8 May 2013

Speedmonkey Fleet - Colin's Garage

Hello and welcome to the May edition of Colin’s Garage.

The main news this month is that the Mk4 Golf Anniversary has been sold for a fair price to a very nice enthusiast who I hope will take good care of her. I don’t know why we have emotional attachments to lumps of metal, plastic and glass but we do nevertheless.  Maybe it's something to do with how they have looked after and impressed us whilst we in return lovingly clean and lavishly service them.

I received a text a few days after the sale from the seller who said that there was a warning light on the dash and had I seen it come up before?  I confirmed no, never and went on the internet looking for the cause of said light and found it was a common occurrence with mk4 Golfs in that the coolant level sensor is part of the expansion tank and the fix is only £20.  I texted the seller back and he replied that his mechanic friend had advised him to top up the coolant to the top of the fill line and it was fixed. All good and I felt better as it was a great car. I don’t like to sell things on with issues.

Last year I took the Golf off the road for 6 months to hone my biking skills but this year, having no car, I feel a bit lonely as I don’t have one all of my own. So what do I replace her with? (note the use of the female reference which I always use for cars and bikes and never understood why).  Well the list is as long as my arm and the shortlist is as random as lottery numbers but there is some logic in there. I want some decent power - lets say circa 250bhp and a nice bark, so 6 cylinders is a bonus, definitely a manual gearbox (or stick in American).  I want reasonable fuel economy – 20 plus mpg (nothing as lurid as an Audi S4), good looks and on a £6k budget.

In addition I’m keen to buy private from an enthusiast, someone who really cares for their cars. The main reason is oil, yes a full dealer history is great but what if the owner is a moron and doesn’t do any checks themselves in between servicing and the oil level runs low.  It can destroy an engine and many of the reasons for engine rebuilds that you see in ads (new engine at XX miles…) are down to low oil and so metal to metal contact = friction and engine damage. An enthusiast checks their car every week for fluids, tyre pressures, damage and hand washes the car weekly with the right products (NOT Fairy Liquid). (Oops - Matt) The extra benefit of a private sale is that you can haggle, whereas the majority of garages just won’t, and it’s good to haggle, coming away with a feeling that you’ve got a bargain.

Convertibles have made it to the shortlist but I’m massively erring over owning one as a fat, balding 40 year old man may give off a certain image with the roof down. Certain convertibles can cut it, such as a Lotus Elise or Mercedes SL but a TT or 350Z raises concerns – ‘hey Dave, look at that silly man in that TT convertible, I bet his handbag matches his leather seats!’ As far as number of seats goes it depends on fuel economy and reliability of the car in question.  I have the use of Sarah’s BMW 320d Touring for long journeys so economy doesn’t matter that much as my commute is small but if economy is poor then it must have 4 seats or be a 2+2 so can be used for the school run whilst I nick the BM.

So the shortlist is VW Golf Mk4 R32, BMW 130i, Audi A3 3.2 V6, Audi TT 3.2 V6 (or Sport 240), Nissan 350Z, Porsche Boxster S or the wildcard with an Automatic only transmission is a Mercedes C32 AMG. At the moment I’m erring toward the Golf R32 as it’s a ticks most of the boxes but appreciate the handling isn’t as great as some of the others but builds on the feeling I got from my old Golf but with added benefits of more speed, full leather, a sunroof and better 4WD handling.

The BMW 130i would be the best balanced car and has that 260bhp creamy in-line 6 which hits sixty in 6 seconds dead but this is reflected in the price and I would struggle to get a good one for £6k, and even then I would need to save up over a grand for a LSD. Then again the Audi TT Sport 240 is a worthy creation with a stripped out Audi Race interior with fixed-back bucket seats, more power, good looks and capable of over 30mpg on a run. Decisions decisions decisions, watch this space…

So to the BMW 320d MSport Touring. The first job when the weather improved was to swap the winter runflats for the standard 18 inch alloys with all year proper fat tyres. The ride was improved and the handling transformed and it looks, well miles better with a proper stance again. I did however have one issue with the car with the new tyres on and experienced the same imbalance that Sarah must have in the ice when she declared 'I want to replace my car!!'

The incident was totally my fault.  I was leaving a golf club and some golfists with their trolleys were being snooty and wouldn’t alter their path for me to get past so when it was clear I floored it on the tarmac road to the exit, got up to about 30 mph and braked hard at the end of the completely dry tarmac drive, which was curved to stop people like me coming in too fast off the main road.

 Well, the rear end went extremely light and the car was well out of shape with the ABS not keeping the car straight and I ended up near sideways but still going forwards, with a curb centimetres from the wheels.  I backed off the brakes and let the car calm down and reapplied the brakes to just about stop before the main road.

The golfists must have been tutting or laughing their socks off at me and I admit a little bit of wee may have come out. Still no harm came from the incident and I have learned a lesson from it. I checked the tyres afterwards and they have plenty of tread on so it was either a highly polished tarmac surface or the Falken tyres which were to blame. I can’t change the tarmac but I can change the tyres for a better sort when they wear out which I will be doing after reading the latest Evo Magazine tyre test!

Well the old girl has been looking a bit mucky recently, and after a comment from one of the wife’s friends that it looked dirty I wasn’t having any of that so set about a good spring clean. First, a good wash with a wash-mitt and a generous helping of Johnson's Baby Shampoo which is cheap and ph neutral. The wheels on the BM are 15-spoke design and some of the spokes are very close, meaning they are tricky to clean properly.

A top tip is to buy a radiator duster (got mine from the pound shop for a quid!) and dip it in your bucket of soapy water and very quickly all the parallel spoked areas are clean and the wash-mitt then cleans up the rest of the wheel in no time. Next up, a chamois dry and ready to tackle the tar which has been building up for the last 6 months since it was last polished.

I had bought Halfords own make Tar and Bug shifter and I should have taken it back as didn’t touch the tar, maybe swirled it, slightly, a bit. A quick call to a friend and he suggested that white spirit would do the job without damaging the paint so I started on small areas near the rear of the wheel arches and it melted it all off straight away, then removed the excess with a clean cloth. The small areas expanded and I ended up going over the whole car with white spirit and each panel.  Even the roof had tar residue on. Now was the time to wax and as the car has done over 110,000 miles there are some stonechips and marks so I used back colour magic, twice on the bonnet and front bumper to disguise the marks. After this was done I took some photos and she now gleams like a mirror, factory fresh from a few metres away. (I just chuck mine in the car wash - Matt)

Another job required on the BM was the swirl flap replacement which involves removal of the inlet manifold and removing factory installed swirl flaps in the inlet tracts to be replaced with blanking plugs. The issue is that the swirl flaps and are held in place by small metal screws which can come loose and let go of the flap, sending debris through and destroying the engine.

They were installed to help emissions control by smoothing the flow at certain revs but can be legitimately removed without an MOT failure and no loss of performance or economy. I have done this job before on my old 330 diesel which was a 6 cylinder engine with a massively long inlet manifold so this 4 pot should be a cinch. I previously bought billet ones at over £100 for 6 but have learn that there's no benefit over plastic ones so ordered 4 plastic plugs from i6 Automotive for less than £20 inc delivery. A bargain over the cost of an engine rebuild.  I just hope they fit as there can be different sizes depending on the model year. Heres a photo below.  I hope to fit them shortly.

The VFR 800 was removed from winter hibernation recently and after a bit of a clean and check of vital fluids took her out for a test run before work the next day. It felt really nervous.  I didn't know if it was me being a little rusty after a break of 4 months but it turned out to be the tyre pressures.  They should be 42psi rear and 36psi front but both were hovering around the 25psi mark. A classic schoolboy error and one I won’t be repeating soon, check your tyres weekly and before long journeys, especially on a motorbike as theres no spare!

I finally got round to fitting the Scottoiler that I got for Christmas, not a complicated job but one that takes a little time to get right. It works by vacuum from the engine and draws a little chain oil from a reservoir you mount under the seat and applies to the chain near the rear sprocket. It ensures the chain is constantly lubed and reduces the frequency of chain adjustment, something that is generally required every 800 miles. It works well but took a few weeks to get the right balance of oil adjustment and the location of the nozzle in relation to the chain.

The other modification was to swap the seat.  Over the winter I bought a replacement seat that was comfier than the standard one and looked better in red and black textured vinyl but, whilst comfier, it wasn’t as grippy as the standard seat so on full bore acceleration (up to 60mph officer!) I found myself slipping rearwards which didn’t do anything for my confidence. I managed to sell the seat for the same price as I bought it for, which was a bonus.

During the winter months I bought a dark tint double-bubble screen for the front of the bike to provide better wind protection and, after a short run, it did offer better protection from the elements with less buffering on the visor on my helmet. The downside was that it looked really fake, cartoonlike in it’s flick up and in dark tint it highlighted it more so it had to go and the standard screens back on with its good looks retained.

The last mod was an air-horn.  Anyone who rides a bike will know that motorbikes have a horn that are only suitable for a child's scooter in the park to warn other child scooter riders they are coming past. 

Picture the scene, on a roundabout, the lorryist in his 30 tonne metal box is trying to tune his CB in to speak with Fat Bob and he veers towards you, the standard horn wouldn’t be heard over his tyre squeal but an airhorn makes him alert to your presence.

Fitting was fairly easy - just a relay through the standard horn connector and new power supply then find a location under the front fairing for the ‘Walo Bad Boy’.  All put together and that’s a good sound that’ll frighten children (not that I do, just if you wanted to!) and MOT testers when they don’t expect it.

And lastly my treasured garage. Well, it was built 6 years ago and was looking dirty and tatty so after cleaning the garage door inside and out, painting the walls and ceiling with matt white and some gloss on the door, it looks like new inside. Its amazing how much dirt is inside a garage.  Of course not many are painted white so its not obvious but I like it bright which helps when carrying out maintenance. 

When you step in from the outside it’s really really bright and ready for those jobs for when I get my new car, whatever she may be!