Category Archives: Garage stuff

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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now I remember why it’s called the Book of Lies…

I need to go to Halford’s to buy some Q-bond which Graham says is the best thing to replace the crack in my fairing which *may* have resulted from a cack-handed reassembly of 2Moos’ front end (not by me).

So I thought I would pursue my new role as “Person who can do simple bike tasks,” adjust the chain on the Triumph, and nip off to the shops.

I’ve read the instructions, and I’ve seen it done, so I felt pretty confident. But I have fallen at the first hurdle (again). Here’s the picture in the Book of Lies, and the same shot showing my bike:-

Can you spot the difference?

In other questions, how do I get a torque wrench on without taking the exhaust off?


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I was tetchy this morning for no very good reason, though it may have been a combination of not enough sleep and making the mistake of reading this column in the Guardian defending cycling on the pavement. In the comments to which many cyclists declare their right to cycle on the pavement if it makes them feel safer without apparently having any awareness of the fact that it’s very intimidating for pedestrians. When I was waiting for the repairman to come and jumpstart Ruby I was sitting on the pavement – for lack of anywhere else to wait – and cyclists shot past at speed only a few inches from my head.

I was also tetchy because I was rather lost – trying to take the Triumph back to Cambridge Motorcycles to have her leaks stopped. But now I’m in a much better mood. To save me from a long walk to work Phil lent me this very fine Suzuki 125. Looking like a frog on a matchbox I zipped up the Newmarket Road laughing my head off and feeling 26 all over again.

Motorcycles – making the world less tetchy, one rider at a time 🙂


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