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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The front suspension on my 2002 SEAT Leon Cupra has been in need of a refresh for a while, and last week I finally got around to tackling the job. This post details the process. As the Mk1 Leon sits on the Volkswagen Group A4 platform, I believe the process will be the same (or very similar) for a Mk4 VW Golf, Mk1 Audi A3 and TT, and Mk1 Škoda Octavia. I apologise in advance for the quality of some of the photos – I was working in the evening as light was fading.

Disassembly

Notice the setup of the Leon’s front suspension. A lower control arm mounts in two places to the subframe, and to the bottom of the hub with a ball joint. Connecting the steering rack to the hub is a tie rod, and an anti-roll bar link connects the bar to the lower control arm. On the whole, it’s quite a simple arrangement.

The first step is to get everything loose. Begin with the 18mm bolts connecting the control arm to the subframe.

Next, remove the anti-roll bar link by removing the 16mm fasteners.

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Following this, remove the tie rod end from the hub. The 19mm nut may spin off, but more than likely, particularly if the ball joint is worn, it will spin the ball joint as well. In my case, it was necessary to remove the boot, and firmly fix a pair of vice grips on the ball joint shaft in order to remove the nut.

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However, before you actually remove the tie rod end from the hub, you will want to loosen the lower ball joint nut. If you wait until you’ve removed the tie rod end, the hub will start to move, making it difficult to loosen the ball joint nut. Just back it off to the point where you can spin it by hand, as you won’t be able to fully remove it with the CV joint in place.

Next, remove the three 13mm lower ball joint mounting bolts from the lower control arm, and pry the control arm away from the ball joint mount. This is not a necessary step, but it makes it a bit easier to remove the control arm if the ball joint is no longer attached.

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At this point, on the other side of the car, the ball joint simply dropped out, but on this side it required the use of a ball joint fork to extract it from the hub. You’re not going to be saving any of the pieces, so do whatever it takes to get that old ball joint out. I had to pound on this one quite a bit to break it free.

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Once the ball joint is broken free, simply remove the lower control arm. In most cases, you should be able to do this by hand, but a few taps with your rubber mallet won’t hurt if you find it’s stuck in the subframe mounts. Then spin the ball joint nut off all the way and remove the ball joint.

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You can see here that the bush is worn out and cracked. It’s not the worst I’ve seen, but new bushes will certainly help firm things up. Some people choose to keep the control arms and merely replace the bushes, which can be done, but the cost of buying a new control arm is so minimal, that in my opinion, it’s not worth the effort.

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The final step in the disassembly process is to remove the inner tie rod from the steering rack. Removing the boot is one of the most difficult parts of this job, simply because of lack of space. I took a long, flathead screwdriver and eventually managed to pry the clip free, but you’ll need some patience here. Once it’s off, take a 34mm spanner to the tie rod, and it will spin off quite easily.

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Reassembly

Now that everything is out of the way, you can begin to reassemble the front suspension. Begin with the inner tie rod, and screw the new piece into the steering rack. Once it’s hand tight, finish tightening it with the 34mm spanner. Don’t overdo it – once it is seated, just give it a turn with the spanner to set it firmly in place. Replace the tie rod boot, and then spin on the new tie rod end. Don’t attach it to the hub at this point.

Then you can set the new lower control arm in place. You will need to use a rubber mallet to tap it into the subframe mounts, but it will slide into place quite easily. Do not worry about aligning the holes perfectly just yet.

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Push the new lower ball joint into the hub, and tighten the nut. The control arm I purchased already had the ball joint attached, but if yours doesn’t, make sure you fit the two pieces together before you place the assembly in the car. Interestingly, despite the fact it was easier to remove it separated, it’s much easier to refit it together.

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Pay close attention to what kind of nut comes with your kit. Notice here that the new nut has a rubber ring inside of it, which is meant to act as a kind of lock. Normally, nuts like this fit onto a bolt with an opening at the end for a 5mm allen key, which holds it in place as you tighten the nut. However, it would be impossible to use this nut here, because as you can see, there is no room to use the allen key with the CV joint where it is. The result would be that the nut would grip the bolt and start spinning the ball joint, meaning you couldn’t tighten it properly. In my case, the best solution was to re-use the old nut. Some people will tell you that is heresy, but you can figure on adding a few hours to this job to remove the CV joint if you want to make room to use the new nut. Given that the nut is only torqued to 33lb.-ft., it won’t have been under a lot of stress previously, so in my view, it’s not worth the effort to use the replacement.

With the ball joint in place, use a punch or screwdriver to align the holes on the subframe mounts, and refasten the bolts. Then reattach the anti-roll bar link.

The final step is to finish fitting the new tie rod. So that your car is not wildly out of alignment, you’re going to want to take some measurements first. Using a micrometer, take the old tie rod and measure from the start of the threads on the inner tie rod to the point the locking nut sat. As you can see, I did this after removing everything from the car – it is probably easier and slightly more accurate to do it whilst the old assembly is still in place. Take that measurement and carry it over to the new tie rod, spinning the tie rod end on until it reaches your measurement. Then reattach the tie rod to the hub.

Once you’ve done that, torque everything down. The only fasteners that you won’t be able to properly torque are the ball joint nut and the inner tie rod to steering rack, unless you have a torque spanner. Here are the torque specs:

Front subframe mount: 74lb.-ft. + 1/4 turn
Rear subframe mount: 52lb.-ft. + 1/4 turn
Anti-roll bar link: 33lb.-ft.
Ball joint: 33lb.-ft.
Tie rod end: 33lb.-ft.

With this, the job is complete, and your suspension is fully refreshed and reassembled. The only thing left to do is to have the car aligned. After this, you should notice it riding and handling much better again.

Here are some photos of the front end after reassembly.

Rebuilding the front suspension on the Leon (and related A4-platform vehicles) is a simple task. As you can see above, there are not many parts involved, and the whole job can be done with basic hand tools.

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How to cripple your engine in one simple step

Vacuum leaks can be notoriously difficult to diagnose, as they can range from small cracks in a hose or intake pipe, to a clogged crankcase vent system, to an improperly sealed oil filler cap. This is largely the reason I have ignored my E39’s minor leak, because diagnosing it would mean removing the whole air intake system to check everything over. Plus, barring an occasional stumble at idle, the car seemed to run fine. However, last week, when it started tripping the check engine light and logging fuel trim codes, I decided it was time to sort it out.

The repair was simple – I had a small crack in one of the crankcase vent tubes, as well as in the air intake pipe. In the spirit of bangernomics, rather than buying new stuff, I simply used a bit of sealer and taped everything up; with such minor cracks, it really is not necessary to replace things at this point. While I had everything apart, I also gave the throttle body a good polishing.

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On Saturday morning, I got in the car to set out for a drive, but as I pulled out onto the road, I noticed the car had no power. It just wouldn’t go, and when I put my foot down and it completely bogged. Turning around, I parked in the driveway and hooked up my diagnostic tool, which pulled a code for the inlet camshaft position sensor (code P0340, if you’re interested). At this point, I was so frustrated that I slammed the bonnet shut and headed out in the Leon.

When I opened the bonnet this morning again to look for the part I was going to need to buy, I noticed this.

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Yes, that’s right. I forgot to plug the sensor back in when I was reconnecting everything.

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With a mixture of embarrassment and relief, I reconnected the sensor, started the car, let it run for a bit, and then took a short drive up and down the main road. The car runs fine now, and all the codes are cleared.

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There are two things to take away here. First, it is quite something that one little sensor can completely cripple a car. This particular sensor sends readings about camshaft positioning and timing to the ECU, which then uses that data to calibrate everything else, like timing and fuel injection settings, accordingly. Given its role, I am surprised the engine even ran at all. Second, when you do a job like this, double-check that you’ve reconnected everything!

Hey, we all make mistakes.

Restoring hazed and oxidised headlights

Last month I replaced the aftermarket headlights on my E39 with OEM units. Since I had purchased these used, they had some of the usual hazing and oxidation on the lenses.

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So, arming myself with this excellent tutorial, some sandpaper, and a spray can of clear coat, I removed the headlights from the car – a very easy thing to do on the E39’s – and set to work.

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Wet-sanding and clear coating is said to be the definitive way to restore headlights, and to prevent future hazing and oxidation. If that’s true, I am very happy, because it took me no more than 30 minutes per headlight to achieve what you see below. After wet-sanding and clear coating, I set them aside to dry overnight.

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The tutorial recommends wet-sanding them a final time with 3000 grit to remove the orange peel, but I didn’t have any of that in my toolbox. Instead, I used a couple doses of AutoGlym’s Super Resin Polish, before coating them with a good layer of carnauba wax.

I’m really pleased with the results. Up close, you can can still see a bit of orange peel, but they really sharpen up the look of the car. For an hour’s work, I can’t complain at all.

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Overhauling the rear suspension on an E39 saloon

There is no definitive answer for how long a suspension component should last, but when your car regularly deals with rough roads, road salt, and other stressors, it is no surprise to find parts beginning to wear out around 50,000 miles. I bought my E39 in the autumn of 2015 with 54,000 miles on the clock, and it needed new tie rods up front. Since I had it apart, I also did the traction arms, control arms, and anti-roll bar links at the same time. A couple of months ago, at 68,000 miles, I replaced one of the rear strut and coil assemblies, and noticed at that point a split boot on the rear control arm. A creaking sound from the nearside rear also indicated a bad ball joint, which you can see below.

So, as I still needed to replace the other strut and coil assembly, I set out to install new controls arms, ball joints, and anti-roll bar links in the rear as well. This post details that process. (Note: These instructions apply to the E39 saloon. The setup is slightly different for estate models.)

Here you can see, first, the setup of the nearside rear suspension. The two control arms mount to the subframe, and attach to the top of the wheel hub. An integral link connects the hub to the control arm, with a ball joint at one end pressed into the hub. In the second photo, it is the control arm on the right that has the damaged boot.

Beginning with the car on the ground, measure the distance from the wheel centre to the top of the wheel arch. On my car, this was about 14 inches. Take note of this measurement, as you will need it later on. Then raise the car and remove the wheels.

The suspension overhaul begins by disconnecting the strut from the hub. This is attached with a 21mm bolt, and it will be extremely tight. Use lots of patience, and a long-handled ratchet with an angled head or a flex joint. Once it is loose, push the strut back out of its mount. Do so carefully, as the whole hub assembly will move up once the strut is loose.

Next remove the long bolt that passes through the lower control arm, integral link and ball joint. Get a good breaker bar for this one – the 24mm nut is tightened down to nearly 200lb.-ft. Once it’s off, tap out the bolt, and lift the hub assembly up to rest on the lower control arm.

Next, remove the integral link, which is attached to the hub with an 18mm bolt.

Now it is time to remove the ball joint. This will probably be the most difficult part of the job because it is pressed in, and given its exposure to road salt and the elements, things will feel like they’re welded together. Clamp the hub and lower control arm together with a pair of vice grips. Then, using a chisel, begin to pry the snap ring away from the hub. You’ll need a lot of patience here as the ring rusts to the carrier, but if you start at the opening and slowly work your way around, it will eventually come free.

Once the snap ring is off, remove the rubber boots from both sides of the ball joint, and then you can press the ball joint out. Owing to the unique design of these ball joints, you will need a special tool to remove them. These can be quite expensive, but I found one on eBay for £25 (if you check the forums, you will also find some DIY solutions that involve big C-clamps). As you can see in the photo below, it uses two cups, one to push, and one to receive the ball joint. The offside ball joint popped out easily, but the nearside required lots of 3-in-1, and me throwing all my weight onto a breaker bar. But in the end, it came out cleanly. After you remove the ball joint, use a wire wheel attachment with your drill to clean out the carrier in preparation for the new ball joint.

Now you can remove the upper control arms from the subframe. First, mark the position of the bolt on the control arm that sits towards the front. This is the toe adjustment for the rear-wheel alignment, so you need to ensure this remains as close as possible to the original position. Then remove the bolts from both control arms. Removing the 16mm nut from the toe adjuster bolt is not easy, as it’s in a very tight space. If, like me, you don’t have long-handled spanners, hook another spanner on the end of your 16mm spanner to get leverage to remove the nut. The other control arm uses an 18mm fastener.

Now you can remove the control arms from the hub. Should you be blessed with extraordinary patience, you can try and remove the 21mm and 17mm nuts that are inevitably welded to the hub. Even if you do manage to break the nuts loose, the ball joint inside the arm will spin with them, so I recommend just cutting them off with an angle grinder. I have marked below where I cut – on the front arm, right up against the hub, and on the rear arm, next to the washer that sits between the nut and hub. Go ahead and cut the anti-roll bar links off at the same time. I had the benefit of having the strut and coil assembly out at this point; if you don’t, it will take some careful angling with the grinder to get at the lower anti-roll bar link mount.

Make sure you place a brick or some other sort of support underneath the hub at this point to avoid pulling on the CV joint and the brake line. Now that everything is removed, reassembly can begin.

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Begin with the anti-roll bar links, and then attach the new control arms to the hub. You could attach them to the subframe first, but this makes it more difficult to move the ball joint ends into position.

Next, resting the hub on the lower control arm again, press the new ball joint into place, and fit the new snap ring. Getting the snap ring on takes patience, but work it around carefully with a flathead screwdriver, mindful of the rubber boot, and it will seat properly.

Fit the new integral link, and fasten the upper bolt to the hub. Then lift the whole hub assembly and carefully slide it between the two ends of the lower control arm, as the ball joint boot will tear easily if it gets caught on the control arm. Once it’s in place, reinsert the long through bolt.

Reattach the upper control arms to the subframe. Then push down on the hub assembly and refit the strut.

Finally, preload the hub by putting a jack underneath and raising it normal ride height, using the measurement you took earlier. Then begin to torque everything down, using the following torque specifications:

Anti-roll bar links: 47lb.-ft.
Lower strut mount: 94 lb.-ft.
Toe-adjustment arm: 44lb.-ft. (subframe), 48lb.-ft. (hub)
Other upper control arm: 81lb.-ft. (subframe), 105lb.-ft. (hub)
Integral link to hub: 77lb.-ft.
Lower control arm through bolt: 188lb.-ft.

There is a problem here, though. Unfortunately, even with those specifications in hand, you will immediately realise that you can only get a torque wrench on some of the fasteners. I believe you can buy torque spanners, but I don’t have any, and so in the end, simply had to rely on feel when tightening a few of the fasteners. It’s not ideal, of course, but it was the best I could do with what I had.

Generally, replacing these parts means the geometry of the rear suspension will have shifted, and an alignment will be needed. The easiest way to do this, of course, is to bring it your local garage, but if you’re feeling brave, you can also do it at home with guides like this. The only thing I briefly checked after putting the wheels back on was the toe, by placing a straightedge across both wheels and measuring at the front and rear. To my delight, the measurements were exactly the same, indicating the wheels still point straight, and meaning it will probably only need minor adjustment.

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Overall, save for the difficult ball joint, a suspension overhaul on this car is not a very difficult process. Basic hand tools are all you need to accomplish the work, and parts are reasonably priced. Set aside a few hours for each side, and you will once again have an E39 that drives and rides as it should.

Lighting the road like it’s 1999

I bought my E39 for a variety of different reasons, but its headlamps were not one of them. The previous owner had fitted some imitation ‘angel eyes’ that he found on eBay, which, while providing good light, did not look very nice. It was particularly when looking at them from the side that you noticed how cheap they looked (despite costing about the same as a proper facelift set).

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For quite a while, I left them alone. After all, they worked, they passed MOT, and I couldn’t find an OEM set for under £200. If I was going to replace the lights, it would have to be done cheaply. Patience was rewarded, however – a few months ago, I found a pre-facelift set off a breaking E39 for £50. They needed to be rebuilt, as they were missing a couple seals and the adjusters were broken (a typical problem on the E39), but they were complete and clean. A few quid for new adjusters, a helpful tutorial from YouTube, and a quiet Friday night in front of the TV, and I was in business.

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As this wasn’t really something essential, it has very much been an on-and-off project, but last night I finally installed them. So it was out the old…

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…and in with the new (old?).

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Without a doubt, there is no modification I have made to the car that has made me more happy than this. It looks so much better than it did before. I’m a big fan of originality, and it’s nice to see the car looking as it would have looked when it rolled off the line in 1999 (with 2017-quality bulbs, of course). The only thing left to do is remove a little bit of hazing from the lenses, and they will be perfect.

Rebuilding a propshaft on a BMW E39

In my previous post, I mentioned that I wouldn’t be doing any more work on the E39 until after Easter. I really shouldn’t say things like that, because yesterday I found myself underneath the car again.

Very soon after I bought the car, I became aware that the centre support bearing on the propshaft was on its way out. The initial clue was an occasional pinging (metal to metal) sound when I set off from a stop. It wasn’t something that needed to be done right at that point, though, as there were no other symptoms and everything was smooth. But in recent months, the pinging has gotten worse (it has been doing it all the way up through third gear), and I noticed increasing slack in the driveline and some minor vibration, particularly at higher speeds. A day off had been marked in my diary, so I decided it was time to rebuild the propshaft.

This post won’t be as detailed as the last, because I was on a schedule and didn’t take as many photos, but if you want to know the procedure I used, you can view it here (propshaft removal) and here (propshaft rebuild).

To access the propshaft, you need to drop the exhaust. You don’t need to fully remove it, but instead just disconnect the hangers and it will give you sufficient access (you’re guaranteed to break the bolts connecting the exhaust manifolds to the down pipe anyway). There is one by the back box, one just in front of the offside rear suspension, and then a bracket in the middle of the car. Once you’ve lowered that, with the gearbox in gear and the handbrake set, loosen the bolt holding the two parts of the propshaft together, and remove the fasteners connecting the gearbox flange to the propshaft and the rear CV joint to the differential. Then disconnect the centre support bearing, and pull the propshaft out.

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You can see below the two main causes of the problems in the driveline. The flex disc is cracking, and the centre support bearing is very loose.

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Once the propshaft is out, the rest of the job is simple. Mark the two sides of the prop shaft carefully, because it needs to go back together exactly as it came part so that it remains balanced. Then separate the two pieces, cut away the rubber bit around the centre support bearing, and use a puller to remove the bearing itself.

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Then install the new bearing. You don’t need to press it on, as it will get pressed into place when you reconnect the two pieces of the propshaft.

You can see here that the centring bushing that fits over the shaft coming out of the gearbox is very worn as well.

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Next, use brake cleaner to help remove the old grease from the CV joint, and repack it with new grease. At this point you’re ready to reinstall the propshaft. Back underneath the car, install the CV joint first, then set the front coupling in place. Loosely connect the centre support bearing bracket, and then you can tighten everything down at the front and back. The final step is to pre-load the centre support bearing about 5mm towards the front of the car.

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I was pleasantly surprised at how straightforward this repair was. The only difficulty I encountered was removing the old centring bushing, which required a lot of work with a hammer and punch. It is also an inexpensive repair, the new parts – the centre support bearing, flex disc, centring bushing, and gasket for the CV joint – costing only about £60. That’s more than worth it for a quiet, slack-free driveline.

Replacing the rear struts and coils on a BMW E39

A week or so ago, I started to notice a rattle coming from the rear end of my E39. I knew I had a few things loose in the boot, so initially suspected it was just something back there moving around. However, after tidying things up, the noise persisted, and the other day I got underneath the car to see if something like a sway bar link had broken. To my surprise, I discovered this.

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I had no idea the coil was in such poor condition. There was no mention of anything when I had it MOT’d in July, and when I most recently inspected it, probably in early autumn, it looked fine, save for some of the coating flaking off. On top of all this, I hadn’t noticed any difference in how the car drove.

But what to do at this stage? Euro Car Parts wanted £49.99 for a Sachs coil, and wisdom dictates that they should be replaced in pairs. And given I don’t have a spring compressor, I would have to buy one of those as well. My heart sank even further when I looked up a tutorial on swapping the struts and coils and realised how much work it involved – more or less requiring that half the interior be removed. At this point, I must confess that I very briefly considered selling the car as spares or repairs just to avoid dealing with the problem. But after some searching on eBay, I found a very lightly used pair of struts and coils from a breaking E39 for £55, and so decided to dive into the project.

The first step was removing the rear seats, parcel shelf, and trim, in order to access the strut mounts. I expected this to be the most difficult part of the job, but using the helpful tutorial I found here, I had everything out and the mounts exposed in 30 minutes.

Once I had access to the strut mounts, it was a fairly straightforward job, again, using a helpful tutorial I found here. First, I removed the 13mm nuts holding the strut mount in place.

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Then I removed the 21mm bolt securing the strut to the hub.

Now, unfortunately, it was not as straightforward as simply removing the bolt and pulling the strut out, and I needed to make some room to get the assembly out. That meant, first, removing the inner lining from the wheel arch, and on the offside rear, the upper portion of the fuel filler neck.

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Following that, I needed to disconnect a few pieces of the suspension to be able to move everything around enough to get the strut out. I suppose there are a number of options here. I could have removed one of the upper control arms (as they’ve done in this photo), but I didn’t have the right size spanner for that, nor did I think the ball joint would survive removal (I have plans to replace those later on). So I decided to remove the bolt connecting the hub to the trailing arm, as well as the sway bar link. The trailing arm bolt head is 18mm, whilst the nut is 24mm. The sway bar link is connected with a 17mm nut.

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This gave me some room to play with in order to be able to push the trailing arm down far enough to remove the strut. I had my wife help at this stage, as it took quit a bit of force to push the trailing arm down, and I wasn’t able to simultaneously do that and wiggle the strut out. A decent pry bar might have helped. At any rate, here is the empty wheel arch with the strut removed.

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For the sake of comparison, here are the old and new strut and coil assemblies.

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To install the new strut and coil assembly was fairly easy from this point. I slid it up into the mounting holes on the body, and again had my wife help by fastening one of the 13mm nuts, just to hold it in place. Then I reconnected the trailing arm, as it is impossible to do if the strut is mounted to the hub (believe me, I found out the hard way). The long trailing arm bolt gets torqued to 189 lb.-ft. I then refitted the strut mount to the hub, and began to torque everything down. The 13mm nuts on the top strut mount get torqued to 20 lb.-ft., and the 21mm bolt on the bottom to 94 lb.-ft.

The most frustrating part of the job was refitting the wheel arch lining. It took a bunch of pounding with my rubber mallet to get it fully back into position. Once it was in place and refastened, the job was done. I lowered the car, bounced it a few times to make sure everything was seated properly, and put the interior back together.

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Normally, replacing something like struts and coils should be done in pairs. Due to time constraints, I have violated that rule, but I did a thorough inspection of the coil on the other side, and it is not about to go anytime soon. After Easter, when life has calmed down a bit, I’ll tackle the other side – unless it breaks before then, of course. For now, I’m happy to say that a quick test drive has confirmed a successful repair.

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Replacing the door seals on a Mk1 Leon

Several months ago, I noticed that the front footwells in the Leon were quite wet, and began tearing the interior apart to figure out where the water was coming from. Part of the problem was a perished seal on the pollen filter housing, allowing water to come in through the fan housing. This was made worse by the fact that the drain passages on the inside of the wing were blocked.

However, the bigger problem, and main source of the water, was that the door seals were perished. It is very common for the door seals to rot on Mk1 Leon’s, so it was not difficult to find an online guide to aid with replacing them. I used this guide, and found the whole job to be simple and straightforward as a result.

Up until today, I had been placing towels on the door sills to prevent water ingress, which worked fine as long as I remembered to change the towels after a heavy rain. Work demands and bad weather meant I just wasn’t able to get to this job until now.

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I woke up this morning to sunshine and temperatures of 9ºC, so I went out to the drive to tackle the seals. I was in for a surprise when I first pulled the door card off, as I discovered someone had already attempted a repair by slathering on a very generous layer of some kind of sticky, foam-type sealant.

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Another surprise awaited after removing all of that junk, because it turned out that someone had also tried using clear RTV sealant prior to the foam stuff to repair the leak. This, of course, means that someone has previously attempted this repair twice, both times unsuccessfully. But alas, people doing things to cars who really have no idea what they’re doing is one of the features of the used car life. It didn’t take long to spot why the door was leaking; despite the vast quantities of sealant employed, there were small gaps all over the place.

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So what should you use instead for sealant? The forums all swear by this butyl sealant strip you see below as the best thing to use to repair the seals. It’s only about £7 for a roll of this size on eBay, which will easily do all four doors.

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After scraping off several layers of old sealant (by far the most time-consuming part of this job), I put the butyl seal in place and refastened the inside panel. There is now a neat and even seal all the way around.

All that remains to be seen is whether or not the new seals work. And as the weather forecast calls for rain overnight, it won’t take long to find out.


UPDATE: After a light rain shower last night, I was pleased to discover that the door sills were dry this morning. I’ll subject the car to a car wash later today, and we’ll see how well these seals really work.

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Would you trust the Mini Lift 2500?

If you work on your own car, you will have a way to get it up in the air. Most backyard mechanics or DIYers will use the traditional jack and jack stand method. It takes a bit of time, but it’s proven and reliable. If you’ve got more space and more money to play with, you might have a pit in your garage, or even a hydraulic lift.

Today I came across something called the Mini Lift 2500, which seems to slot somewhere in between the jack stand and hydraulic lift methods. It’s a collapsable lift that slides underneath your car, and then with the aid of a crank, lifts the whole of your car up to a maximum height of 585mm.

In addition, it tilts forwards and backwards, should you need more access to one part of the vehicle.

Here is a video that shows it in operation.

So, what do we think? Personally, I think it looks like a death trap, and can’t imagine how this could possibly be safe. I wouldn’t dare get underneath a car supported by this thing alone. What’s more, the design of this lift would make it very difficult to do any work under the middle of the car, such as removing a propshaft. While the idea certainly has its merits, I’ll stick to my jack stands for now, thank you very much.

Best tutorial for changing the timing belt and water pump on a 1.8T VW engine

This weekend, after detecting a leaking water pump, I replaced both the water pump and timing belt on my Leon. Below is the tutorial I used, which is simply the best one available on YouTube. The instructions are clear, the camera work is good, and the narrator provides lots of helpful information. Though still a big and rather complicated job, I found it to be straightforward with the help of the video.

For fun, I documented the process using Instagram’s new ‘Story’ feature. Below I’ve compiled the various photos and video clips I took while I was doing the work.