Category Archives: Garage stuff


I try to keep the list of ‘things I don’t want the landlady to know about’ fairly short. I don’t drink in the house very often, I haven’t had any gentlemen callers ( though I should perhaps add that they haven’t exactly been forming a queue) and I haven’t sat on her sofa in my pants to watch Strictly.

I am not sure that this adds up to enough in the ‘virtue’ column to make up for ‘arsing about with petrol on her garden furniture.’ Close to the spot she likes to stand for an after-dinner ciggy. But last Friday was dry, clear and still, while the forecast for the weekend was crap again. And, based on prior experience, I had about two hours before she came home. Fortune favours the brave and all that….

Checking the float on a 2CV carb is simple. Whip the top off, turn it upside down, and check that the dimple in the middle of the float is 18mm plus or minus 1 above the edge of the carb body. If you’re feeling thorough, check both floats and average it out.

Checking the Jikov 2829 CE requires a Nutella jar, a ruler, a length of tubing, a syringe, a permanent marker and some non-latex gloves. I couldn’t find my syringe so I had to nab the landlady’s Highland Spring bottle from the draining board. I hope she isn’t still looking for it.

Eat the Nutella. (I had to skip this step as it isn’t Fat Club compliant and spoon it into a tub instead.) Mark a line 10mm from the lip of the glass. Balance the top half of the carb on the jar. If you left the fuel hose on the tap go and fetch it and attach it to the carb. Using the syringe, feed the carb with petrol until the valve closes. Wipe up the petrol you spilled on the table before it melts it. Realise that over-enthusiastic syringing has resulted in overflow, giving a false reading. Syringe the petrol back out of the Nutella jar and try again. Keep trying until the valve closes just as the petrol hits the line that you drew.

Worry about meniscuses and other visual tricks.

Decide that time is short and you are close enough for jazz.

Assembly is the reverse of disassembly. Though without dropping any screws down holes this time. David Angel at F2 sends brilliant step-by-step instructions, though not for the fainthearted. I don’t think Haynes has ever suggested I should roll a rubber hose back like a condom before fitting it, but it did the job beautifully.

By 5pm on Friday I had a bike that started and ran. Which was a significant victory. Since then I have mostly been trying to set the air mix screw, with limited success. I’ve watched a lot of YouTube videos, mainly by a chap called Mustie1 who is fettling a barn find Jawa at the moment. I need him to stop fannying around polishing the paintwork and show me how to tune the carb!

I also found a brilliant description of the process on the Yezdi and Jawa Club of Chennai website.

“select a place far away from the city or your residential area so that you do not disturb the tired, sick, disgusted, old people or babes (babies) living in your colony. You are likely to be shooed away from them when you are at a critical point. You may choose a place near your girl friend’s house just to impress her! Put the bike in main stand and get hold of your screw driver. That is all you need, together with your eyes, brains and ears.”

Yesterday I thought I had this cracked. I headed to a local beauty spot where one of this year’s RBR landmarks is located. I selected a place far away from my colony and adjusted the screw until the engine had a cheerful sound and the throttle response was quick without hesitation, deviation or repetition.

Today we were idling like a dog again. But yesterday was beautifully sunny and today was grey and damp. Maybe that makes a difference?

Who knows. After all the surgery I feel it’s now time just to start riding and see what happens. What’s the worst that could happen? Well, I could melt my pistons, lock the engine, crash and die. But I’ve done that once before (the melting part, not the crashing and dying part) so hopefully will feel it happening while there’s still time to pull in the clutch.


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I am buying a house. I owned a house until February last year and I sold it. So buying a new one makes me sad and angry, mostly with myself. And scared, because I don’t want to be taking on a mortgage at this point in my life but prices have gone up and my savings have gone down.

Four days of fettling a motorcycle in the rain have helped to remind me that having your own house is A Good Thing. If this had been my house I’d have put the outfit in the conservatory, put Planet Rock on, and had a lovely time. If the landlady had gone away for Easter I’d have been tempted to do the same. But no, she had the audacity to want to stay in her own home for Easter so I put my kagoule on, tried to find a spot for my cup of tea where it wouldn’t get diluted, and cracked on.

First, the dribbly exhausts. The internet is full of advice on having to take cutting wheels to welds and perform tricks with mole grips to get baffles out. I am here to tell you it’s much easier than that. Undo the 7mm bolt each side of the tailpipe and pull. Inside there’s a collection of objects d’art and two rubber rings, in my case, dripping with oil. Better get a bucket. And some degreaser.

It is much harder than I expected to get degreaser these days. Homebase don’t have it, the Brown Overall Emporium that had my Lomax bolts didn’t have it, and Halfords only do it on pre-order. Even my longstop local car accessories place only had a tiny tin. Has it been banned for our own good? I bet Shetland Janitorial could have helped..

So that was Good Friday. Degreasing, in the rain. After a bit of a James Herriot moment with my rubber-gloved hand inserted up the bike’s rear end I decided to take the pipes off for better access and to give a good clean to the surfaces where the collars meet the head, because David Angel says if these are dirty the seal will be poor.IMG_0598.JPG

Easter Saturday was more degreasing, cleaning of heads, refitting of shiny clean pipes, and then the game of trying to get the baffles back in. You can take them out in pieces but they need to go back as one unit. Have a guess how many tries it took to figure that one out….

2 days down, one job done. I ponder whether TV shows like Shed & Buried raise unrealistic expectations about how long jobs should take but decide that no, I’m just brick slow. My excuse is that I’ve never done this before. Next time will be quicker.

Another cup of tea, and then time to tackle the carb. I have a new float valve to fit and a set of gaskets in case I tear one. I’ve been eyeing up jars in supermarkets because the internet says that a jar with a 7cm neck is the right size to check the float height. And it needs to be really shallow to save me from having to take the whole carb off. Fortunately I work in a university town so roaming the aisles with a ruler and muttering doesn’t attract comment. Or security guards.

Taking the float bowl off, I dropped the screws. No problem, I thought. There’s a kind of shallow dish on top of the engine – the one that filled with fuel when the carb overflowed in Sainsbury’s car park – that will catch them.

So why did I only recover three screws?

Because it’s a shallow dish with a hole in one side that leads down into the engine assembly.

Much despair.

I could buy another screw. But that would leave one inside the bike doing god knows what damage.

There is only one thing to do. Get out the Big Screwdriver and take the side cover off. Underneath is something that I think is the ignition module, something else that I have no clue about, and a shiny carb screw resting gently on a ledge. I retrieve it and back gently away.

Panic over, and game over too – one of the floats is half-full of pale yellow liquid, like a Fanta bottle on the central reservation.

I’m cross because I’m the world’s slowest mechanic and losing screws down holes is really not cool.

But I’m also happy because I was right – the float wasn’t floating properly.

But I’m cross because I wasn’t confident enough to back my hunch and order a float at the same time as the new valve, so now I am stuck for the rest of Easter. And I can’t even pig out on eggs because we had a stern lecture at Fat Club – one large egg has as many calories as two bottles of wine. “Would you sit and drink two bottles of wine to yourself?” asked the leader. Most of us nodded, to her disappointment.

The exhausts look shiny though.


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A garage that sets homework!

Hortense has been to Pete Sparrow’s 2CV workshop to get a towbar fitted. I’m not anticipating towing any time soon, because most modern caravans are well over our 400kg limit. In fact most trailer tents are also over that limit too! But it seemed worth doing while you can still get TUV-approved towbars. It gives her a rather rugged air, as if we could hook up a rig and head for the horizon.

It was quite embarrassing taking her because there are lots of little things wrong with her. And one big one. The clutch is now slipping. I feel certain that this has been brought on by me not having a handbrake since December. Instead of a simple handbrake adjustment I now need to split the engine from the gearbox and put a new clutch kit in. Talk about spoiling the ship.

The underseal is also peeling off her hindquarters. Pete has put me under instruction to strip it all off, with a wire brush, taking off the shock absorber for proper access if needed, so that the job can be redone properly. I think one of the reasons he’s so busy is that he was happy to take time to lift Hortense up into the air and talk me round all the flaws that are starting to develop. She needs a damn good waxoyling, a hard look at the offside rear brake cylinder, a new stone guard and a new clutch. Over a cup of tea we agreed that 2CVs are awesome and although they demand most of our spare time as tribute they are worth the effort.

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A Twitter friend stopped by yesterday

He was dropping off his late father’s workbench and vice for my workshop.

There are days when I wish I had lots of money and could buy all the equipment on my wish list. But new tools are not as good as cherished old tools with love behind them. I promise that these will continue to give good service, and I’m very lucky to have them.

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Happy Monday

imageThrough the window it looked like a beautiful morning – blue skies and sunshine – though a quick dog-walk added a biting wind to the mix. Still, if it looks warm, that’s nearly enough reason to take the bike to work for the first time this year.

In fact it’s three whole months since I’ve ridden more than the distance from the end of the trailer up into the garage. A quarter of a year without riding? And I dare call myself a biker.

Now that unpacking has made decent progress I know where my winter trousers, gloves and lid are. That was good. But my garage seems to be a place where batteries die. The Lomax would barely turn over at the weekend, and now the bike was struggling hugely. She’s always been a bad starter but this is a whole new level. Something might have shaken loose on her travels, or maybe I need to face reality and buy a new battery.

And of course the day I go in on the bike is the day I find my missing box of stuff in the cupboard at work! Please welcome – the kitchen knife! The no-longer needed Vodafone SureSignal! And …the Foot Pump! Hallelujah.

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Otra vez siento bajo mis talones el costillar de Rocinante

my life in a van

Once again my life is loaded into boxes in the back of a van. So far this time I have broken my toe (dropped padlock from my storage unit on it); burnt my knuckles (got too near the exhaust on the TTR trying to demonstrate that it wasn’t an oil leak, it was just a dirty engine); and traumatised my dog by putting his favourite sofas into storage.  The bike has gone for a vacation in Oxfordshire; the Lomax has gone to a different secret location in Oxfordshire, and Shakey and I are about to move into temporary digs in the West Midlands.

If you need vans in Cambs then I wholeheartedly recommend Stuart Darling, they were really helpful for me, though sceptical at the thought that I would be able to help move my own washing machine.


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Hair oil

The Triumph has needed servicing badly for a while. Unfortunately that’s just what it got yesterday – I am not normally quite so cack-handed as to get more oil on the drive than in the drip tray, to dip my hair in it when getting down to check the chain tension, or to spend 20 minutes winding the chain tensioner the wrong way, but those are just the highlights.

It is, I suppose, an improvement from earlier in the week, when I managed to put the car into reverse instead of first and smack the poor bike into the garage door.

It may be that used 10w40 is good for split ends and overall condition. I will let you know.

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All is safely gathered in; now the tricky part begins.


All is safely gathered in; now the tricky part begins.

First the piston then the rings; push-rod tubes and fiddly things;

Heads and oil and manifold – will I make this Lomax go?

(with apologies to Henry Alford)

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I am very proud of this photo


This photo shows my successful dismantling of one of the two spare cylinder heads that came with the Lomax.

The vale-squishing-clamp has been loaned to me by Boffin, who is also providing helpful advice and encouragement.

My plan is to take this, and its pair, to a nearby machine shop and ask them to put new valve guides in and re-cut the seats.

Then I will have 2 re-furbished cylinder heads, plus the 2 that are on the Lomax at the moment.

I am proud of this achievement because I was brought up as a useful potential wife, good at baking, dressmaking and cleaning bathrooms. I am always envious of those who grew up watching their dads and big brothers fettle engines. But look – I’m doing it anyway!

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Exploring new territory

Shakey in his Lomax

Rather against my expectations, the Lomax sailed through its MOT, so I thought I would go for broke and have another go at tackling its unwillingness to idle. I changed the slow running jet for the spare which had come out of Hortense, and which to the naked eye looked identical, and the Lomax stopped running altogether. This was not the intended outcome.

Further investigation revealed that despite SuperKevin’s fuel filter, the carburettor was once again full of black goo.

How much oil is it using? asked my crack support team of Badders and Self. It was a bloody a good job they asked, because the answer was All of the Oil. I filled it up, and headed for Hayfield, where a lovely time was had, including a brief excursion to the Cat and Fiddle to catch up with Nikos. Heading home from Hayfield, we ground to a halt on an unacceptable number of occasions, including in the right turn lane at a busy set of traffic lights, so it is clear that Something Must Be Done.

Uncharted territory approaches.

The Internet suggests that excessive oil consumption is either piston rings, or valve seals. Given that changing the valve seals involves removing the cylinder heads it seems sensible to do both.

Second-hand heads are on their way from Classic 2CV recycling. New barrels are on the way from Germany. I have a workshop manual, I have the Haynes Book of Lies and I have a loan of Boffin’s valve spring compressor.

And I have my right hand in a splint following a flare-up of carpal tunnel problems.

This post is brought to you by Dragon Naturally Speaking.  Voice recognition software is as tedious and tiring as it was in 2001, the last time I had to give up typing completely. I am ungrateful, but I recognise that without this technology I would not be able to work at all. Wrangling with rusted-on fasteners and fiddling with springs and collets will have to wait until things are improved.

If I leave the garage door open Shakey runs in and jumps into his passenger seat. I think it is a hint, but if he needs the job done more quickly, he will have to help hold the spanners.

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