16 Sept 2013

Speedmonkey Fleet - Colin's Garage - September

Hello again, sorry it’s been so long since my last update but it’s been a manic time with the purchase of a new car and getting on top of those jobs you put off for a rainy day.

Audi TT

If you’re a Speedmonkey regular you will have seen my Living with article on my recently purchased Mark 1 Audi TT V6 with the holy grail of gearboxes - a manual, no complicated DSG for me just a sweet 6 speeder. Purchased in June from a private seller for an agreed sum based upon the quoted condition and with all the correct documentation being there.

I turned up at the sellers housing in Birmingham and was greeted with beautiful metallic grey TT on factory fitted 18 inch BBS split rim alloys with a pristine black leather interior. After a brief but brisk test drive the sound of the glorious V6 had me hooked and with cash counted I was on my way to have some fun.

Got it home and had a better look around, that dint in the front wing seemed bigger now and the scuff on the back bumper deeper than initial view, the chip on the windscreen more 5p than end of pencil in size, the engine management light was now on constantly and still a little irritated that the spare key was an Ebay special with a freshly cut blade that I would have to get coded. Oh and whilst it had good tread on all tyres they were all different random makes, some of which I have never encountered.

So, maybe a heart-ruled purchase but looking back I don't really care as ignoring the little things that I can and will fix overall it’s a terrific GT car and one which constantly has me looking back at it when I have just parked up.

I’m not going to detail much about the driving experience here but the outstanding feature is the noise the VR6 engines beats out, it's sonic harmony compared to dull 4 pot turbos that rule the roost in today’s emissions led new builds.

The first job was the wheels as I am a wheel guy and they have to be right so being a V6 I wanted the wheels intended by the factory for the car. I have had some BBS Split rims on a previous Black TT and as these needed a refurb and new tyres decided to go to to the factory V6 look. The joys of Ebay and a set were sourced in no time for £250 with again 4 different budget tyres and the faces a scabby mess. They were picked up by a kind work colleague who lived near the seller and I took them over to National Alloys in Widnes for a bead blast and the application of several coats of metallic anthracite and some lacquer for just £160. They also fitted some Toyo Proxes bought again on Ebay for the bargain price of £384 delivered. I’m sure you will agree they look stunning and suit the car to the ground, complimenting the large factory rear spoiler and front valance.

Next up was an appointment with Chips Away and Martin did a sterling job of painting the rear scuffed bumper as well as touching up various small scars on the front end. He recommended a good dent man who did a fab job on smoothing the large dent on the front wing and then moved onto some small creases on the other wing and drivers door. Ben the dent man charged 50% more than Chips Away despite taking less time and providing no materials (also I had to remove the driver’s door card) but you can’t argue as the job's flawless and the alternative would have been to fill and paint the dents which would have been over £400, so much better value at £135.

Now was time to look at the engine management light and the first step was on the web.  Seems that bad spark plugs and a dirty throttle body can cause the light to come on so I decided to carry out a full service myself to rule out anything small. I have lost faith in garages in recent years (as I cover later) and whilst I know I can trust an Audi main dealer to do the works the labour rates will leave too little in my pockets for beer and as I can do the works to their standard I decided to. First off an oil and filter change, remove the large metal aerodynamic undershield held in place by about a million bolts (well 14) and expose the drain bolt, undo and leave to empty. Next the oil filter which is a cartridge type and underneath the engine which is a really daft place to put it as it COVERS your arm in old warm oil when you release it. Put back together with a new sump plug (required for the alloy sump in TT V6 and Golf R32) and add 5.5 litres of Castrol Edge 5-30 fully synthetic oil. Add a new air filter and pollen filter then remove all 6 coilpacks ready for new plugs. New plugs in and engine management light still comes on even after battery disconnection for ECU rest. Bugger.

So I then removed the throttle body and cleaned it out with carb cleaner and the airflow meter with electrical contact cleaner but still no success. Back to the drawing board – read internet and the common failings are the coilpacks but I was putting this off as you have to buy from a main dealer for this early engine. I tried my local VW dealer in Altrincham as they are much closer that Audi and as the TT is a Golf R32 in a fancy frock the parts will be the same. They quoted £240 for 6 coilpacks but the really helpful parts guy suggested Audi may replace them as an ‘outstanding workshop action’ if they were the originals which were renowned for failing.

A quick call to Audi UK and they confirmed the outstanding action and to book into my nearest dealer which is Warrington Audi. With car booked in within a week they provided a courtesy car and replaced the 6 coilpacks free of charge which extinguished the engine warning light and gave full power along with the vibration removed as it was now running on 3 cylinders per bank. Warrington Audi deserve a special mention their service was second to none, good updates, not kept waiting, car cleaned and ready on time, asked if I wanted a drink twice and they even put my name on a screen under the allocated service contact. Little things go a long way and if I could afford to take it there for servicing I would.

Whilst in Audi they mentioned the front wishbone rear bushes were worn and ideally needed replacing so I have sourced the parts and will be fitting in the future. It’s a huge job so I need to allocate a full Saturday and maybe longer as both wishbones have to be removed and the bushes pressed out by my local Indy around the corner from home. To get both wishbones off the subframe has to be dropped as the bolts won’t come out so it’s a job I’m not really looking forward to. I have also planned an upgrade to one set of the bushes which will sharpen up the steering and make the car much more agile. Once complete I will report back.

The last job for now was the second key and after many calls it turns out the key the previous owner gave me was scrap and couldn’t be coded to my car. The options are a new complete key from a main dealer at £233 or an independent specialist who can do it for £180 so I’m saving the beer tokens for the Indy option.

Future plans are for a better stereo system as whilst is comes with a good quality Bose set up I can’t use my iPod through it and it isn’t really up to my required quality or volume expectations. I have all the kit in the loft of my garage ready to go and the battery is in the boot so it should be a day’s work but I’m putting it off until all my other jobs are completed.

BMW 320d MSport Touring

The old girl recently hit 120,000 miles and even at this mileage she doesn’t use a drop of oil so it was time for some fresh oil and new filter. Last year I took it to National Tyres as they had a internet price only oil and filter change for just £40 but the results were a little alarming as they overfilled it and didn’t align the engine cover properly so there were vibrations felt and heard in the car.  I won’t be returning there unless it’s for tyres, but more of that later.

I sourced my parts for the oil change from Europarts as I did for the TT and it was a cheap and painless service with free next day delivery. The oil change on the BM is childs play, jack the car up and open a little flap on the undertray revealing a drain plug, remove and drain. Next up is the oil filter cartridge which is located on top of the engine so access is great and because it comes out northwards you don’t end up with oil in your armpit.  Remove the old cartridge and swapout the O-rings with the supplied new ones. Add the new cartridge filter and screw in along with the sump plug with new(supplied) washer then fill up with 5.5 litres of the finest Castrol’s Edge 0-30 fully synthetic. I haven’t a clue why National Tyres took the engine cover off for last year’s oil change as it isn’t required and I assume it was a job given to the YTS (do they have them anymore?). She does run sweeter after an oil change so well worth it.

Next up was the removal of the swirl flaps which are 4 flaps located in the inlet manifold and open and close at certain revs to alter the pressure to help emissions. They are constructed by locating a flap to a pin by 2 screws and as they get hot the metal expands and the screws can work loose so the flaps and screws take a journey into the combustion chamber and the results are engine termination. There’s a few companies in Britain who make blanking plates to completely remove the flap, manufactured from either billet metal or plastic.  I used plastic items from swirlflaps.co.uk as part of the original swirl flap is made from plastic and they are a third of the price of the billet ones and do exactly the same job.

The main issue you face is you have to remove the inlet manifold to replace them so you have to take a lot, and I mean a lot of plastic trim and strut bracing off as the engines on BMW’s are located so near the cabin to allow space for their straight six engines. So having moved about 50 square meters of plastic trim there’s a series of pipes and electrical connections to remove before you can remove the 10 screws and begin to actually remove the inlet manifold. It needs a firm tap with a mallet and then it pops off, gently lift out as you don’t want anything dropping into the engine which will kill it. The swirl flaps are easily removed and can be binned along with the switch mechanism which rotates them but the issue I faced was that I was sent the wrong sized blanking plates -ahhh blast and damn it! Rather than spend over an hour putting the car back together I ordered a new set which came 2 days later and refitted in a treat. Apparently it’s not clear which size swirl flaps are fitted to each engine so if you undertake this job yourself order both sizes and send back the ones you don’t need. They are so cheap at £4 each delivered it’s not worth messing around.

Back to the business of putting the car back together and after a good clean the inlet manifold it carefully manoeuvred into position and located with the 10 nuts. All connections are clicked together, pipework correctly re-routed and fixed and then everything triple checked to make sure it’s right. It’s far easier doing the job on a 4 cylinder engine than a 6 pot like my old 330d which had an inlet manifold about 2 feet long.

When attaching the EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) valve back together I noticed it was pretty mucky so took it off for a better inspection and I’m glad I did as it was caked in soot. It sounds crazy but its purpose is to add some exhaust gas back to the inlet side of the engine for better emissions but whats in a diesel’s exhaust gas – soot, and soot is dirty and evidenced by the thick lining in my EGR valve which restricts air into the engine. A good clean initially with a screwdriver and finished off with carb cleaner and it was shiny as a mirror, unfortunately I now have a big black patch on the garage floor where the carb cleaner exited said EGR valve.

After the car was assembled I nervously started the engine, no bangs or engine lights on, so I took it for a drive and with the flaps removed it made absolutely no difference to the engine but it does now feel keener due to the clean EGR valve.

The last recent job was a set of new boots for the rear which were worn down in the middle but not the edges, maybe it’s because I have set the tyre pressures too high as I based them on the run flat pressures. As the rear has 255/35/18 tyres they cost an absolute fortune so the search commenced starting with Event tyres and I wanted a premium tyres for a reasonable price. I set the budget at £150 each but the only ones on there were budget or Falkens and I won’t be using these again after last winter’s terrible performance in the ice and my ordeal on dry smooth tarmac (I may have been diving a bit like a tool but it was private property!). Next up was National Tyres website and they had Avon ZZ5’s for £144 each tyre with a tyre guarantee should you have a puncture so I gave these a go. Quick and painless fitting at my local depot and initial impressions are very good, certainly better than the Falkens.

There’s no further jobs to do on the BMW for the forthcoming future and I have no plans for any other than use it as a workhorse for long business trip’s utilising its 55mpg on a run.

Honda VFR 800

After my last update I read up on mod for the VFR and noted with interest how the character can be changed with 2 small mods to the airbox. First up remove 4 bolts to free up the fuel tank and pivot it up toward the rear exposing the airbox. Then with all your might rip out the ‘snorkel’ that guides air from the lower end of the bike into the airbox and it’s now a large opening so the air can gush in. Next up remove a vacuum pipe from the top of the airbox and plug it to stop dirt entering the system. This retains a noise control valve in the open position which otherwise restricts the airbox to 70% of the air available. Put it back together and take for a ride and enjoy the extra volume of the race derived Vfour engine, I love the noise the extra amplification makes which the rider mostly enjoys sitting pretty much on top of the airbox. My neighbour's not much of a fan though and I got a telling off for my early morning starts recently. Sorry Phil.

Earlier on in the summer and prior to the Great Speedmonkey Scotland Tour the VFR was making a proper racket from the back end and at the time I suspected it was something to do with fueling and maybe popping from the exhaust and associated with a vacuum hose from when I attached the Scottoiler.

After a fantastic trip out to Anglesea via Conwy (when theTraffic Wombles shut the tunnel for 10 mins for tannoy testing and I was at the front when it reopened, 15 minutes of open clear road wahey!!) I took her aside for a close inspection and found that the noise was actually a sticky chain. Not sticky like honey but sticky as in gripping where the worn links would stay together after going over a sprocket and then noise was it snapping back into place. I’m lucky it didn’t give up on said Anglesea trip as it was well, let’s just say an enthusiastic run and would have made a mess of the back end. A quick call to M&P and they sent over a new chain and sprockets which should be an easy job on the VFR with it’s single sided swingarm but I had issues riveting the new link together with the riveting kit I bought from M&P. I purchased a new but different kit and again I bent that rivet pin, oh dear. With an MOT due within a month I booked it in and asked them to look at it and they pulled out ‘their’ tool which is a much meatier affair and works by tightening onto the rivet and then whacking with a large hammer. After 5 knocks it was secure and had me wondering how I was supposed to crush the link pin with my little £30 riveting kit when the MOT testing station’s cost £300 and used some proper knuckle dragging muscle. I suspect I was not supplied with a soft rivet but you live and learn and will ask next time.

Still with a fresh MOT and a lovely gold chain she was ready for Scotland and performed faultlessly keeping a hot pace in the most gorgeous and challenging roads I have ever seen and ridden. It did help being 30 degrees for the 4 days and going with 3 great pals.

After the great Speedmonkey Scotland Tour despite the VFR being completely obedient I decided that I would like a newer fresher bike and so made the decision to sell the VFR after 3 years of 100% reliable service and some fantastic rides. As with all my vehicles when selling I always go private and try to remove the aftermarket items I have added to retain for a future bike or make a little more money selling them on Ebay.

First up was a new rear tyre at £80 on Ebay for a Michelin Pilot Sport with just £15 fitting from HiQ. The remove the top box and rack and install the single seat hump. Then about 10 minutes later remove it and fit the factory grab handles, and the reason is that when the hump is installed there’s nothing to hold the rear of the bike with when putting on the centre stand or manoeuvring. Next up the Scottoiler is quickly removed and the airbox put back to standard for the new buyer along with the baffle reinserted in the exhaust to keep it quiet. The final job was the removal of my airhorn which is a great piece of kit and in my opinion essential on a vulnerable high speed vehicle.

So after throwing a bucket of water over her (quote Mike Brewer to everyone’s favourite Edd) she’s now gleaming and starring in BikeTrader ready for a new buyer to have more great adventures on.

I have decided that my next bike must do everything that the VFR does - good looks, long distance riding ability along with rapid performance but also with some added safety in the form of ABS. On a recent trip out I was following a Discovery 3 with Trailer and at the sight of another car slammed their brakes on to a standstill, putting me in brown alert and locking up the front wheel, it’s a frightening experience which helped cement my decision to tick the ABS box on my next bike.

So my decisions are fairly limited and at the moment I’m keeping my eye on later VFR800s complete with VTEC (yes I know!) and ABS. I love the dark blue hue and they look pretty special with the full colour coded Honda luggage, let’s just hope I don’t get all wobbly at the knees like when I bought the TT!