Winter Minor foibles

t’s not over yet! I was called out the other night to a Moggie that wouldn’t start. Winter Blues. It was very frosty, I suspected a flat battery and very little else. I packed the jump leads because my back won’t swing a handle these days and took the every day car so the 56 amp alternator would charge it in no time.

Sure enough, the beast wouldn’t start. The battery had had it, the owner told me. He’d been using the handle for weeks but this time she just wouldn’t go. No kick, no nothing. I looked at the ignition light and it looked healthy enough but while I was there I noticed there was no ticking of the fuel pump. I opened the bonnet.

There was a veritable cauliflower of growth – something like the crystal gardens we used to grow in glass bottles as kids, blue and green and white, all over the battery terminals, the steady bar, the J-bolts, the battery compartment, the earth stud – and most important of all, the mounting bracket for the petrol pump and the pump itself. Under torchlight it looked scary. Like Topsy.

Oh! Said the owner.

We carefully prised off the metalwork without allowing crystals to fall all over the engine compartment and into a plastic bag. The battery went onto the garage floor and had several kettles of boiling water poured all over it. Likewise the petrol pump. Then all went back to my place for a revamp.

The metalwork was scraped with a wallpaper scraper and then into the washing up bowl full of very hot water. This takes off the worst of the crystals. A little Fairy liquid helps it to get under any paint that might be left behind. All the nuts and bolts and battery connections. Thoroughly scrub with the washing up brush and leave to dry on the draining board.

{My proof reader is quite horrified by this! He says it’s because he’s a married man which I don’t understand but he’s absolutely made me take out the bit about the tea towel!]

Anyway, once all this is dry it can be red-leaded thickly with a brush. I have hot air central heating and it’s quite quick. Hammerite and the like doesn’t repel any further attacks but there’s a product called Aciderm made by Crosby Coatings whose telephone number is well out of date. If anyone knows of them please e-mail the site.

Paint the lot and re-assemble. In my case, the acid had eaten too far into the petrol pump and we had to fit a new one. The problem at the end of the day was that the battery had been well over filled, the car used on short journeys and left to stand long periods between, The control box was set too high. One thing leads to another and my new acquaintance had a hell of a problem.

Nuts and bolts and unpaintable bits should be smeared with Vaseline or anti corrosive gel, available from It’s a small tube but goes a long way. It’s an endless task especially in damp winter weather.

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