Through your emails and feedback it’s become very obvious that your local KwikFit Fitter is about as much use as a set of metric Torx Bits when it comes to even basic servicing of a 1950’s car. Trouble is, unlike 1965 when I had my first car, all the neighbours have a company Cavalier and not a clue about points and plugs either. There’s no-one to turn to. I hear the same story a couple of times a week. “I’ve had the car in Halford’s and they replaced this and that and it’s no better. What do you think is wrong?”
A Regional Directory of word-of-mouth approved back-street garages would be the answer and perhaps we should, at some stage, work towards that. Not a lot of help when the starter motor won’t turn or the car coughs to a standstill after a few miles every day. Perhaps, since we are into Winter, a few get-you-home tips and perhaps we might get some feedback on simple problems that the franchised dealers can’t fix and I’ll print the solutions here with instructions to print out and take in with the car!! Starter won’t turn. Chances are your battery is flat, there is corrosion on the terminals or on the cables between battery and starter. To get you home, dig out the handle, open the bonnet and insert the handle in the hole in the bumper until it engages in the dog at the front of the engine. Turn the ignition on, set the choke if you have a cold engine and make sure it’s out of gear. Turn the handle clockwise gently until it’s at the bottom and then pull quickly upwards. You may need to do this several times. Starter turns but engine doesn’t fire. If everything is cold and damp it’s probably ignition. Wiping the inside of the distributor cap with a dry towel has been known to work. Wipe the outsides of the HT leads too, the large black wires in the left of the engine. Have someone else spin the engine on the starter, you can often see an HT leak as a spark along the leads. If everything is hot it’ll be petrol.
Leave the ignition switched on and listen for the petrol pump ticking. No tick? Thump it with the wooden handle of a hammer or big screwdriver until it ticks several times in succession. Engine runs but cuts out or misfires after a few miles. Could be lots of things but most likely a worn float chamber valve. Not an easy thing to replace by the roadside even if you carry a spare. Revving the engine helps clear away the excess fuel and might get you a few miles before it happens again. [February newsletter will carry step by step instructions to replace the valve.] Puncture. One wheel nut is too tight and you can’t shift it. If all you have is a silly L-shaped wrench, “borrow” a piece of wood from the nearest fence and use it as a lever across the wrench. Grease the nuts tomorrow. Carry an “instant” puncture repair aerosol and drive home slowly. Fan belt snapped. So be a hero and repair it with your wife’s tights! Be prepared for them melting after a mile or so. A short piece of tow rope is better, especially the sort that splices into itself. Wrap it around the water pump and crankshaft pulleys only and make it home on sidelights without the dynamo. Make a note to carry a spare. No lights. Probably a blown fuse. The headlight fuse is separate from the fuse box in the loom just below and this is usually the cause though god knows why. There should be a spare in the fuse box itself, end on and facing you. Use that and replace it tomorrow. Split water hose. Empty the system completely to get rid of any anti freeze. Repair the split with PVC tape, bandages, torn rags, anything. Refill with plain water from the nearest farmhouse and leave off the radiator cap. This should see you for quite a few miles, but I hope you thought to fill an old pop bottle and carry that along too! As usual,