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.

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