Battery Charging

Apologies to readers who can strip a gearbox, replace the layshaft bearings and uprate the Sun gears and synchromesh cones in forty five minutes, and without pin punches, but it seems there are Morris Minor Owners who are very new to their cars, having swapped from Volvo Amazons and the like and have had a really rough ride with their local Kwik Fit Fitter. Really, it¡¦s silly. There are so many Morris Minors you would wonder why Kwik Fit Fitters hadn¡¦t written a computer program for the car!!!!!!

Gone are the days when the bloke next door and him over the road fixed their cars on a Sunday morning. Today, everyone has a company Mondeo and finding someone who knows how jump leads work is another thing. The car goes into the local dealer and a hire car hired at the first sign of the top speed dropping below ninety. My gripes over. Batteries go flat. It¡¦s a fact of life. The colder the weather, the less the voltage and so the higher the current to make things work. If you only do short trips then the battery will not charge with a dynamo. This is a fact of life that would have been well known thirty years ago. So before you blame your battery for being flat, have a little think about your driving habits.

Having said all that, a battery will only last three winters. When did you last buy one? To charge the battery in the kitchen or in the garage, you¡¦ll have to disconnect it. The battery is the square lump at waist level at the back of the engine compartment. It¡¦s held in with a bar of bent steel and two J bolts. Two thick wires come away from the terminals, one each side. The one on the right as you¡¦re looking at it is connected to the car body and is usually a short wire lead. This is the first one to attack. Where it attaches to the battery, there will either be a bolt fixing or a big lead cap with a screw in the top. Undo the screw or undo the nut with a thirteen or fourteen mm spanner and prize the terminal from the battery gently. If it struggles to come off use a blunt screwdriver as a lever underneath and twist the lead or brass terminal. Note whether the terminals are at the front or the back of the battery. Do the same with the other side now. If you only have metric spanners then the J bolts will come undone with a 10mm like-as-not. Undo the nuts only enough for the bar to fall down. Lift the battery out. It might be wise now to remove any old leaves or debris from the battery tray once the battery is out. In the Spring you can repeat this whole operation and paint the battery to try to prevent corrosion.

Your battery charger may have a switch for 6V/12V, make sure it¡¦s set to 12V. Connect the read lead and crocodile clip to the lead battery terminal marked + and the black to – [neg], any lights on the charger should now be lit, plug in the charger and switch on. If you have an ammeter display on the charger, the needle should have moved as you switch on. Charging should be an overnight thing. If it¡¦s early evening, give the charger a few hours, switch off for an hour and then switch on again. If there is a trickle/boost setting, set it to trickle. Make sure the battery is sitting on a few old newspapers in case of acid spillage. Don¡¦t stand over it with a cigarette, the battery emits hydrogen while it¡¦s charging and while there isn¡¦t a lot of it, it can go pop spectacularly. One small note, if you are doing this regularly you¡¦ll need to check the cells for electrolyte [Acid}. Some cells have individual caps you can screw off with a tuppence and others have a long cap that needs to be prized off with an old table knife or similar. The two end cells dry first and if you can see the lead plates above the water then add tap water if it¡¦s an old battery or ionised water from the steam iron or melted from the freezer if it¡¦s a new battery. Just fill until the level covers the plates, no more.

Refitting is a reversal. Make sure it¡¦s a nice snug fit before tightening the bar and fit the other lead, not the earth to the body first. Fire up and away. Coat everything in vaseline if you can, to stop corrosion. Remember, anything you would like to know is only an email away To Freeze or not to freeze¡K¡K.. I don¡¦t know about anyone else but I¡¦ve had a lot of fun this year with the weather, freezing one minute and quite mild the next. It¡¦s been a funny year for frosts, fogs and winds from the south east that bit in to every spanner you picked up. I thought everyone put antifreeze in the radiator in October or November, but I was very mistaken. Modern cars need antifreeze the whole year round because it¡¦s anti-boil as well and the system runs at high pressures that were unheard of in old cars. The antifreeze stops you boiling in traffic jams on the way to Cornwall in July, believe it or not. It also inhibits corrosion which you need with modern aluminium heads and water pumps. It¡¦s not a lubricant though, as the manuals tell you. I wrote an article much like this last year, the subject is so easy. But then not everyone reads this newsletter, more¡¦s the pity.

The girl with the metro should have read it. The temperatures dipped dramatically one night and only the lack of water saved her engine block. The lower hose split so beautifully along its length you¡¦d think there was a Stanley knife involved. But then she didn¡¦t hear the hissing, never noticed the temperature gauge and couldn¡¦t smell anything either because of the Chanel Number 5 or whatever it was. She ground to a halt. In the moggy, well looked after and water topped up regularly [isn¡¦t it?] the damage would be a lot worse and I¡¦m not talking just core plugs. My uncle who should have known better once left his Thames Van parked outside when it should have been in the garage and where he would have remembered to drain the water. [You could do that with the Thames and it was common practise with the old side-valve Fords!] Instead he went to the pub and stayed longer and drank more than he intended. In the morning there was an icicle clinging to the inside of the radiator. The ice had split the core nicely and the leaking water formed the icicle. It¡¦s so easy to drain some water off. There¡¦s a tap on the block under the manifold and usually another under the radiator. Drain off what looks like three pints and fill up with neat antifreeze. Two pints would do in these UK winters, three would take you to the edges of the arctic circle. With the Moggy you can¡¦t drain the whole system like the old Fords. The heater rad stays full. There used to be an optional extra of a leatherette muff for the radiator but few people bought them. The wind chill factor being what it is in modern driving at speed down the salted trunk roads, it¡¦s an idea to use a fertiliser bag and slide it in between the radiator and the grill. That helps the engine warm up quicker and keep your toes warm. If you get stuck in a snow drift with idiots in front who don¡¦t know how to drive then you simple jump out and whip out the bag to stop you over heating. The old AA advice from the fifties still holds good with one or two reservations and additions. Keep a blanket in the car, a rug or an extra anorak, just in case you get stuck. Keep a shovel in the boot. Keep a flask of brandy, sorry coffee, in the glove box. A large bar of chocolate comes in handy as does a supply of Rock and Roll CD¡¦s to help you move to stop frostbite!! If you do get stuck, a mobile phone is the best accessory. At least you can order a pizza!

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