Le Mans or Bust

Archive for the 'Technical' Category


Tuesday, June 20th, 2006


“What was that?”

“I don’t know but there’s more slack in the steering now.”

It seems that the last few milimeters of steel left on the penultimate bolt holding the steering rack in place had sheered. Looking at the remains it’s a stone cold miracle it hadn’t gone before.

Nearly there….

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

Probably the last technical update for a while, due to the impending race, but I’m pleased with what was done this weekend.

With a little help from Ian the spare tyre is fitted, and the wheel nuts have all been slackened off to the point where a normal breaker bar (my new toy) can deal with them. It did, as predicted, take a scaffolding pole to sort it out on Friday!

Saturday was…interesting. I’d never fitted a handbrake cable before, and had little no experience of drum brakes, but how hard could it be? Well, at about 7pm Satuday, I was jumping up and down cursing a blue streak (as was Matt), planning to melt down the taxi and take the Golf instead…

The wheels came off easily enough, but getting the drums off was a different matter. I followed Friday’s technical advice (bray it wi’ a hammer) but they weren’t budging. I tried a screwdriver and got somewhere, then a crowbar, and got a little further, but then I hit a plateau and they refused to move any more. After an hour of messing about, I finally got frustrated and really went at it in an uncharacteristic fit of violence and fruity language.

Top tip for removing brake drums? Get an angry short man with a sledghammer and set him lose. They came off perfectly after receiving a repeated battering…

Getting the old cable off was also entertaining, as I really didn’t want to take the whole brake assembly apart, not having any idea how it went back together again. A cunning arrangement of different size flathead screwdrivers removed a couple of return springs, and the only snag was removing the end section of the cable itself from the lever that pushes the shoe onto the drum. The aformentioned flatheads did the job, but only after another loss of rag. I was sensing a pattern emerging here.

There then followed a judicious use of the crowbar again, to subtly alter a section of chassis that restrained the adjustment section of the handbrake. I’d like to point out that this would not have been neccessary, had it not been designed in a way that meant the cable was never designed to be replaced as a whole. However as the restraining bracket that holds the outer sheath of the cable was welded to the chassis, I had to improvise.

“Refitting is the reverse of removal.” This includes the use of hammers by the way, and this was where the final snag arose that led me to throw all of my toys out the pram. One of the drums went back on without any difficulties (it was the same drum that I ‘learned’ earlier, I think it now knew its place), but the other had a stubbon streak… Despite beating it like a ginger stepchild (thanks to Viz for the phrase) it resolutely refused to go back on, and I ended up knocking off parts of the shoe. After an hour of frustration (including a couple of jumping up and down in anger moments), I gave up.

A massive shout out to Ian for helping me out this morning at short notice and providing technical support over the phone. The reason incidentally the drum wouldn’t go back on, was that in the course of my fiddling, I had moved the self adjusting ratchet, and so the shoes were at their maximum extent, and just too large to fit a drum over. It took Ian all of 3 minutes to sort it, and the drum went on with no resistance at all. Result! One working handbrake.

The only outstanding issues to resolve are the indicator relay (needs cleaning), the untidy wiring in the passenger footwell, the untidy heating system and the interior cover for the TAXI light. Nothing like leaving it until the last moment, so I know what I’ll be doing on Wednesday morning…

Gotcha Keep hitting it


Wednesday, June 7th, 2006

Chris, Chris, Phil, Matt & I gave the taxi some attention tonight, and we now have a working Roof Sign with spanking new lettering, a working Le Mans/Bust illuminated side sign (nice one Phil although I hope it stays set to Le Mans) and a boot that now shouldn’t leak.

We also have a tyre courtesy of Tyre Traders and a new handbrake cable from Taxi Mart which will be sorted on Friday & Saturday respectively. Thanks to both firms who delivered the next working day, very impressive. A slight difficulty was encountered with the handbrake cable, in that you have to get the rear wheels off, a task which defeated me this evening. There are six 1″ diameter wheels bolts, and all of them seem to be welded in place. My wheel brace was too small, it bent my socket wrench (even when using a 4′ pole as a lever) and defeated my mole grips.

It will be coming off on Friday afternoon, with a little help from a stronger wrench and a scaffolding pole…

All seemed well on the drive home, as I’ve adjusted the idle screw so it now over-revs when idling, but seems to have stopped cutting out. I’m going to adjust it back the other way a little to try and stop it from seeming like I’m trying race people of the lights (although I did give some git in a Z3 a face full of diesel fumes).

Fingers crossed for the weekend….

Testing the e-mail posting

Monday, June 5th, 2006

This is a test of the whole system I’ve bodged together. If everything works it should turn this e-mail into a post in the Technical category.

The image should come next:


(The above should be thumbnailed and linked.)

Cron should pick up the new post from the mail server after a minimum of five minutes. Finally, hourly it should clean up the e-mailed log files for jobs that didn’t result in a posting so that I don’t have to wade through 12 e-mails every hour, every day!

A big thanks to Postie for making this all possible.


[One word expression of malcontent]

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

I’ll let you pick your own.

However, seeing that we will have set off two weeks from today, and that I fixed the wipers and tested them at the weekend, why did they have to stop working? It seems that the whole right hand electrical stalk has packed up, as the windscreen washer failed to work as well. Time for some WD40 and some hope….

However, the original battery is back in, and charged, and that has made the indicators behave themselves again…. Oh wait, I fix one thing, and something else breaks. I have created the cab of sentient equilibrium! Not only is it a new life source, but a perfectly balanced being, in a state of automotive zen! Take that Dr. Frankenstein! I see your monster and raise you a black cab with a mind of its own….

Progress (of sorts)

Saturday, May 27th, 2006

I swear that it’s only a matter of time before sentience is achieved by the indicators, which first of all worked at double speed (off-side only), then normal speed (both sides) then ‘on’ only, and then back to double speed (both sides).

As well as this minor problem the beautiful roof sign (Chris’ labour of love) was not watertight and the sign has gone somewhat streaky (see below). Any chance of another Chris? This time I’ll have a tube of silicone sealant ready.

One the subject of leaks, the (now carpeted) boot was also somewhat damp, due not to a failure of the seal, but of the metal underneath the seal.

However, it’s not all bad news, as I did make some progress today…

It started first turn of the key with only a little protest because of the air in the fuel system, and ran very nicely for the twenty or so minutes it was running. I’m not entirely sure that I needed to buy a new battery for my Golf, so I’m not sure we need to replace the one in DYK. It may be of course that it’s the cause of the indicator playing up, in which case I retract my statement!

The boot seal is (hopefully) fixed after liberal application of a tube of silicone sealant, although I won’t know for sure until it rains again.

The near side wiper lives again! The old arm was shot to hell as all the teeth had been stripped from the hub, and so the spline was rotating freely underneath it. The new one doesn’t have this problem, although as it’s technically not designed to fit the small windscreen of a black cab, it protudes somewhat when at the highest point of its arc. Thanks to Ian’s horde of Morris Minor bits for the arm, and God bless British Leyland for sharing parts between their vehicles :-)

Another section of fuel hose has been replaced (photo below), so now both pipes into and out of the fuel filter are spanking new and don’t let in air. I’m sure this can only be a good thing, and I’ll keep telling myself that until the scars on my hands heal up. It’s not in the most accesible place and in the end I was kneeling on the front crossmember practically diving headfirst into the engine bay.

The cooling system (including the heater matrix) has been flushed through, and all of the orange gunge inside it replaced. This was entertaining in so many ways. Firstly I got a faceful of aforementioned gunge when removing the bottom hose, then I had to flush through the system without the aid of a hosepipe, while catching the gunge to avoid it going down the drain. Not many people know this, but bottom hose is fantastically close to both the alternator and the fan belt, and it’s a miracle it doesn’t clip either of them. I wish I could say the same of my hand…. :-) I think the best part was lying down in the excess water to re-connect the hose, but tbh, it was all worth it when I drove DYK, and there were no leaks from the system, the temp never rose about halfway on the gauge (even when idling after a long run), and THE HEATING WORKED!

That’s the other thing I was relatively proud of, getting the heater matrix de-cr@pped and the heater system working. It’s a very simple system whereby the heater control on the dash moves a length of stiff wire inside two different diameter sections of plastic. This wire is pulled by the sliding heater control, sliding inside the plastic, and operates an arm on a valve that forms the junction between the engine cooling system and the passenger heating system. The further towards warm the heater control arm moves, the further the valve opens. That’s how it should work…. However, the metal wire on the heater arm had been bent out of shape, and therefore, when the arm was moved, the wire slid through the hole and didn’t move the valve, while not sliding through the plastic sleeve, but contorting itself further.
If you’ve ever tried to get a piece of wire that has been bent out of shape, back to perfect straightness, you’ll know that it’s an impossible task. (Go on, if you’re sat at a desk at work reading this, pick up a paperclip and try it…) It was also impossible to get it to slide as it should, because it wasn’t straight, and no amount of effort or swearing could rectify this. Therefore I’ve done what all previous owners of the taxi appear to have done, and bodged it. By means of insulation tape, a nut, and the previously removed section of fuel hose, I’ve constructed a working replacement, although I haven’t yet got it hooked up to the arm, as currently the whole section of hose moves in places, and needs to be secured to the inside of the dash before it will properly be sorted. It does however work, and so we will have heating for the trip (even if it isn’t operated as originally designed by Austin).
Perhaps a job for Monday…?
Le What of Bust? Gunge The snapped wire The new control The other end of the heater control The new hose

Battery Musings

Sunday, May 21st, 2006

The battery on the taxi may well be as dead as a doornail, although more testing is required before we can tell conclusively whether this is the case. However, given that the price tag reads £11, and the price of a new one today is about 7 times that, it may well have reached the end of its life.

Nonetheless, the taxi was brought to life today with a little help from the battery which is also on its way out, removed from my Golf today. Technically, it shouldn’t be able to turn it over, as it’s the battery fitted to work with a 1.6 Diesel, not a 2.7, but it did. It may however be the cause of the indicators going from working (flashing on and off) to sort-of working (coming on and not flashing, just staying lit). Still, I’m fully trained in years of old car use in how to use hand signals….

Outstanding problems include:

The wiper (predictably), although I now how an arm that may fit (courtesy of Ian & his shed of bounty).

The heater matix. It would be nice to have working heating for the drive through the night, but it needs attention, as I suspect that the pipes are full of gak. Time for a spot of drain cleaner….

The handbrake needs adjusting, as currently it’s nothing more than a fancy ornament.

More as I think of them.


It’s Alive!

Sunday, May 21st, 2006

With the spark of energy provided by Tom’s old battery the previously inanimate beast sprang to life and we took it out for a test run in the Yorkshire rain and an invaluable lesson was learnt: A bus stop is less draughty than our taxi and the heater doesn’t produce hot air. Coats and blankets may well be the order of the day for the overnight leg of the journey.

All in all, it was remarkably well behaved (if a little plodding - sorry if you were in the queue behind us on the A1079) with the usual exception of the electrics. I am convinced that the cable jungle under the dash has become self aware. What with the radio mysteriously starting to work, the indicators sometimes flashing and sometimes coming on constantly (with no discernable pattern) and the unidentified button by the gear leaver I think our vehicle is the next incarnation of KITT - if it starts talking to us in a camp voice we’ll know for certain.

Still, after this weekend’s work it is at least in a state in which I would be happy to set off on our journey. That’s not to say that we’re done but I think [touch wood] we’re on the home straight of the first leg.

Forwards not backwards

Sunday, May 21st, 2006

For the first time this weekend we actually seemed to fix more problems than create new ones.

  • The stereo decided to “just work” despite nothing having changed since we last looked at it
  • Tom replaced the knackered fuel hose in double quick time
  • Carpet was laid in the boot to keep our luggage clean
  • The roof sign is back in place (although not powered up yet)
  • The rear speaker is wired up and working
  • The dashboard is back in place
  • The lights finally work properly after Orde rewired the whole unit
  • Lots of lovely stickers now decorate the taxi

It was all going perfectly until we decided to go for a trial run and discovered the battery was dead as a doornail, oh well.

I have added a whole raft of photos from the day to the Gallery.

Before : IMG_0061.JPGAfter :IMG_0315.JPG

My work here is done

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

Borrowed my Dads jigsaw and cut out two replacement pieces of perspex to sandwich a new sign between. (I now have a huge lump of perspex left over that will last me the rest of my natural life)

Knocked together a new sign using a Friday 13th Font 

If anyone wants to make a better one, make note that you will have to remove the sign from the roof completely and take it all apart again, theres no quick-switch option.


J885 DYK