19 Dec 2013

Colin's Garage - December 2013

Here's the latest update on my fleet.  Since my last update in September it’s been a manic time with the sale of one vehicle and the purchase of another, along with plenty of work on TT.

Honda VFR 800Fi - Sold

I have sold my beloved VFR 800Fi, it was sold through Motorcycle News in a week yet not a sniff from being on Bike Trader for a month, which is considerably more expensive. A local fella bought the bike without even test riding it and its new home is only a mile from my house so I’ll probably see her again. It proved to be a very reliable vehicle with not a single breakdown or issue in my 14,000 miles and 3 years, with just the usual wear and tear items being renewed. I just hope the new owner gets as much enjoyment out of it as I did.

Honda VFR800A5 VTEC - Bought

With a fistful of tightly creased twenties in my pocket I was like a man possessed checking Bike Trader, MCN and eBay on a twice daily basis. Then I came upon eBay a 2005 model VFR800 VTEC with very low miles, Anti Lock Brakes and in Heron Blue. Spot on! After what seemed a very long week of bidding I eventually secured it for a bargain basement price.

I arranged to pick it up a week later and was instantly disappointed when I got there, both tyres were worn and the rear was borderline legal but the eBay description said ‘Tyres are OK’. In addition I noted the entire fairing had fresh paint after the previous owner (the current owners Mother) had dropped it on the drive. After a 20 minute standoff about what constitutes a legal tyre depth and my insistence on the buyer knocking £50 off the auction price as it was not ‘as described’ I handed over the cash and set off on the 2 hour journey home.

Then the rain started.  Not a faint mist or some light spitting but proper heavens open, God squeezing the clouds out torrential rain, the worst weather I have ever ever ridden in. To top it off the temperature dropped to 1 degree and the Honda's heated grips didn’t work. Bugger and double bugger! After an hour of riding I was forced to stop at Birch Services off the M62 to recover from what felt like hyperthermia, defrosting my hands under the driers in the toilets for 5 minutes before getting a coffee to warm my essential organs. When I stood up to leave I noticed a 3 foot wide puddle had developed under my chair from the water that had dripped off my coat.

After another hours riding and this time in quite pleasant but still cold conditions I was home and glad to be stationary on the borderline legal rear tyre. I have lots of work planned and will detail all in a future update.

BMW 320D Touring Msport

I took the Family away for a long weekend in October to a log cabin in Wales and as it was dog friendly we decided to take Daisy dog (lab x collie) which meant space would be at a premium in the car. The BMW E91 is not a big car and so the roof box had to be taken down from the Garage loft and installed on the matching black paintwork. I managed to fit in 2 suitcases, 4 pillows and all the coats required for a long weekend. I bought it a few years ago off eBay and it’s the top end Halfords one which is a cinch to fit, with clip on internal fixings. It fits on the Genuine BMW roof bars that again were purchased off eBay (what would I do without it?) a year ago. Here’s a picture of it installed on the car, I think it looks pretty sporty and utilitarian.

So the car was ready for a canine and suitcases but the kids need amusing for 2 hours on the road  Cue a pair of Philips DVD monitors which fit to the front seat headrests. These can either play their own DVD or link together to play the same one in unison and although there’s external speakers it drives me crazy when separate films are on so a pair of headphones is essential. As an added bonus they can be taken out and used in the bedrooms when on holiday or even in a tent with their 2 hour integral rechargeable battery life.

So with the car fully prepped she behaved faultlessly over the weekend managing over 50mpg with no wind noise to speak of from the aerodynamic roofbox. The roofbox is a cracking invention and means we don’t have to drive a car larger than we need to on a daily basis.

We had a fab time at Orme View Lodge near Bangor.  It's a real log cabin in someone’s back garden but is clean, spacious (sleeps 6), has very friendly owners and it’s well appointed with its own lawns. If you’re planning a trip that way Google it for booking details.

With winter closing in I fitted the winter wheels and tyres in November ready not just for snow use but for ice and heavy rain where the manufacturers claim they behave better than summer tyres - essential on a tail happy BMW! The first downside is they make the car look like a run of the mill Beemer but it’s only for a few months of the year so we put up with that. The second is that they are run flats and on the motorway run to the pick up my motorbike we did notice the difference in ride. I have travelled on the M62 thousands of times and only now did I realise how bumpy it is.  The run flats are so much harder than normal tyres and we were bounced around like it was a choppy sea for 2 hours. A benefit was felt at the weekend when we had to park on a muddy field at a Christmas event.  The car gripped the wet grass and mud well whist others slipped and slided, and some had to be towed off by a tractor. The tyres are labelled with an M and S so I assume they are designed for Mud and Snow and not from Marks and Spencer.

I can’t wait for the snow to drop to fully test them out further.

Audi TT 3.2 V6 Coupe

After a visit to Warrington Audi in late summer they advised the front wishbone rear bushes were worn and needed replacing. After some time on the internet looking at the options I decided to replace all the bushes on the front wishbones as they have to be removed to be replaced.

I bought some genuine VW front subframe rear bushes from my local VW Dealer (TT V6 has the same chassis as a Golf R32) and some Cookbots (metal collars) with poly bushes to replace the front bushes from Cookbot Automotive Solutions (www.cbauto-solutions.co.uk). The metal collars take some play out of the front bushes which were designed in by Audi as its handling was twitchy over 100mph when initially launched. In addition as the subframe has to be lowered to remove the drivers side wishbone then the four subframe mounting stretch bolts have to be renewed.

The first job was to jack up the car and support the entire front end on axle stands and remove the front wheels. Next was a fairly simple task of unbolting all the connections on the wishbones.  The passenger side one came off easily. I then supported the subframe with a trolley jack with a towel between to spread the weight a little, then after I had undone the 4 subframe bolts it lowered down easily. I had to prise it down a little lower to be able to undo the last wishbone bolt and with that done they were both off the car.

I have tried to remove bushes and insert fresh ones before and know it’s a finger breaking pig of a task without a press, so took them round to a local engineering company. I picked them up after an hour and paid a modest £25 for removing and pressing in the 4 new bushes.

They were back on the car within an hour in a reverse process - noting to torque up the subframe bolts then add a quarter turn with a long bar (to stretch them).

As when you complete any work on the suspension you should get the wheels tracked so I took the car to National Tyres for a tracking check.  They were only slightly out but the peace of mind knowing my new tyres weren’t going to be worn on the edges was well worth it.

A quick drive afterwards and the front end had tightened up while the steering is more direct.  A little more feedback is now felt through the wheel as there’s a more direct action with the Cookbots installed. Overall it cost me about £180 which was cheaper than the Garage had quoted me just to do one pair of bushes.

The next job was the key as the car only came with one which just will not do. Audi wanted £230 and everywhere else wanted £150 plus VAT as the later TTs had special coding, making them harder to steal. I found one contact who quoted £50 to program a key I bought off eBay but after an hour messing around he declared he couldn’t do it and still charged me for his time.

I rang around again and most people couldn’t do later model Mark 1 TT’s but one recommended a mobile locksmith called Martyn who was based around the Manchester area. I called, he came a week later and promised to code a brand new key to the car for a very reasonable £150 all-in using his state of the art equipment in his LWB Mercedes Sprinter van.

The first attempt didn’t work, nor the second and he showed me the codes which were flashing up. Then my battery died so we had to jump start it and he ended up having to remove the instrument cluster and solder a connection across the circuit board. Then it could be programmed using the codes he had and hey presto a fully working second key. He explained that the first guy had kept inputting the wrong codes which locked out any other key access so the only way round it was to remove the instruments. A 20 minute job turned into well over an hour and I was impressed with his vehicle knowledge and problem solving. If you are in the Manchester area and need a second key or engine diagnostic give Martyn a call on 07969 158 791.  I would fully recommend his service and the prices are competitive.

So with a dead battery I managed to get a jump start to get home and then put it on charge as soon as I got in. Once a battery has gone its pointless trying to live with it so I firstly checked out Euro Parts and then eBay.  Turns out the best deal is Euro Parts shop on eBay which was £15 cheaper for a Bosch battery with a 5 year warranty than going directly to Euro parts. Crazy. A few days later it arrived.  Installation was really easy as it’s in the boot under the carpet.

The most recent job was to bleed the brakes.  I thought it'd be no problem with my Gunson Easibleed kit. First get the car off the ground.  I used 2 axle stands and 2 ramps and then took the wheels off. I filled the bottle in the kit with fresh brake fluid, connected the cap to the brake reservoir and then the air line to one of the tyres that I had taken down to 20psi. The seal on the cap was leaking and I only managed to do one calliper before it lost pressure. I needed a new washer so went to the shop where I bought the kit from and they don’t sell the washer so had to put the car back together until it was resolved. The problem I had was that the bleeding process with a leaky seal had let lots of air into the system so the brakes were as spongy as a Swiss Roll.

In the week I called Gunson who make the kit on the off chance that they would have a spares department and sell me just the washer, I was put through to a very nice chap who offered to send me 2 new seals free of charge, which was nice! Top service Gunson.

So the next weekend after a week’s cautious driving I had her up again, kit connected with a perfect seal and bled the brakes one calliper at a time, two times until clean fluid was came out. Easy as pi. While the wheels were off the ground I gave the callipers a good clean with a wire brush to remove the 7 years of thick corroded crud and applied 2 coats of red Smoothrite. You can’t see the red callipers much through the small apertures on the V6 alloys but the glimpses I see looking back at the car are enough to make me smile.

Now that the weathers getting colder the TT’s proving itself as the perfect winter ride. The suspension’s not too hard to be put off line by rogue potholes and the 4 wheel drive will keep me out of trouble when the snow comes. The heated seats are a joy and I really like the way the switch works. It’s a pop out mechanical button that is turned to achieve the right heat setting from 0 to 8 so can be left in the same position all the time. I have it on 3 constantly but up to 6 when it’s really cold out (8 is too hardcore) so whenever I get in it comes on warming my back and bum.

This is unlike every other system I have experienced which requires a couple of pushes of the button every time you turn the engine on. The little things can really count and make a big impression on vehicle ownership but unfortunately everything is turning electrically powered so we have to make the most of well engineered mechanical fixings while we still can!

By Colin Hubbard