A DIY thread chaser hack

In a slightly unexpected development, I have a new car. Several weeks ago, I stumbled across this Subaru Outback on eBay, and the following Saturday, went to collect it. More on that later, however.

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The car has needed a little bit of work, chief of which was replacing the inner CV joint gaiters. Again, more on that later, but for the time being, it is sufficient to note that this job basically involved taking the whole front end apart. In the process of doing so, one of the control arm mounting studs undid itself from the subframe mounting point (pictured below), due to a seized nut. While not a big problem in an of itself, in the process of coming out, it got slightly twisted and ended up damaging the threads inside the hole. Continue reading “A DIY thread chaser hack”

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Replacing the front lower control arm on an E39

About six weeks ago, we returned from a trouble-free 2200-mile road trip around Europe. Nothing went wrong, nothing broke, nothing happened that should not have happened. However, not 300 miles later, I found myself with this:

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Preparing the E39 for a 2000-mile road trip

Some time ago, when planning holidays for this year, my wife and I decided this was the year we would finally do the family road trip round Europe. We have lived in the United Kingdom for seven years now, and though we’ve visited a number of different places on the continent, we haven’t yet done a full-on road trip. So we marked out a route, picked some dates, and booked a few AirBnBs.

The next step, of course, was to decide on the car. The E39 has served admirably on a number of occasions for family trips, but as I have said far too many times, I’ve been itching for something different. Knowing we would be taking a few smaller trips with my in-laws when they arrived in the summer, I started hunting for a second-generation Volvo V70/XC70, a car that has been on my radar for a while, particularly because of its seven-seat option. However, a couple of months ago, with the search for a seven-seat V70 with the right engine coming to naught, I decided we would just stick with the E39. After all, it has proved its reliability time after time, it’s big and comfortable, and would do the job well.

That said, I knew the car would need a bit of work before it would be ready for a 2000-mile road trip. There were three essential jobs that needed to be done: new front struts, new tyres, and a new water pump. I also wanted to replace the rear differential bushes, rear anti-roll bar bushes, and address a few other minor things. Though the parts ended up totalling more than I had really wanted to put into this car, the work had to be done if it was going to ferry us round Europe safely and comfortably. Continue reading “Preparing the E39 for a 2000-mile road trip”

One of the worst things that can happen to your car

The worst would be wrecking it, of course. But having dealt with a particularly trying malady over the past fourteen months, I would like to suggest that a wet interior ranks pretty high on the ‘stuff you never want to happen to your car’ list.

The autumn after buying my SEAT Leon, I noticed the passenger footwell was very wet. The problem was traced to perished seals, both on the pollen filter housing, and the doors. I made quick work of repairing the seals, but drying out the car is something I’ve been working at now off and on for nearly fourteen months, and has required disassembling significant portions of the interior.

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Flex disc woes

On most rear-wheel drive vehicles, a flex disc, sometimes called a giubo (which, you may be interested to know, is properly pronounced JOO-boh), is fitted where the gearbox and propshaft flanges meet. Flex discs are designed to help smooth out the transfer of torque between the gearbox and the rear wheels. You can see it in place on my E39 below, with the gearbox crossmember removed, which you need out of the way in order to access the flex disc.

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The photo below shows the old flex disc from my car on the left, and the new one on the right. Now, if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you will know that I replaced this last March. So why am I doing it again now, and more importantly, why is the old one so distressed already? Continue reading “Flex disc woes”

One clear example of why low mileage cars are not a good idea

‘Low mileage!’ A phrase that often adorns used car advertisements with inflated prices. Cars with low mileage are regularly lauded as if this was the single feature that guarantees you a higher quality, more reliable vehicle. The truth may very well be the opposite, however.

The simple fact is that cars are meant to be driven. When they are not, things wear out prematurely. All those moving parts on your car are meant to be moving, and when they don’t, they are more prone to fail. Grease dries up, oil stops flowing properly, and rubber cracks. Continue reading “One clear example of why low mileage cars are not a good idea”

Improving performance by cleaning and re-crimping electrical connections

A few weeks ago, I replaced the seals on the VANOS unit on my E39. Replacing the seals is supposed to restore low-end power and response, increase fuel economy, and help the car idle better. I can’t say I have noticed any dramatic improvement in how the car runs since doing the job. Granted, my seals were only partially worn, but in the 500 miles I’ve driven in the past few weeks, the only noticeable change has been a slightly smoother idle when cold. Continue reading “Improving performance by cleaning and re-crimping electrical connections”

Repairing the VANOS seals on BMW’s M52TU/M54/M56 engines

Since 1992, BMW has used a variable valve timing unit, called VANOS (an abbreviation for the German, variable Nockenwellensteuerung), which advances or retards the timing based on readings from the ECU in order to optimise performance. Initially, a single VANOS setup adjusted only the intake timing, but BMW introduced a double VANOS setup in 1996 to adjust both intake and exhaust timing. The unit sits at the front of the cylinder head, and the readings from the ECU send a signal to the VANOS solenoid, which then adjusts oil pressure to operate two pistons inside the unit. The pistons in turn adjust the timing by advancing or retarding the camshafts. Continue reading “Repairing the VANOS seals on BMW’s M52TU/M54/M56 engines”

SEAT Leon (Mk1) front suspension overhaul

Next to your engine and gearbox, maintaining your suspension is one of the best things you can do for your car. The suspension is both what keeps you connected to the road, and what absorbs all the road’s imperfections, and in a bad state of repair, it will hurt your fuel economy, decrease the lifespan of your tyres, and adversely affect your car’s ride and handling, not to mention make your car less safe to operate.

Thankfully, rebuilding a suspension on many cars is not a terribly expensive or exceedingly difficult undertaking, and doing so can make a tired old car feel much newer again. It is also a job that can quite often be done an average DIY-er.

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