteners in hand, set the tank back on the ATV jack, roll it under the trunk and raise it close to where it will reside. Remember that the rear-end of the tank tends to hang-up, so tilt the tank so the rear end installs first. There are two studs on either side that are permanently attached to the trunk floor. Use these to center your tank, and lightly finger the nuts on (after the washers, of course). Now, you can drop the 5 loose bolts through the other holes in the trunk, making sure to include the large washers (first one nylon then one steel) between the bolt-head and the trunk floor. These will line-up with the clip-on bit/nut things. In my case, the clip-on nuts on the rear of the tank slipped on install so I had to poke at them with a long screwdriver to get them to line up with the holes. Take care as you tighten things back down, making sure that the foam strips do prevent steel-to-steel contact.

the contrast between new and old
Using new rubber hose, re-connect the tank outlet with the steel fuel-feed line. Then re-connect the return line (if you have one), the vent lines and the big fuel hose. Last, reconnect the fuel level sender wire(s). Make sure you didn't leave anything disconnected, like the drain or one of the fuel-carrying lines. If you haven't looked at the hoses under the hood, now is the perfect time to do it. I found that the hoses near the tank were relatively new (PO replaced the fuel pump), but the lines under the hood were stiff and ready for replacement. After a final once over, put in some fuel, test fire the fuel pump a few times to prime the fuel line and you should be good to go.

That's it for today. I only got after the fuel system because I had to do some welding, but I'm glad I did. Rust hides. If you don't get into the little crevices, you won't see what's growing until it's too late. The top of the tank looked horrible, but once the rust was arrested, the remaining steel was thick enough to last another 40 years. As always, thanks for following along-

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

MGB - master cylinders (Part 3)

Today, we finish up the master cylinders in the MGB. In Part 1, we removed the old ones, complete with the pedal box and pedals. In Part 2, I covered disassembly, parts and re-assembly. Today, we'll get everything back together again. When we left off, the pedal box was put back together with the brake booster on one end and the clutch master cylinder (MC) on the other. The box is hovering over the hole in the engine bay where the pedals dangle into the driver footwell.

Box Seal
wrestling in the pedal box
Once the pedals were over the hole, I loosened the clutch pedal pivot bolt and pulled it partway out, testing for enough play to fit the pedals through the hole as I did. Once the pedals made it through, I pushed the bolt back into place and tightened it down. With some twisting, (and moving the heater hose out of the way), the box dropped into place.

Getting the box in-place is the hard part. Of course, I got my box as far as I described above and then realized that I hadn't gotten my bottom seal in. To get it in, I sent it from below, stretching it around the pedals and then fiddling with it to get it in the right spot to seal. Frankly, I think I was sent the wrong seal (it is square, the hole is not), but it will work well enough.

Bolting the Banjo
brake calipers - before
While you still have freedom of movement, pull the shipping plug from the clutch MC and attach the banjo bolt. If your new clutch MC was like mine, it did not come with a new banjo bolt, fitting or copper washers. You'll need to re-use your old ones. The banjo bolt and fitting clean up with steel wool. Be sure to get all the little steelie bits out/off before you install. I used brake cleaner after polishing. Also, the copper washers need to be annealed for them to make a good seal. To do that, you need to get them red hot: hold with needle-nose pliers and torch with a propane torch. Once cool, and the brake cleaner wiped and dried, assemble the banjo bolt, fitting and copper washers into the rear of the master cylinder. Tighten down with a 1/2". Unlike the banjo bolt nightmare I had with the steering rack on the Jetta, this was cake.

Wrap the end of the clutch hard-line with plumbers tape and thread it into the fitting. Tighten with a brake flare wrench. I was able to use my 12mm from my VW tools.

Box Final Install
Now, you can attach the pedal box to the car. I started by lining up the holes I could see from above, and loosely threading the bolts in, then moving inside the car (on my back) to get the three from the driver foot-well. Last, I did the 2 that thread in from behind the dashboard. Times like these serve as a great reminder to loosely thread in ALL of the bolts before you tighten any. I, of course, continue to need to learn that, so I had to loosen many bolts in order to get those last two in. Then, tighten them all down.

Last, loop the return springs around their respective holes in the pedal shaft and connect the other end to the underside of the dashboard. I've found that the pedals rebound well without these, but I'm sure the engineers wouldn't have put them in if they weren't necessary... so... I put them back.

Finish Clutch Master Cylinder
clutch MC is hard to reach
Box in? check. Pedals tight? check. Clutch MC plumbed? check. Next, we finish off the clutch master cylinder with DOT4 brake fluid. This sounds simple enough: put fluid in the metal can. Because of it's location up against the firewall, nearest the left-side bonnet hinge, getting a jug or even a really tiny bottle, of brake fluid in a place to pour it is virtually impossible. I imagine the bigger shops, or a place where you have a couple extra pairs of hands and some safe part storage, the bonnet is pulled waaay earlier, so it's not as big of a hassle. No matter. We're inventive. I dug through my old bio-diesel stuff and found a 10ml plastic syringe. With is, I was able to draw fluid from the bottle and add to the metal can without getting a single drop anywhere else.

If you use the syringe on a new master cylinder, expect to add at least 40ml. I filled until I could see the top of the fluid near the lip. Then, I put the cap back on, pumped the clutch pedal like mad and repeated. At one point, I figured out that I could move the master cylinder with a spanner through the top of the pedal box, so I didn't need to move around to get the MC primed. After about 5 syringes, the MC started to give good resistance. I moved to the cabin and worked the pedal with my foot, noting that the car moved in and out of gear with the pedal movement. I topped off the fluid, and called it good. A driveway test drive should shake any little bubbles free.

Prepare Brakes
VHT paint drying
Some like painted calipers. Some don't. Since yucky stuff gets onto surfaces, and looks worse when the yuck is on top of something light colored (like battleship gray unpainted steel calipers), I prefer black. Since I had the calipers off to do the front end rebuild (see parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 if you haven't already), they were ready for paint with very little extra work. For anyone else, you need to remove the calipers, disconnect the brake lines, etc. To me, that's just too much work unless you were in there to do a brake job anyway. I pulled the flexible brake line and pads, taped off the bleeder, plugged the brake line hole and scrubbed them with steel wool. The PO had shot them with some red paint that didn't adhere too well, so that needed to have an edge for the new paint to grip. Feeling the difference on the painted versus unpainted was interesting: the unpainted had a grain that gunk was attaching to where the painted side didn't. As a result, the paint, while not too good, still kept junk from caking on there. Food for thought. Anyway, after they were scrubbed, I blew them out with compressed air and them sprayed them down with brake cleaner to get any little bits of steel wool dust off. After they dried, I wiped them down with some mineral spirits, suspended them with bailing wire and shot them with VHT (very high temperature) flat black paint. They fully cure at 200*, but the off-gassing that happens when you bake-cure makes an oven unusable for anything else again. So, I decided I would let them cure through use. I'll just have to remember that they will smell a little bit the first time I drive on them, so I don't freak out.

Sew it Up
Once dry, pull the tape and brake line plug, re-assemble the pads and retainer bits. Thread the flexible brake hose back in, and install the calipers back onto their respective swivels. If you can't remember which is which, consider that the brake bleeder bolt should point up (so the air bubbles can work their way out). Thread the flexible hose into the hard lines and check your wheel movement isn't compromised by the brake lines. I've never had this be an issue, but my experience is limited compared to others, so maybe this is a thing. I figure it's always better to be careful and have all of your surprises be pleasant ones.

a little scrubbing goes a long way
There are a few little mop-up things to do. The pedal box cover needs to be put back on. This takes 1/2" #6 sheet metal screws. I recommend replacing the seal that sits beneath, if yours is original. Or missing. Bleed the brakes with the MityVac. Verify the hand brake works. And last, give it a test drive. I haven't gotten to that last part yet, since I still need to get the fuel tank in. Oh, and I need to do something with the cooling system. I'll get to those here shortly, and post soon after that. I know I'm running against time, if I want to get a drive in before the weather changes to solid rain as it does here in the fall. We usually have until right around Columbus Day, but the clouds we've seen lately lead me to believe that the weather will shift early this year. We'll see.

As always, thanks for following along.