Minor Brake failure

Tech tip for this month – The Mystical Case of Brake Failure.

Most of us run a VW, an Audi, a Vauxhall or BMW as well as a moggie. Some of the more unfortunate among us run Fords! Service interval 60,000 miles, courtesy car and check the tyre pressures one Sunday morning just before you belt down the motorway on holiday. The dealer gets the car once a year, plugs it into the computer, changes the plugs and the air filter and charges you £300.00. Know the story? Way back in the 1950`s and 60`s when our moggies were built, life was a little different. Everyone washed his car on a Sunday morning and while it was drying, he opened the bonnet and went through the weekly checks. Oil, Water, Tyre Pressures, Brake Fluid, Lamps. Along with re-gapping the points and greasing the nipples once a month, the owner driver more-or-less did his own servicing and it had to be regular and often. The first service interval would be 100 miles, oil change and filter. The next service was 1000 miles, the next 3000 miles. In between you did your weekly checks.

How we forget! In those days it was common and a must. Now, it’s unknown. But the car hasn’t changed. It still needs its weekly checks to make sure everything is A-OK. And the case of the girl with the 1963 convertible……lost her brakes going down a long slow hill…..Managed to stop on the handbrake and called the AA who towed her home. Hubby hadn’t checked a thing in five years. FIVE YEARS!! Passed its MOT every year, where was the problem? The problem was that the master cylinder was dry. Bone dry. Nearside rear brake cylinder was leaking very gently. Had someone checked the fluid regularly it would have been spotted before it became something of an emergency. Okay, so now he checks everything weekly. It cost him a set of brake shoes on top of the new cylinder and a new pipe because the old one wouldn’t come out. The pipe should have failed an MOT anyway but it was well gunged up so the tester probably didn’t spot the rust. When we got to the other end of the pipe we found a split in the flexi too. But that’s another story………

1. For a car in regular use at least a couple of journeys a week, regular Sunday morning checks should include: – Tyres. It’s easier to spot wear on a particular place early if you do this
every week. A bent steering component would alter the tracking and wear would be on the outside edge or inside edge of one or both tyres. Evidence is “feathering”. The edge of the patterns rises to a “feather”. 2. Brake Fluid. The master is under the driver’s toes. Unscrew the cap and just have a look. It should be just half an inch or so below the filler neck if the
brakes are adjusted properly. If it goes down, adjust the brakes up and check again. Still down? Suspect a leak at a wheel cylinder.

3. Water. Or should that be water and antifreeze? Check the level. Water normally finds its own happy level and this varies from car to car. If it’s above the internal fins in the radiator
leave it alone. If you really need to top it up, use a mixture of antifreeze and water made up in an old pop bottle.

4. Oil. The A-series engine unlike modern lumps was designed to use oil. The amount varies from engine to engine but half a pint over 500 miles is not undue cause for concern. Top it up. When the colour becomes anything darker than caramel, consider changing it and the filter.

5. Dashpot oil. The black plastic or brass knurled nut on the top of the carburettor unscrews to reveal a plunger. If you remove it and then pop it back there should be some resistance
and you need to force it back. If not, top up with 3in1 oil or similar, about a teaspoonful or two.

6. Battery. Check the electrolyte levels. The liquid should be above the plates. Remove the battery and wipe with an old cloth, smear the terminals with Vaseline, very lightly, The negative end of the battery will most likely need topping up regularly. Here you can use water defrosted from the freezer or a bottle of de-ionised from the corner carparts shop or, if it isn’t a new battery, from the tap. Wipe the tray and remove leaves and debris.

7. Washer bottle. Enough said. It’s not in the Haynes manual but then washer bottles hadn’t been invented in the fifties. Unblock that nozzle on the bonnet that you’ve been meaning to see to for three weeks too!!

8. Lights. Just make sure they all work and replace the bulb, scrape the rust, as necessary. Reminds me, my interior light………

Next checks at 1000 miles…………

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